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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

Rev. Prof. Walter Rauschenbusch Prays for Animals. Ed. Dr. Chapman Chen



 

Below please find an insightful prayer by the Baptist theologian Rev. Prof. Walter Rauschenbusch from 1910, on the kinship of humans and animals as fellow creatures of God, and on environmental protection. It calls animals "our little brothers" -- here Rauschenbusch probably had in mind Jesus' saying "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me" [Matthew 25:40 BSB] -- and laments humans' abuse of "dominion" over animals and atrocious treatment of them. It recognises animals' God-given right to a decent life and praises them for serving God even better than humans. This kind of non-humanocentric prayer is quite rare for a mainstream Christian priest/theologian to say, especially when we remember that Pastor Billy Graham (2004) asserted that animals exist solely for "mans' enjoyment and use", on the ground that humans have been given "dominion" over them.

 

O God , we thank thee for this universe, our great home; for its vastness and its riches, and for the manifoldness of the life which teems upon it and of which we are a part...

 

Enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all the living things, our little brothers, to whom thou hast given the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the Earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve thee in their place better than we in ours.

 

When our use of this world is over and we make room for others, may we not leave anything ravished by our greed or spoiled by our ignorance, but may we hand on our common heritage fairer and sweeter through our use of it, undiminished in fertility and joy, that so our bodies may return in peace to the great mother who nourished them and our spirits may round the circle of a perfect life in thee.(Rauschenbusch 1910)

 

According to Philip Johnson's (2012) research, it is the second paragraph of this prayer that has been "uplifted, decontextualized, and refashioned into the variant versions of the prayer called 'Our Brothers the Animals'”, often mistakenly attributed to St. Basil.

 

Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918) was an influential American theologian and Baptist pastor, renowned for his role in the Social Gospel movement. He served as a pastor in a tenement area of New York City for eleven years. Then he joined the faculty of Rochester Theological Seminary in 1897 and became a professor of church history in 1902. His seminal work, Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907), established him as a leading voice in the Social Gospel movement, which emphasized the Kingdom of God and the social implications of Christianity.

 

Rauschenbusch's 1910 book "For God and the People: Prayers of the Social Awakening" is a collection of prayers that articulate the spiritual focus of the Social Gospel movement. The book includes prayers for various social groups and classes, including animals. Rauschenbusch's prayer for animals as quoted above is a powerful expression of the Social Gospel's broader ethical concerns, which include the well-being of all creatures and the health of the planet we share. 


 

References

 

Johnson, Philip (2012). "St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part Six)." Animals Matter to God, May 9. https://animalsmattertogod.com/2012/05/09/st-basils-animal-prayers-are-a-hoax-part-six/#:~:text=The%20top%2Dheavy%20pile%20of,as%20genuine%20at%20face%2Dvalue.

 

Rauschenbusch, Walter (1910). "For this World." In For God and the People: Prayers of the Social Awakening. New York: The Pilgrim Press, 47-48.


Rauschenbusch, Walter (1907). Christianity and the Social Crisis. Location: Macmillan.




 

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