It’s easy to make fun of the lunacy in the liberal wing of the Episcopalian Church (and the commentators at First Thoughts have a number of clever retorts), but this latest example of Episcopalian inclusiveness gives me the creeps. Sure, bless the animals. I bless the family dog or cat whenever I do a house blessing. But providing a “worship service” for animals crosses a line that ought not be crossed; even more, it reveals a line that should have remained invisible let alone crossed.
Worship services for animals will, in the end, erase the line between man and animal. This is more than the “Naked Ape” nonsense that pours out of Darwinian sociological paradigms. This adds a patina of false sanctity (worship is serious business) to a person’s love of their animal that has no place in the Church.
In theological terms, animals, and all of creation glorify God when acting according to their nature. A flower in bloom glorifies God; it functions according to its created nature, it has become what God created it to be. But the creation has no moral agency, only man does, and this moral dimension is also why liturgical worship is reserved for man, and man alone. Bring dogs into the sanctuary and, down the road, man becomes nothing more than a sophisticated dog.
Maybe the commentators are right. The best way to handle this is to relentlessly mock it.
Calvary Episcopal Church of Danvers, Massachusetts, has just announced it will begin offering a monthly worship service for dogs. Besides being driven to the service by Starbucks-jittered suburban elites in trademark Volvo station wagons, the canine faithful will enjoy the unique pleasure of being lived through vicariously.
“Perfect Paws Pet Ministry,” as Calvary officials call it, will include a form of communion and prayers offered for the pets. While surely a natural outgrowth of American Episcopalianism, what really bugs me about it is the rank discrimination involved. Calvary Episcopal has announced that only well-behaved dogs may attend, and feline and equestrian companions are roundly excluded from the economy of salvation. Why not invite the local strays, or, better, invite them to preach?