We Could Use Brother Dave Now.
Brother Dave Gardner anticipated our current moment years ago. The self-avowed redneck comedian of the 1960s was a regular listen for me in the only album of his my Dad bought (Brother Dave called them “ablums”). My favorite story was of a promoter who “went around promoting shows.” Somehow it seems to fit our reality TV, bizarro news, political circus sideshows of the moment. Listen and laugh. Any resemblance to current politics or media frenzies are purely worth thinking about.
Thank You, Ethics Daily.
Ethics Daily asked to do a short bio about Yours Truly so here it is. A number of pieces from this blog have wound up in the Ethics Daily website. It was started by my late classmate and friend, Robert Parham. It’s worth your time to go there.
“Healing in the Shadow of Iniquity” A piece written in the aftermath of the Las Vegas Shooting.
“Being Thankful, Even in Times of Great Adversity” A piece that originally appeared on these pages.
Dogs Still Have a Leg Up On Humans, Metaphorically Speaking
Baptist News Global carried a recent piece on the virtues of dogs. At the end, they reference my well-liked piece titled, “Do Dogs Go to Heaven,” that was picked up in a newspaper or two and on various websites. You can read the original here. I agree that if the world is going to the dogs, it would be a step up, not down.
In an article (one of the kind preachers and scholars read and that laypeople would never find, nor would they want to), a professor writes an entire piece on what the apostle Paul meant when he told the Philippians, “Beware of dogs. Beware of evil workers. Beware of the mutilation.” (NKJV) Since mutilation is a reference to circumcision, it came to be seen as a swipe at Jewish people and in most of history interpreted, apparently, as a reversal of Jews calling Gentiles “dogs,” which were “unclean” animals. Besides that being part of a whole ugly history, it is one more blind spot in the human self-assessment.
The author says that the reason for this negativity about our four-footed friends is understandable:
Because dogs parade about naked, defecate, conduct sexual behavior,
and generally carry on without regard for human conventions of modesty
or prudence, they are characterized to be shameless in terms of the
prevailing social terms for proper conduct in human society (Nanor, Mark, “Paul’s Reversal of Jews Calling Gentiles ‘Dogs’
(Philippians 3:2): 1600 Years of an Ideological Tale Wagging an Exegetical Dog?”)
However, that had to be prior to this year, when modesty, respectful language and couthy-ness (opposite of uncouth?) went, well, to the dogs. Dogs, in their defense, are neither circumcised nor require it for one another to be acceptable as a canine. While they travel in packs, their tribalism would never lead them to call one another names like, “Crooked Dane” or “Lyin’ Terrier.” And they NEVER tweet at one another, since high frequencies bother their ears. They don’t send drones to kill each other anonymously, have no nukes, never imprisoned a single one of their own and could care less about money. Don’t do drugs, booze or snuff and don’t go to the doctor ever without a human making them.
No, good old dogs have a lot to commend them. Yes, they have fleas, and they are a bit oblivious about public behavior and have a deplorable lack of potty training. On the other hand, they defend their pups to death, and don’t gossip, hack websites, or spread fake news. I think we owe them an apology. And while we’re at at it, maybe we could say I’m sorry to one another, that we don’t seem to be able to rise to the level of a dog in our treatment of one another, public or private.
When the poet Francis Thompson wanted to characterize the haunting love of God that will not let us go, what image did he choose? Not a person. It was “The Hound of Heaven.” “Hound of Heaven” is about a man running from a hound, pursuing him. No matter where he goes, he hears the steps behind him. In the second stanza, he hears that the hound is not out to get him, but is the very One he seeks.
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
I’m sorry, Paul. You should have found another metaphor.
My kids are headed our way from NY for the holiday, but had the sadness of the death of their beloved dog, Mara. Mara had lived a good, long life, and like any family pet, had the run of the house. When our oldest granddaughter was born in Seattle five years ago, I was given the couch as my sleeping quarters, and she slept next to me on the floor, licking my hand regularly through the night, which, if not a regular experience, is a bit of a start for a sleeping person. Burglar or beloved, a licked hand is terrifying.
