Thursday, March 20, 2008

We Want Pets!

Friends, Seminarians, Lutherans!

Long have the good men and women of this seminary yearned for the simple friendship of animal companions. Humble students pine for canine comrades which they have left behind or for feline confidants who might comfort them as they struggle in their service to the divine. And is it not right and salutary that the modest servants here of our Creator should enjoy the company of those critters, who, with all of creation sing the praises of our God most high?

But our administration says "NO!" It says, "No, you cannot bring the hamster in whom you learned to see Christ's presence in all things." It says, "No, you cannot bring the cat whose gentle purring pulled you depression." It says, "No, you cannot bring the dog who taught you unconditional love through slobbery licks."

Well, I say, "YES!" I say, "Yes, we shall embrace animals as sisters and brothers in God's love!" I say, "Yes, we are called to bring Christ's comfort to the afflicted, and yes we know that pets have great power to soothe the suffering soul, and so yes we shall partner with animals in our ministries to give hope to the hopeless and joy to the dispirited!" I say, "Yes, we shall make this seminary a community where pets are celebrated and have a place to live among their furless friends!"

I tell you that at this very moment, seminarians are gathering to rent houses near campus where pets are seen as the blessing they are. So if you long to live again with your creaturely companion, or dream of adopting a lonesome critter, the opportunity is upon you! The time for action is at hand. Email our noble leader, Ellen Ayres, or write a comment on this post. For if two or three of us gather together, the transforming power of Christ is there, and with God's help, we can change this community!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Facelift for Sin

In the past few days, the moral concerns of some major denominations have undergone a shift. On Monday,"a group of Southern Baptist leaders said their denomination has been "too timid" on environmental issues and has a biblical duty to stop global warming." Unlike previous attempts from Southern Baptists to make the environment a moral issue, this statement calling for environmental action was even signed by the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Roman Catholic Church has also just updated its list of sins. "Now, the Catholic Church says pollution, mind-damaging drugs and genetic experiments are on its updated thou-shalt-not list. Also receiving fresh attention by the Vatican was social injustice, along the lines of the age-old maxim: "The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.""

""If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that's especially social, rather than individual," said Girotti, whose office deals with matters of conscience and grants absolution."

I have long believed that if the Church is going to define sin as an act (which Lutherans do not), actions with larger social consequences should be right at the top of the list.

However, as religion columnist Claire Hoffman writes:
"As an agnostic who has already spent years feeling guilty for, despite my best efforts, destroying this beautiful earth, I worry for these new converts to environmental shame. Can they handle this sin? It's one thing to feel bad for the sea gulls and the oceans. But if questions of heaven and hell get tied up in recycling and polluting, I fear it could turn this whole green movement upside down. Will pollution become like other sin, something secret that one does and takes pleasure from? Will desire for a large carbon foot print swell now that it is verboten? Will governors suddenly be caught on wiretaps discussing their littering fetishes?

What happens when the mundane daily shame about trash sorting is elevated to sin and conscientiousnesses about green house gases becomes biblical duty? The track record, not so good."

But then, that's why Lutherans define sin as the heart curved in upon itself, and not as a specific action on a list of dos and don'ts.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


On Monday, five luxury houses in a Seattle suburb were destroyed by fires that appear to have been set by the ecoterrorist organization Earth Liberation Front.
A banner was left at the scene of the crime that read, "Built Green? Nope, BLACK! McMansions + R.C.D.’s r not green ELF” According the New York Times, R.C.D. is "apparently referring to “rural cluster developments,” which advocates say help prevent sprawl by limiting development density in rural areas."
I can't help but see the parallels in this act of violence and those perpetrated by religious extremists. Both are instances where a small group of individuals has elevated its ideology beyond regard for others' lives and safety. Both actually violate the stated principles of the groups (in regards to religious terrorists, violating the commandment to love and the sacredness of all life by killing, and in regards to environmentalist terrorists, harming the environment through the carbon released in fires, causing more trees to be cut down in order to rebuild, and in one instance, damaging research done to preserve endangered species). Both often target people who support the same basic principles as the terrorists, but whom the terrorists consider to be hypocrites. Both turn public sentiment against the cause that the terrorists purportedly support.
Terrorism cannot be a means to improve the world. Just as people of faith need to stand up and denounce acts of violence that are perpetrated in the name of their religions, so too do people dedicated to responsible treatment of the environment (in whose number I count myself) need to stand up and denounce acts of violence perpetrated in the name of environmentalism.