Equating Animals with Humans

The groom was attired in a black tuxedo, and the bride   decked in a white silk gown and pearls — carried a small bouquet. Max and Bella exchanged rings, and the reverend declared them wed. And then the bride and groom ran off, barking and wagging their tails.

Max and Bella, you see, were Chihuahuas — and their owners had just had them joined in "holy muttrimony." The dogs' owners say they did it just for fun-but I am not so sure. It appears to be just one more sign of the success of an aggressive animal-rights movement — one that seeks to blur the distinction between animals and humans. And even some Christians are being unwittingly pulled into their orbit.

For example, I know of a Bible-study group in Los Angeles that recently laid hands on a sick dog, praying God would heal her — and if not, receive her into heaven. Dozens of websites offer so-called biblical "proof" that animals are resurrected just like humans. Well-meaning evangelical authors write of their hopes that God will admit their beloved pets into heaven.

Of course Christians have a specific command to care for the creation. But that is not what we are witnessing here. These are signs of Christians weakening their own best defense on what constitutes the distinctiveness of humans. Christianity teaches that humans are the only part of creation that bears the image of God. We are, thus, unique in all creation, conscious of our existence, aware of death, and capable of works of great creativity. Humans alone have eternal souls, which confers upon us a unique moral status.

Many animal-rights activists dismiss any distinctions between humans and animals as "speciesism." Princeton professor, Peter Singer, defines this as "a prejudice" that favors "the interests of the members of one's own species . . . against those members of other species." If the material world is all there is, if humans are nothing more than the product of evolutionary forces, then they are essentially no different from pigs, dogs, or rats. We are merely the latest stage in evolutionary development.

Singer and PETA are consistent at least. Their campaigns to grant constitutional rights for pigs or make it illegal to keep laying hens in cages are perfectly logical. It is Christians who behave irrationally when they fall into naturalist positions out of love for their pets.

I am not suggesting that people should not love their pets. There are few things more painful than the death of the family pet, long-time companion. But nowhere do the Scriptures teach that animals have souls. They will perish with the rest of creation. When Christ returns and our bodies are resurrected, we will live in the new heaven and the new earth-where there may be new (but not resurrected) animals.

If we fail to understand our own doctrines, more and more Christians will accept the idea that animals and humans are morally equivalent. Animal-rights activists will then press on: eliminating animal agriculture and banning life-saving research, and yes, Singer says, affording the same rights to animals that we give to humans.

Christians, arguing that humans alone are made in God's image, can make the only logical defense of the uniqueness of human life. But if out of sentimentality we treat our pets as if they have souls, we give away the argument. What tragic irony if the Church finds it has been conquered through our beloved pets.

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