Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 73: Forgiveness: Animal Abusers, part 2
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 73: Forgiveness: Animal Abusers, part 2

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Many of us find it hard to see how the perpetrators of cruelties towards animals may be forgiven. Consequently, it seems that many animal activists, driven by anger at animal abusers and feeling powerless to stop the cruelties, seek to make animal abusersí lives miserable. For example, they may protest ominously at an animal researcherís home, terrifying the family. While this may be viscerally satisfying, I think it usually does little to help animals while alienating people from animal protectionism.

Also, as we have discussed previously, those who abuse animals, like all people, need self-esteem. If they donít feel forgiven, they will tend to rationalize their behavior. This is why Jesus repeatedly forgave people before they confessed their sins or asked for repentance.

How does this apply in everyday activism? Difficult as it may be, we should recognize that animal tormentors have not shared our sympathy with suffering animals and do not recognize the harm that they do. Therefore, it is very helpful, and appropriate, to say things like, ďMany people donít know what happens on factory farms.Ē Surely people should not feel guilty if they had been unaware of their complicity in a crime. Similarly, we may say something like, ďMany people have not given much thought about animal issues. I think we need to remember that God cares about all of Godís Creation, including the animals.Ē

How about people who read our literature or see our videos and say, ďI donít care. I like meat.Ē I would suggest that, in a sense, they still ďknow not what they do.Ē Perhaps they donít believe our claims about modern animal agriculture. Perhaps they have difficulty empathizing with animals, which is tragic for them as well as the animals, because they are stunted in their ability to appreciate and rejoice in Godís Creation. Perhaps they have been so deeply wounded by life that they think they can only derive satisfaction and joy by satisfying their immediate sensual desires. In these cases, blinded by traumatic life experiences, they donít fully know what they do. Their psychological defenses, often erected in response to lifeís wounds, stand in the way of their receiving the grace of Godís forgiveness and the joy that accompanies obedience to Godís desire that we love Godís Creation. For those who say, ďI donít care,Ē our living witness can be testimony to Godís love. If we show that our faithfulness to Godís love enriches our lives, people will realize that our choices (e.g., not eating animals) is a blessing, not a sacrifice.

I think we need to work for laws that protect animals. However, regardless of legislation, animals will always suffer as long as people fail to recognize animals as important and worthy of respect. People will only love if they feel loved, and our faith tells us that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. The reason that we should love our neighbors as ourselves is that we are all children of God who are forgiven for our inherent propensity to sin. While this probably makes sense to most Christians intellectually, most of us find it very hard to forgive emotionally. We will consider the challenges associated with forgiving those who harm us or others in the next essay.

Go on to: Part 74: Forgiveness, the Hardest Thing
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