Friday, September 15, 2006

AlPO: The Choice of the TDAD

During the brief break between meetings of bishops, archbishops, and wannabe archbishops, all the talk about AlPO reminded me of an insightful piece from a couple of years ago; Treat Dogs as Dogs?...

The year is 2010.

A new controversy is bubbling up throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion and threatening its unity. Conservatives in many provinces are insisting that the church return to what they term "the biblical teaching on dogs." Others, especially in Britain and North America, insist that there is nothing unchristian about showing dogs love and respect as creatures of God.

Both sides admit that there are relatively few references in the Bible to dogs, and that most are negative. Many of these verses use the image "dead dog" as a term of opprobrium. Others speak of dogs licking up somebody’s blood or eating their mortal remains...

...Conservatives see these texts as establishing conclusively that dogs are nasty, and that Christians should have little or nothing to do with them. These conservatives also hold that altar rails, originally installed to keep dogs from profaning the altar, should be repositioned to protect the entire church building. They look askance at such developments as legislation against cruelty to dogs, pet cemeteries, human names for canines, and dogs sleeping in the same beds as their owners. In particular, they are offended at the proliferation of animal blessing services occurring in Anglican churches in some countries.

Progressives, on the other hand, see the negative references in Scripture as culturally determined, and base their case for respecting dogs on a creation theology that sees every living creature as good. In some places they are building churches or installing stained glass windows honoring St. Bernard. A trend in their scholarship identifies the Wolf of Gubbio, which St. Francis tamed as not a wolf, but a German shepherd. Some even draw Jungian parallels between Tobias’ dog in Tobit and Dorothy’s dog Toto in "The Wizard of Oz."

Matters have come to a head over proposals for the Episcopal Church to develop official services for the blessing of dogs. Some bishops have already endorsed such services for use in their dioceses, while others know they occur by reading about them in parish newsletters. Reports of such services also appear in newspapers, usually around the October 4 feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a figure viewed as suspect by conservatives, who regard him as a proto-pan-speciesist.

The conservatives have coalesced as TDAD (Treat Dogs as Dogs). They are extremely well-funded, allegedly by a couple of Texas millionaires who made their fortunes in cat food. TDAD is appealing to Anglican leaders in other parts of the world, and finding support in some places. Several African and Asian prelates read the biblical texts about dogs quite literally, and find support for their views in places in their homeland where packs of scavenger dogs prowl around freely...

...Various Episcopal and Anglican bishops are talking quite loudly about schism. In response, the Archbishop of Canterbury has summoned the heads of all Anglican provinces to meet with him at Lambeth Palace. His personal view of the matter is apparent: the meeting takes place the day after he officially opens the Greater London Dog Show. Conservatives hope to be vindicated, while progressives question the validity of the meeting since it will include no dogs, only primates.
My pup Barkley is considering transfering his membership to a parish in Fort Worth. He doesn't mind being excluded and called nasty names, as long as they serve him AlPO. Such a practical pup.


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