The Friends We Keep
Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals
245 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- Published: October 2010
Today we find ourselves in an anomaly in human history: many of our lives are empty of animals. Many of us have pets or watch documentaries on Animal Planet, but, for the most part, we humans don't really know how all the other species on our planet live today. And as Laura Hobgood-Oster reveals, many of them 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
At last! A compelling and engaging book on how faith can speak to both our love for animals and our concern for their fate. This 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
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, Baylor University, Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture
Wonderful. Read and share this inspiring, wide-ranging, and easy-to-read book so that we can all expand our compassion footprint to every being, big and small, furred and finned.~Marc Bekoff, best-selling author of The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy—and Why They Matter
I hope this is a book to which many will turn. In such lively and engaging prose, 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
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 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
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
A carefully researched and powerfully argued book - both moving and revelatory.~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, Laura Hobgood-Oster provides answers to the great questions surrounding faith and animals in this short, beautiful book.~Jay McDaniel, Author of Of God and Pelicans, Earth, Sky, Gods, and Mortals With Roots and Wings.
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.~Publishers Weekly
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.~Ted Witham, The Third Order, Society of Saint Francis, The Province of Australia, Papua New Guinea and East Asia