At first it seems like a heartwarming partnership: Christians join with a prominent nonprofit that purports to save puppies and kittens. But this new movement, ostensibly aimed at reminding Christians of their duty to protect animals, is peddling a theologically questionable and overtly political agenda.
This fall appeared the initiative Every Living Thing, spearheaded by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a national group that doesn’t manage local pet shelters, despite public perceptions. More than 1,000 Christians have signed a statement invoking the Bible to note that animals are an “especially vulnerable subset of all God’s creatures” that “can be most subject to irresponsible and cruel treatment by humans.”
For centuries Christians have debated animal theology. Last year newspapers reported incorrectly that Pope Francis had assured an aching young boy whose pet had died that “we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ.” Christine Gutleben, director of faith outreach at HSUS, said the pope’s comments seemed to imply “that animals have a soul.” As it turned out, the media mangled the facts. Pope Francis never said such a thing, though in the 1970s Pope Paul VI alluded””pastorally, not as a matter of doctrine””to the idea that all dogs go to heaven.