So, sometimes I really have to work to come up with a topic for my blog post, which, as you know, I try to do weekly. But other times, something drops into my lap like this story from The New York Times, about Pope Francis’ comments about dogs and heaven:
Pope Leaves the Pearly Gates Open to Dogs
It’s actually a really interesting story, because it reveals some suspect theological suppositions that many Christians assume are official church teaching. Some examples: first, the idea that the litmus test for getting into heaven is having a “soul.” Christians have always confessed the resurrection of the body, which explicitly rules out the idea of heaven as a [human] soul escaping the flesh to float around among the clouds. And, more and more, we are learning from science that there isn’t a “soul” to speak of anyway–that is, something that can be abstracted from the body: all of who and what we are is enfleshed, period. And if our bodies are resurrected, why not other bodies God has created, too?
Related to this the idea that God really only loves and redeems humanity, and that the entire rest of creation is excluded from God’s plan of salvation. I’m sorry, but the only people who could believe something like this are people who have never read the Bible. The biblical witness is crystal clear and quite repetitive about the idea that God loves and is in relationship with all God has made, God intends redemption for all God has made, God watches over and cares for all God has made, and the vision of the Kingdom of God is most explicitly a vision of transformation that includes all God has made.
There were other interesting aspects of the article, too. For example, I didn’t know John Paul II actually said that animals “are as near to God as [hu]men are”–that alone was worth reading the article: what a powerful statement! And, some people were eager to emphasize that Pope Francis wasn’t endorsing vegetarianism–but others thought that might be a logical conclusion to draw, especially if his words endorse the idea that “animals aren’t ours, they’re God’s.”
Whatever you think about the question and it’s ramifications, there are very persuasive theological [and not simply pastoral] reasons to endorse the opinion of Jesuit priest James Martin, editor of the Catholic journal America. He said, “[Pope Francis] is reminding us that all creation is holy and that in his mind, paradise is open to all creatures, and frankly, I agree with him.”