I read this book last year and just reviewed it last week.
This is a book intended for an academic audience but it is not difficult to read. It deals a lot in philosophy and specific Jewish questions of meat and slaughter which particularly intrigued me.
The springboard issue is a famous 2004 incident when an animal-rights group secretly videotaped the activities in a Jewish kosher slaughterhouse. Many serious abuses were shown. The New York Times ran articles about it, and there was an uproar, as you might expect. Because orthodox Jews try especially hard to keep the Old Testament dietary laws, the animals must be kindly treated, killed quickly, and drained of blood. The secret videos showed abuse and probably violated the claims of kosher licensure. The USDA inspectors were playing videogames and napping rather than observing (and not punished).
The author analyses public and Jewish reaction to the incident. Surprisingly, the general public seemed more worried about it than the Jewish community. Many Jewish leaders shrugged and didn’t seem to care, or made silly excuses as to why it didn’t matter.
The author studies some famous Jewish writings to discuss how and why people distance themselves from cruelty to animals, and etc.
I found the book helpful but it would not be entertaining for any casual reader. Useful for understanding some elements of kosher slaughter. A good glossary of terms in the back.
This is a good book by a Christian discussing the subject of wildlife captivity in zoos.
Because the author worked in zoos for many years, he has experience there, and interviewed some co-workers and a director as well.
On page 25 he gives a good summary of his feelings about zoos. “Like many other people, I love and loathe zoos. I lament that they need to exist, but I am often grateful that they do exist. I am more excited, however, about what they can become.”
I appreciate that he is hopeful, and approaches the question with a Christian worldview.
He recognizes that while zoos are not an ideal solution, they are sometimes the only solution for some species of animals. Purist animal rights groups demand the release of all animals into the wild, though there IS NOWHERE for the animals to go. They would seemingly prefer killing the animals rather than leaving them in captivity. That is just craziness.
I enjoyed his discussion of the Steve Irwin phenomenon. Is it good or bad that Irwin popularized wildlife as entertainment?
He makes a well reasoned argument for vegetarianism without being pushy.
I recommend the book highly, 4 out of 5 stars.
May 26, 2016
Utopian Christian or Dystopian Christian?
A few weeks ago I heard an interview on Pittsburgh WORD Christian Radio, on The Road Home with John and Kathy, (where I have been interviewed a few times), with 2 authors of an interesting book. So I bought the book last week and read it today. Are we utopian or dystopian?
In the future, for this website, I plan to review many books. My intention is not to be a critic, like a paid reviewer. I read because I am interested in animals and science and history. If I find an interesting book, I will tell you what it is, why it is interesting, and how it might be helpful to our understanding of animals. I am not looking for typos or literary style so much. I won’t criticize much unless it is really important. I want to find the good more than the bad. Then you can decide if you want to read the book too…
The most interesting thing about this book is that I don’t think it ever mentioned animals. I bought the book because it is written for Christians and tries to help us understand “Worldviews”. That is, how people look at the world. This book is called How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics by Robert Joustra & Alissa Wilkinson. I bought it especially because they explain modern worldviews by analyzing modern television and movie Science Fiction shows. They talk a lot about Battlestar Galactica, Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, House of Cards, Scandal, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, World War Z, and etc.
Truthfully, of these shows, I have only seen about half. I adored BSG. Hunger Games are OK. Game of Thrones I watched 3 seasons then baled out over the violence and sex. World War Z was cool. I haven’t seen any of the other TV shows. Their book teaches various aspects of modern American (or western) culture by looking at the themes of these popular media programs.
Now, you may be wondering, what does any of this have to do with God’s Animals Living Abundantly?
During the interview on the radio, the two authors talked about the difference between utopian views and dystopian views. In case you don’t know what that means, they are terms referring to our hopes or fears about the future.
A utopian hopes for the beautiful peaceful serene future, like Heaven. And they sometimes also hope to fashion our societies to be very much like that, peaceful and calm and orderly.
A dystopian view is fear that the future will be very dark, violent, and horrible.
A lot of those TV shows they analyzed are dystopian. They show our unconscious (or conscious) fear that society will devolve, and we will be in grave dangers, if not totally destroyed.
Christians are supposed to be utopian, in that sense. We believe that God is in control of the world, and will remove all the damage and save us in the end. We have hope.
A lot of people are not Christians, and do not have hope. What is their opinion of the future if there is no god? End of existence, without pain, is about the best they can hope for. A life “nasty, brutish, and short” is what they fear, perhaps.
The problem for Christians is that we forget that our future is bright. For myself, I am a depressive type, by nature. For some reason, those dystopian shows seem right. I have trouble believing the happy movies because they seem impossible.
So what struck me about the interview and the book, is that in my head I theologically know that the future is bright, Jesus saved me, and I will live forever in the new heavens and new earth.
And yet… I feel like that is an impossible fantasy. My emotions don’t mesh with my brain.
What does that have to do with animals?
I see that a lot of animal-rights folks are dystopian. The world became evil (because of humans), the world is getting more evil all the time, and wow it will just get worse. We will drive all the animals extinct, turn the surface of Earth into concrete, and die in an ugly world. The only solutions they can offer, as people without God, are one-world dictatorships taking control of Earth, to stop global warming, to reduce the human population, and to control everyone.
Whew, that is really depressing!
I forget that Jesus will retake control of the Earth. Not only in the future, though it will be complete then. Jesus uses Christians, and the church, to bring healing. Unfortunately, we are only doing little bits of healing here and there; it is not very obvious to most people. The media rarely reports on good news because good news doesn’t sell. Disaster and death get the headlines. But in our own lives, we can see the healing of Christ. In the lives of friends in church we can see the healing of Christ.
What we need to do next, is do some healing of God’s world, specifically for animals. We do not need to (or want to) take the world domination approach. Jesus is God, and must have some pretty neat plans for how He will improve the world for animals. And we are supposed to be “in on that.” We are Jesus’ hands and feet on Earth, for now.
I cannot conceive of how Jesus can fix the animal world using us. It makes no sense. But then Paul says Jesus used him because he was weak. Jesus likes using weak people, because then He gets the credit, or glory.
So, although my depressive side sees the ridiculous obstacles facing us, in hoping to make a difference for animals; my brain tells me, Jesus can do it. And he can use us to help!
Ponder that, and see if you are utopian or dystopian.