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The Friends We Keep
Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals

By Laura Hobgood-Oster

The Friends We Keep

Today we find ourselves in an anomaly in human history: many of our lives are empty of animals. We have pets and sometimes watch documentaries on Animal Planet, but few of us know how the other species on our planet really live today.  And as Laura Hobgood-Oster reveals, many are not living very well--sadly, not very well at all.

Seeking to awaken Christians to the place and, too often, plight of animals in the twenty-first century, The Friends We Keep gently but astutely introduces the situations animals face today—as companions, as animals in sport, as animals raised for food, and as creatures in the wild—and simultaneously retells a myriad of often surprising and instructive stories from the long, rich history of Christianity. We see and experience animals as Christians have for generations—as beloved companions to the saints, as unfortunate prisoners in Roman arenas, as sentient and compassionate recipients and givers of hospitality, and as good and worthy beings created by God. Once upon a time, it seems—not too terribly long ago—animals held an important place in Christianity.

Could it be, then, that Christianity can be good news for animals today?

With a guide for group discussion and ideas for how people of faith can respond, this thoroughly engaging and enlightening book is essential for all who desire to live compassionately.

Preface: Writing a History of Animals in Christianity

Introduction: Even Dogs Deserve the Crumbs

1          What a Friend We Have: Our Animal Companions

2          Lions and Christians: Animals in Sport

3          Eating Mercifully: Animals for Food

4          Good Christian Hospitality: Animals at Home on the Earth

5          Where Have All the Animals Gone?

Group Discussion Guide

How to Help: Ideas for Individuals and Households

How to Help:  Ideas for Communities and Congregations

Additional Resources

"A carefully researched and powerfully argued book – both moving and revelatory.  Hobgood-Oster reminds us that compassionate concern for other creatures is an article of Christian faith."

—Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO, The Humane Society of the United States 

“With her sensitive retracing of the place of animals in the lives of saints and her constructive proposals for how Christians might include them with religious life in respectful ways, Hobgood-Oster provides answers to the great questions surrounding faith and animals in this short, beautiful book.”

Jay McDaniel, Willis Holmes Distinguished Professor of Religion, Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas and Author of Of God and Pelicans; Earth, Sky, Gods, and Mortals; and With Roots and Wings.

“Wonderful, inspiring, wide-ranging, and easy-to-read.  The renowned Hobgood-Oster clearly reviews all of the issues that are pertinent to how we interact with nonhuman animal beings and shows how easy it is to treat animals better—and why we must do so for their, and our, benefit.”

—Marc Bekoff, best-selling author of
The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy—and Why They Matter and The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint

“Well-balanced and highly readable, The Friends We Keep has all the virtues of good scholarship while being wonderfully suitable for a wide range of readers. Hobgood-Oster is forthright in dealing with the complicated contemporary problems faced by each of us in our ordinary lives, and in this book she has provided a superb example of how to combine scholarship with faith experience and active citizenship. I heartily recommend it.”

—Paul Waldau, President of the Religion and Animals Institute, Bob Barker Lecturer on Animal Law at Harvard Law School, and author of 
The Animal Invitation: Religion, Law, Science, and Ethics in a More-Than-Human World

“I hope this is a book to which many will turn. In such lively and engaging writing, The Friends We Keep tells the stories that are often behind the scenes—of horse racing, dog fighting, food production, and the rapid extinction of creatures of which most of us have never heard. As others before her have done for domestic violence and slavery, Hobgood-Oster shines a light on a hidden ethical issue so that we are forced to wake up to practices that have been tolerated and reinforced by Christians and our theology.”

—Wendy Farley, Professor of Religion, Emory University  

“At last! A compelling and engaging book on how faith can speak to both our love for animals and our concern for their fate. The Friends We Keep is a must-read for anyone who has ever loved a pet or who is concerned about the impact humans have on the livelihood of species.”

—Janetta Cravens Boyd, Senior Minister at University Christian Church in Seattle, Washington

"For personal reading, and for group study, there is none better than this! Hobgood-Oster raises the toughest questions and helps us find biblical answers."

—Thomas P. Eggebeen, Pastor, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles

"This paperback is highly recommended for undergraduate seminars or Christian adult study groups on topics concerning animal rights, environmental ethics, or religious responses to current social issues."

—Susan Power Bratton, Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture

"The Friends We Keep is a book both to alert Christians to the theological dimension of God’s hospitality to all creatures, and an activists’ manual to help us engage lovingly and compassionately with the animals whose lives we humans affect."

&#8212Ted Witham, The Third Order, Society of Saint Francis, The Province of Australia, Papua New Guinea and East Asia (May 2, 2013)

"Hobgood-Oster, a professor of religion and environmental studies at Southwestern University, examines the role animals have played in the history and development of Christianity in an attempt to return them to a more central role within the faith. Readers familiar with this area of study will find little new, as Hobgood-Oster recounts the work of scholars and theologians who have come before her: Andrew Linzey, Marc Bekoff, and Peter Singer. But rather than detract from the book, this foundation only enhances it, as Hobgood-Oster suffers from none of the academic-speak that plagues some of the deeper works on animals and religion. Indeed, the book's great strength is Hobgood-Oster herself, exhibited in her conversational tone and personal connection to the stories of animals in Christian scripture, as well as her experience in shelters and refuges, about which she writes movingly. A study guide will lead laypeople and church groups into a deeper exploration of the gifts animals can bring to the practice of Christianity, something Hobgood-Oster believes can only enrich the faith." (Oct.)

—Publishers Weekly

Laura Hobgood-Oster is Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies and holds the Paden Chair in Religion at Southwestern University. Featured in the documentary “Eating Mercifully,” produced by the Humane Society of the United States, and frequently interviewed by national print and broadcast media, she is the author of Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition and executive editor of the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. She lives (and rescues every dog she can) in Georgetown, Texas.


Publication Details:

 Paperback , 247 pages
 8.5in x 5.5in
Includes 10 b/w photos

BIC Code:
  NAT001000, NAT039000, REL012110, REL028000, REL067070, REL070000, REL110000
 Baylor University Press

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