Friday, August 03, 2007

God’s Critters

My first paragraph just changed. A very brave squirrel is watching me from 3 feet away. Or perhaps he knows a wimp when he sees one. I’m not the greatest fan of animals.

Pets were forbidden in the McCracken household when I was growing up, so I was never around many animals to begin with. In high school, I worked on a couple of farms – hogs and cattle, however, don’t (usually) qualify as pets. And beautiful creatures that they are, I am terrified of horses. I note, however, that when my brother and I moved out of our house in college, my mother adopted a kitten that showed up one night - to the amazement of everyone that knew her (Mom was NOT a pet fan). Duchess was a beautiful, long-haired tortoise-shell cat. She died not long before my mother died. I think a part of my mom died with her.

In our house over 20 years, we’ve had a cat and a dog. Both were short-lived disasters. I thought we were out of the pet business forever until a little furry critter came home with my wife a couple of weeks ago. “She was orphaned; her mother got hit in front of my office,” she said. It was a tortoise-shell colored kitten that couldn’t be four weeks old, barely eating solid food. I didn’t realize it was coming to our home to live until I saw a litter box and food dish. I wasn’t real happy about it.

I can admittedly be a grouch, and my demeanor doesn’t always appear pleasant even when I’m in a good mood; it’s something I’ve had to work on all of my life. My wife and my teenage daughter love the cat, and moreover, they take care of most of its needs. However, I am keenly aware that my daughter watches me when the cat is around. And I am haunted by the words of Immanuel Kant that I heard several years ago:
"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." – Immanuel Kant

I am afraid that I have to agree. The way we treat animals is a measure of our humanity. God did give us dominion over the critters (I mean creatures, my Kentuckyian is showing), and our kindness to animals is probably good practice for the way we as Christians should show hospitality to friends and strangers alike. The burden of hospitality and kindness is always on us.

My daughter named her “Pandora,” meaning “all gifted.” The myth of Pandora’s Box is certainly apt for Christians when we deal with theodicy – the problem of evil. Perhaps living with Pandora will teach me how to face and endure evil with goodness. And maybe, more simply, teach me to smile a little more at the antics of a small kitten learning how to function in this world.

Maybe I have a glimpse of how much fun God has watching me.


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