One church in Kokomo experienced barking, meowing, and chirping in its service yesterday, and it was not because the Toronto Blessing finally hit our town. No, this was a "blessing" of a different variety.
St. Andrews Episcopal church held its annual Blessing of the Pets service yesterday. Yes, indeed, you can go to this link and see a turtle waiting in line for his priestly blessing, participate in animal liturgy, and hear Fido add his barks to the praise (or was that a howl at the off-key organ?). Though I know Father Tim Kavanaugh, the fictitious Episcopal priest in the Mitford Series by Jan Karon, has a dog who occasionally wanders into the service and even obeys better when Scripture is quoted, I never remember him being invited to worship. But then, as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.
When churches resort to these cutesy things, the media obligingly follows along, takes cute pictures, and everyone has a good laugh. Yet sadly that's exactly what the world is doing. Laughing at the church, that is.
Alas, however, I assume too much. Perhaps some of my readers in cyberspace legitimately want to ask, "Why should animals not go to church? Is there anything in the Bible against it?" Maybe I am missing something, but my simple reading of the Bible reveals Jesus and the apostles preaching to people and people gathering for worship. Yes, Jesus does mention sheep, but to me at least it appears to read that He is comparing us to them, not telling us to invite them to church. Yes, hogs do get filled with spirits in Jesus' presence, but they rush away from Jesus and (yikes!) jump off a cliff and drown. And, okay, you got me when it says that fish were brought to Jesus by a little boy and blessed, but (correct me if I'm wrong) it sure sounds like He does this so they can be multiplied and eaten.
When we blur these God-given distinctions and start treating animals like people, something worse always follows. We begin to treat people like animals and animals like God, to the point God Himself says that we are starting to act like animals ourselves (Philippians 3:2; II Peter 2:12-16) or even worse (Isaiah 1:3). Certainly the Episcopal Church in our land is living proof of this, as they face being excommunicated by their own worldwide Anglican fellowship if they do not mend their ways. They have shown this lack of discernment in ordaining the very behavior God describes as beast-like (Romans 1:22-27).
Do not get me wrong. I am not a hater of animals; I just want them in their proper place. I like the steak on my plate medium rare, and thank the Lord for it whenever I eat it. I am a firm believer that Fido should be in a nice doghouse, just not in the house of God. I confess that the squirrels trying to attend our services in the ducts above the sanctuary were exterminated as the rodents they were. I believe all these beliefs and practices are in accordance with Scripture.
And neither am I a hater of folks in the Episcopal Church. It's just that I want them to know that the only animals I see in the Bible that were in worship were lambs, goats and bulls being sacrificed. You see, they were a picture of the perfect Lamb of God whose shed blood is meant to be your substitute, your only means of salvation. Your dog, cat and parakeet cannot believe that, but you must. Nothing in church should be brought in that would distract you from that, for fail to trust in Christ in this manner and you will eternally face the flames pictured in the altar.
And if you still are not convinced, could I at least then end by asking some practical questions:
Do your pets participate in communion? If not, why not?
Can your dogs join the choir?
If your parakeet repeatedly says, "I got saved," does it count?
What if someone wants to bring their horse? Besides certain "restroom" issues, could a denial not be seen as discrimination?