If you have a pet as a member of your family, you are probably a better human being than you would be without them.
If you don’t have a pet, you’re likely thinking that I’m a fool for suggesting any such creature could be a “member” of one’s family.
Several years ago, Orthodox theologian David Mills, one-time editor of First Things, offered this witty observation related to cats and dogs [caveat: Mills is a “dog person”].
Wandering around the American Kennel Club’s big “Meet the Breeds” event with my two youngest children recently, I saw a big banner in the cat section proclaiming that a particular breed had been considered a god by an ancient civilization. . . . no one who knows about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the least bit tempted to worship cats.
I mean, would you want to worship a murderous narcissistic psychopath? This is not an image of God to make anyone happy. If you’re going to worship an animal, why not the Border Collie, frantically eager to please, or the loving, soulful-eyed Lab? . . . Or the classic loyal and even-tempered mutt?
The gulf between worshipping dogs and cats is not so broad as one might think. Neither practice is advisable for one’s spiritual wellbeing. That’s why Mills uses the qualifier, “if you’re going to worship an animal . . .”
Best that you don’t, but if you do choose to, they are not all created equal. As an object of devotion, an elegant stag does seem inherently more commendable than a ruthless crocodile.
Cats, Dogs & C.S. Lewis
Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Narnia, knows that it is replete with Talking Animals. In Lewis’ fictional creation story, we see that—from the very beginning of Narnia, Aslan set aside a pair of many types of creatures to possess rationality and the ability to speak.
Speaking is only part of the gift. Its heart is nothing less than the ability to recognize Aslan, their Creator. And, upon Narnia’s fall into sin, this precious capacity of Talking Beasts becomes stained. Some turn evil, choosing to serve other masters. Others simply draw farther and farther from the elevated nature, until they are indistinguishable from the Dumb creatures of that world.
As the dwarf Trumpkin tells the children, near the end of Narnia’s time, “when most of the beasts have gone enemy and gone dumb, but there are still some of the other [good] kind left. You never know, and you daren’t wait to see.”
Lewis’ love for animals was evident. It’s one of the traits that reveals he was just a “regular person” like the rest of us who remain the whole of our lives in awe of God’s bountiful creation.
Still, as much as we love God’s handiwork, including the diverse creatures of land and sea, those of us who have met our Lord through faith should never be tempted to worship creation in place of our loving Creator.
* Part of my affection for Mills’ comments arises from the fact my wife and I are not only dog people, we’re Border Collie people. If you can overlook some foul language sprinkled among some brilliant satire, you might enjoy “The Hierarchy of Border Collie Smugness.” Be forewarned that the author is mightily prejudiced in favor of the breed, “the divine being that is the Border Collie.” In fact, with his propensity towards worshipping the border collies, I suppose I should forward him a copy of this post.
For an earlier discussion on this subject, inspired by the same quotation from First Things, you might enjoy glancing at “Beware of Zoolatry.”