It came to my attention recently that a Methodist church conference in Illinois is considering a legislative item that calls for, among other things, the humane treatment of farm animals.
Included in the language: "Whereas, scripture tells us that God gave humanity dominion over all the earth's animals, a humbling and modest responsibility of guardianship; and Whereas, farm animals raised for meat consumption feel pain and have means of communicating with each other; and whereas, factory farms have reduced animals to commodities with cruel practices of animal husbandry (see meatvideo.com and humanesociety.org); and…whereas, United Methodists are good people who seek to do the right thing; and whereas, animal production on factory farms hastens pollution and uses extensive energy resources."
The item goes on to call for prayer for animals everywhere, "recognizing that we but share the earth with them as their guardians," and for prayer "for owners of, and workers at, factory farms, that owners and workers will stop doing harm to animals."
It concludes by asking each local Methodist church to challenge their members to "know the source of their meats and eggs and choose meats and dairy products kindly and humanely raised."
So is it just me, or does that sound an awful lot like HSUS?
Wes Jamison, a professor of public relations at Palm Beach Atlantic University, has spent a career studying the animal rights movement and says HSUS has had its eye on churches for a long time.
"Their desire to shift religious views is a long-term commitment," he says. "It's a slow, steady slog of trying to pick off churches and denominations that have taken a non-literal view of the scriptures, or a more liberal interpretation of the scripture.
"They are working to convince them that God or ethics or whatever says that keeping animals in confinement and using them is immoral."
And according to Jamison, they have their sights set on liberal churches and denominations who are interested in social activism and who are interested in a works-based theology. HSUS is providing guidelines, policy change suggestions and sermon notes to help convince churches to take this up as a social cause.
Wait. Sermon notes? Really?
"They wouldn't do it if it wasn't working," Jamison replied. He's got a point there. I would add that it probably works best when Christians don't know their Bibles.
A note regarding the Methodist church: my source points out that a small but very vocal minority of this conference supports the animal rights movement. Additionally, this legislative item has only been proposed, not approved, by the conference. And the Methodist church is not the only denomination targeted by HSUS; they are simply the first (ok, the second, behind Joel Osteen) that I've received documentation about locally.
So the question: what can farmers - and especially farmers who profess faith in Christ - do about animal rights moving into their churches?
Jamison doesn't mince words. Agriculture has to understand that what they do is a religious endeavor. They need to recognize and talk about it. And Christians need to become versed in what the Bible actually says about dominion and about death and dying.
For more on how this Methodist proposal runs counter to scripture, Jamison's advice for farmers, and what else HSUS is doing to infiltrate churches, check out an extended My Generation in the June Prairie Farmer. In the meantime, let me know what you think. Have you heard similar rhetoric in your church? And how would you respond to the aforementioned legislative item from the Methodist conference?