Domesticating Animals

14 03 2010


I’ve been reading Lewis’s The Problem of Pain on my lunch break over the past couple of weeks, and I was struck by something when reading the chapter about animal pain that’s entitled “Animal Pain.”  It seems that the ideal life for animals in most humans’ perception is for them to live in a wide, expansive world where their habitat remains pristine.  Most people wouldn’t wish for the complete eradication of predators simply because we’re too attuned to the the “circle of life” necessity in nature.  However, I think most people would agree that an ideal world would be one in which no animals need prey upon others.  Nevertheless, my point here is that the idealized world for animals is for them to live in peace without human interference in their lives.  Lewis, as usual, makes an insightful point — that people are meant to be understood in the context of their relationship to God, and that likewise, animals are meant to be understood in their relationship to people, who were given dominion over them.  What it means, among many, many other things, is that making animals more “human” is a good and wonderful thing.  Teaching them to obey and do good (guide dogs come to mind, among other things)  is one way in which I confidently assert that we are fulfilling our role of ruling the beasts.

(Obviously we’re not doing this in the vast majority of instances, but it’s worth pointing out that humans can and should care for and tame animals.  Something being done wrong in most cases doesn’t mean we should stop trying to do it right when we can.  It’s not a comprehensive argument for invading rainforests, people.)

The main reason I thought about this is because it seems to parallel our sinful nature’s desire to be left alone in our natural habitat of sin.  Many people simply ask the “religious people” to leave them alone.  Live and let live, as it were.  But we can’t.  Leaving people alone in their sinful state, ignorant of God’s grace, is like leaving the junkyard dog alone to chew on a tire and wallow in filth.  The dog might be happier at first because he’s allowed to retain his sense of control over his environment, but we’re all designed to serve our Master.  We’re all made to live for others and the Only One, but our instinctive desire is to cling to our familiar filth and perceived dominion over our lives.  It’s not so much that we don’t want to be tamed — many people even suspect that they would actually be “happier” if they were to abandon themselves unto God, but the primal fear of losing their grip on their situation holds them back again and again.  So many animals are looking for a leader to follow, and it is our sin that has given them so few good masters to serve.  We, however, will always have our Good Master to serve, if only we can abandon our junkyards for His highway.