Why My doG Is A Christian
The “angels with fur” website is moving apace. The reasons are many. At the very core of it, however, sits a simple truth: we are often and perhaps largely dissatisfied with the honor of our human fellows. Many of us recognize, and prefer, the integrity of our dogs.
Over the last few years, from living with, observing, and intuiting the “condition animale” of my four dogs (one a Shepherd/Bulldog; the other a Johnson American Bulldog; the other two pit bulls), I would argue that these creatures richly deserve their name – the palindrome for “God” – and I suggest that henceforward we spell their common species name as “doG.” As far as I know, there is no word in the English language which ends with a capital letter, and it’s about time that we had some… or, at least, one. I propose “doG” as the first of its kind.
It is only slightly that this is meant tongue in cheek, lest you be rather offended and I misunderstood. We are all creatures of God. And all creatures are held in the Palm of His Hand. Consider how He is eloquently quoted in Job concerning so small and insignificant a creature as the raven, whose fledgling hatchlings, like Job, are bold enough to raise their voices to the Ruler of the Universe, as Job himself has:
Who prepares for the raven its nourishment/When its young cry to God/And wander about without food?
Or, as Christ says in the monumental sixth chapter of Matthew:
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them
There is a powerful, understated sense of God actually preparing the food Himself, and then conveying it by hand, directly into the mouths of these Hand-made creatures. The love and nurture expressed here is more than touching and metaphoric: it is linguistically precise and complete. Ecce animalis.
St. Paul, the eloquent, prolix and indefatigable apostle to the gentiles, writes with characteristical poetic vigor about the nature of the key Christian virtue of love, and its consequent Christian behavioral requirements thus:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres….Love never fails.
And so, I think about my doGs, and compare them to this definitional passage penned by one of the most insightful of devoted acolytes (the profundity of whose scholarly Jewish background was so great that King Festus told him his learning was making him insane), I can tell you unequivocally these simple facts about my doGs:
They are patient, kind and always sweet-natured. They have no interest or ability to boast or display pride, save perhaps in their devotion. They do not dishonor me, nor seek gain for themselves. They are not easily angered, if ever, and display a loving playfulness that transcends all frustration and anger; they are, in fact, never frustrated. Above all, they keep no record of wrongs. (More on this later, by the way.) They love to experience our love, which is their way to rejoice in the truth. They are protective, and trusting beyond all reason. They hope for attention, care, food and peacefulness in a way that displays unbounded perseverance. And – finally – their love is never-failing. Once given, it is irrevocable.
Of all beings I know, my doGs are, by far, the most Christian creatures I have ever encountered. Yet there’s more. They are also the most perfect of Jews, and before I close, I’d like to comment on the Judeo-Christian non-virtue (or “anti” virtue) of grudges. Of course, I mean, “bearing” or “holding” a grudge.
On the Old Testament side, there’s a key passage (quoted by Christ, or at least referred to, as we’ll see in a minute) that says:
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Have you ever considered that there is no doG on the planet who will ever bear a grudge or take revenge? Yes, of course a doG may fight, and may not stop until stopped, but this is in the nature of “no more than an eye for an eye, and no more than a tooth for a tooth” (which is the “real” meaning of the passage). If you punish your doG and put him (or her) in the closet, and you are unreasonably harsh, what will happen when you let him out? He will be delighted to see you; he will wag and wag his tail, and he will tell you that no matter what he loves you, and he will attribute his former misery to the nature of things, and not to you.
Of all the interpersonal qualities which destroy lives, families, and friendship, bearing a grudge and seeking revenge are at the very top of the destruction list. Christ sees this with characteristic laser-vision, when he enjoins us to pray thus: “…and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Even earlier, when St. Peter asks The Lord how many times must he forgive his brother if his brother sins against him, Christ answers, “No, Peter…not simply seven times, but seven times seventy-seven times.” Peter, a simple fisherman, will have no idea of this astronomically large number….and we must read this hyperbole to say, “You must always forgive him, no matter what….just as Leviticus 19:18 requires of you.”
Our doGs are the premier exemplar of this kind of behavior. They have no idea of what it means to nurture a grudge. Not a whisper of it.
And so, for these reasons, without exception, I believe that doGs are ideal Christians (and observant Jews); that they exist in our lives to teach us the deepest of profound Christian values, and that simply watching and doing like them will bring us the joy that comes from a life well-lived, a life well-lived in the shadow of God.
My doG and your doG are Christians. Perhaps they can lead us down the path they so ardently and joyously follow.