It’s strange but true: mankind fancies himself the leader over all the earth, but in his arrogance and pride, he forgets that true “dominion” isn’t thoughtless domination and ego-driven exploitation lest it lead to his own ruin, but rather something that indicates power that must be tempered with compassion (the plural form of the word is defined as: “an order of angels — see celestial hierarchy”) and which creates an inspiring vision of the future.
In our relationship to the earth and other inhabitants of it, we are cruel dictators, not shining examples of leadership.
Many cite the Bible as giving mankind “dominion over all the earth and her creatures”, but what does that dominion really mean?
Is dominion meant to be a ruthless assault on nature and animals or is it really a call for stewardship, for respect and mercy towards all life?
If you haven’t yet read “Dominion – the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy” by Matthew Scully, I highly suggest it, although it’s a very difficult read due to the stark nature of the subject, which details the myriad ways man inflicts suffering upon his fellow creatures (and now 14 years old).
It’s sitting on my book shelf as I write this, a heart-breaking analysis of man’s mistreatment of the beasts he considers inferior and over whom he feels he’s been given complete dominion (as in, brutal domination).
Scully argues that our role should be one of just and merciful stewards.
“We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us. Animals are so easily overlooked, their interests so easily brushed aside.
Whenever we humans enter the world, from our farms, to the local animal shelter to the African savanna, we enter as lords of the earth bearing strange powers of terror and mercy alike.”
Scully’s book is from a perspective of examining the Christian viewpoint. He writes that there are:
“…two Christians (Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey) earnestly asking “How Now Shall We Live?” in a 470 page survey of modernity and all its woes, of all the sins they seek to cure with their Christian message.
Yet never once do they pause to note a single example of how that duty of Christian stewardship is being abused or even how it can be abused.
Ask them to explain any other form of human cruelty or neglect or exploitation, and they, like all the Christians they speak for, would have a ready answer: Evil has a name and it roams the world.
On the problem of cruelty to animals, one hears only silence.”
Scully has managed to write a very thoughtful and powerful work, one which should interest animal advocates of all spiritual backgrounds.
More on the book here.