- Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith by Sarah Withrow King
I reviewed Sarah Withrow King's earlier Animals Are Not Ours in this journal (Vol. 7, no 2). Vegangelical covers very similar ground but, as the subtitle indicates, this book assumes that the reader shares the author's evangelical Christian faith. The more general reader would do better to refer to her earlier book.
Many comments in my previous review also apply here, and I shall not repeat them. As previously, Vegangelical is engagingly written and well-informed. However, as befits its intended readership, it engages more with the biblical text and evangelical tradition. Common objections to her case are treated in the text, and there are discussion questions at the end of each chapter. However, her concern is always practical, as when she observes that "countless young people" have "left the church because of the hypocrisy they perceived in followers of the Prince of Peace, the God of love, who appeared indifferent to the massive scale of suffering endured by God's created beings at the hands of humans" (p. 15). Perhaps surprising is that she says little about specifically evangelical spirituality, for example, the implications for prayer or worship.1
Vegangelical is divided into two parts. The first deals with theological themes and the second with the human use of animals in domestic, free-living, and laboratory settings.
The theological chapters recapitulate the fuller development to be found in Animals Are Not Ours, here focusing on three themes: the image of God, dominion and stewardship, and loving the other. These are well-chosen, each being common within evangelical literature. But here they are developed within a normative framework for the relationship between humans and other animals. Her objective is to introduce unfamiliar perspectives to her public rather than to explore theological detail, and she often relies upon a limited range of sources. As with her previous book, her argument would be strengthened if she drew more upon those theologians whom modern evangelicals celebrate as their heritage.
The second part deals with human use of animals today. The content will be familiar to most readers of this journal, but it is likely to come as a surprise, even a shock, to her target readership. Her treatment of the food industry is particularly thorough and contains a critical appraisal of the "creation care" approach, which many evangelicals adopt. However, her discussion of hunting is disappointing, especially in view of its popularity among her target public. The final conclusion contains relevant practical guidance and resources: "Choose kindness. Beduce suffering when you can" (p. 155).
"Most people," says Withrow King, "can claim support for animal welfare. I don't think that's good enough for Christians, [End Page 113] though, and especially not for Christians who live in affluence relative to the rest of the globe" (p. 17). She makes a good case.
philip j. sampson is a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and formerly research fellow at the University of Southampton. His books include Faith and Modernity (Regnum, 1994) and Six Modern Myths (IVP, 2001). His research interests include animal theology and discourses of change in postmodernity. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. For example, contrast Andrew Linzey's Animal Rites (London, England: SCM Press, 1999).