Eventually over those happy days we became friends and I would return the greeting in my sleep with a perfunctory half dozen strokes. These creatures who live with us accompany us in life, become part of the furniture of our homes. We miss them when they are gone.
It was time, as that time always comes, and Mara had no regrets. I reminded my daughter that marah could be taken as the Hebrew word for “bitter,” but Mara seemed remarkably sanguine toward the discomforts and outrageous fortunes of human beings and their ways. And she had it good–her own facebook page as Mara D Dhogg, the run of the house, better medical care than any except Read the rest of this entry
While we were away for Thanksgiving with our two daughters who live in New York, our middle daughter, Erin, called with the drastic news that her 13 1/2 year old white lab, whom she named Hannah Marie Furr-Yeager (any other dogs with hyphenated names?), passed away from kidney failure. Her husband just called her, , “Good Girl”. She got Hannah as a pup when Erin was 19 years old. Erin wrote on facebook,
“She was the “mascot” of our entire group of friends in our 20’s. She has been with me through college, roommates, first job, first love, heart break, job loss, first home, success, failure, marriage and all of life’s “in betweens”. .. Always there….always letting me know she was present. She was always waiting on us just to call her so she could be there. She got so much joy just from being with us.”
I have found myself quite moved by the depth of love my daughter has for Hannah, and for the intensity of grief that has followed. It caused me to ask the old question, “Do dogs go to heaven?” This is not a question I have spent time on before, and I must say, it indicates a deep deficiency in my theology. As I read about this online I came upon a variety of opinions, one on a website that also had articles like, “Is Smoking Cigarettes A Sin?” ” What Do Christians Believe About Dinosaurs?” and “Does The Bible say What the Devil Looks Like?” Not too promising, if you ask me.
I don’t intend to belabor the subject except to reflect that perhaps, “Do dogs go to heaven?” is the wrong question. The right question is, “Does God the Creator love the creation?” The answer is unequivocal. God is not simply redeeming a handful of lifeboat survivors but is renewing creation itself (Romans 8 treats this in extended fashion). The power of life that creates what we call “heaven” is in fact resurrection, the power of God to raise life from death and “re-create” creation. So, it seems to me, that if heaven is not “a place way out there” separate from creation but is, instead, God’s merciful and loving Providence, then it is not impossible at all to imagine that God, who remembers all things, is able to bring all those joyful complexities of creation to new life. The Bible talks about the end of “tooth and claw” nature, where Lion and Lamb lie together and the child plays safely near the adder.
These visionary imaginations of the prophets remind us to be respectful and humble about what the Creator can or will do at the end of all things. God’s love and greatness are vast. The answer to my question, “Does God love the creation?” is “Of course.” Trust in the love of your Creator.
I love the old story on “The Twilight Zone,” called “The Hunt,” about an old man and his beloved hound who drown during a coon hunt and wind up on a road where they must choose heaven or hell. The old man was played by Arthur Hunnicutt, the crusty Arkansas native who often played outdoorsy types. The screenplay was written by Earl Hamner, later the creator of “The Waltons” series. Ultimately, it is his dog Rip who helps him make the right choice. My favorite line: The angel says, “You see Mr. Simpson, a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can’t fool a dog!”
For those of us who live so detached from nature, feeding from its bounty but unaware of the connection, it is a good reminder to us of our own creaturehood. We are not so different from our pets and not so lofty in our uniqueness that we can act as though we are not sharing creaturehood with them.
Hannah Marie was a wonderful pet. I told Erin, “I have buried a lot of humans who weren’t loved as much in life, missed so much in death or commemorated so deeply by her survivors, as Hannah.” And I might add, “They hadn’t done nearly as much to offer loyalty, devotion and comfort to those in their life.” I’d side with those who think dogs will be there, myself. Given the way we treat one another, I’d think it would be the dogs who should be asking the question about us. Given a choice of hanging out with Hannah or a lot of humans I’ve met through the years, it’s no contest who would be more fit for eternal happiness without a major overhaul.