Consider the Animals
by Rev. Dr. Dee Cooper
We started hearing the statistics
of the devastation: 6000 acres, 1100
homes, and 2 human deaths. There was always a vague acknowledgment of the
numerous deaths of wildlife, pets, and animals. And yet, as we heard the
specific statistics concerning land, houses, and human casualties, there was
nothing but a generalized mention of the numbers of pets and wildlife lost. I
wondered aloud why don't we count the animals? Is it too hard? Do we think, oh
well, they are only animals? Do their lives not matter?
It's not a surprise because for
decades, people of faith discussed climate change and environmental justice,
but we often didn’t make the connection to the animals that share this planet
with us. We don’t realize that God calls us to make a difference. Animals
matter to us, and we are responsible for protecting species and providing them
with conditions that bring forth their best living intentions.
As a person who for decades has
been an animal advocate, a spokesperson for the endangered species act, and who
built a business on what we can learn from animals, I often receive the same
response. Well, isn't that cute? You have a tender heart for animals. My
reaction is not as cute. Demonstrated throughout scripture, we are called to protect the earth's species
and challenged to consider our relationship with them as teachers and
colleagues, not just objects that we exploit.
We are quick to focus on water,
air, earth, trees, pollution, natural disasters, and the impact of climate
change on humans. We often leave out another considerable component of our
ecosystem and this earth. The animals. Those characters of the creation story
were birthed on this earth before humans took their first breath. Those that:
~Creator God used the same matter
to create us from that they were already created.
~Loving God entrusted Adam and Eve
to name, thus seeing, recognizing, and understanding they are a part of this
~Covenanting God commanded Noah to
provide for the survival of the species.
~Inviting God shared with Job and
us to consider the animals' healing wisdom and nature.
~Comical God used Balam's ass to
vocalize human words of justice to confront harm and abuse and violence.
~Imaginative God chose to infuse
the prophets with imagery from the animal world of what the beloved kin-dom
would look like.
~That our beloved God, through
Jesus, loved, illustrated, and engaged throughout his ministry on earth.
As much as we can easily see the
through-line in scripture that brings forth an invitation for love, there is a
through-line that says we are to care for this creation, which includes her
The animals are part of creation.
We must grasp this reality. As a denomination, we are engaged in the Matthew 25
call that includes environmental justice. As an activist for environmental
justice on many levels, I notice that there is a lightbulb moment when I speak
to groups. Oh yes, we love animals, AND we are given a huge responsibility to
support them in their existence, prevent exploitation and habitat destruction,
recognize that pollution impacts them, and realize their survival is
consequentially linked to our survival. So these days, as we have found such
deep healing in being with our furry companions, learning from feathered
friends in the air, and the finned creatures of the deep, consider this
question. Might we expand our understanding of environmental justice to include
their voices, to be their voices, in making a difference in this world? Might
their lives matter and be counted in our awareness and in the practice of
Rev. Dr. Dee Cooper is the Gap Presbyter of Coastlands Presbytery (New Jersey). She is also a Certified Coach through the Hendricks Institute. Dee serves on the Presbytery Mission Agency Board and is the moderator for the Presbyterian Mental Health Network. Dee has her own business, , where she connects people with animals in the wild or in rescue.