It’s a question I am no longer asked, “do animals go to heaven”? Back in the 90’s we were still stuck in a place where worth and eternal worth were connected to one’s reason and intellect. What an arrogant bunch we were! Somehow we western techno types thought that God had endowed us with an intellect and this gift made us “special”, special enough we could do whatever we wanted to God’s greatest gift, Creation (see Genesis). So our “dominion” gave us permission to scar and remove whole species from the planet. Good for us. “Specialness” indeed!
And we arrogant humans, humans of western technology, assumed that if any other creatures could inherit eternal life with us it must be our domesticated friends, cats and dogs being at the top of the list. I remember reading a novel in high school about the way wild animals looked with contempt upon their domesticated kin. We didn’t much worry about the 100 year-old trees or the bog teeming with assorted wildlife or the brook where bears feasted on fish and fish made their pilgrimage. No, we wondered if Muffy or Rover went to heaven with us.
This morning I read in the paper that one of my favorite singers, Neil Young, recorded his new record with animal sounds. Young said, “The animals give off a great vibe. There's nothing about them that's they're not lying to you and they're not selling you something," he said. I also remember that Stevie Wonder recorded an album where he explored the secret lives of plants, using his music to imagine the energy and connectedness of other creatures.
The United Church of Canada Creeds says, “We are not alone”. That refers to God the Creator, but it also refers to Creation, the manifestation of the Creator’s imprint, presence and hunger for relationship. I grew up in the city, for me nature was the Atlantic Winter Fair with various beasts of the earth, largely farm domesticated. If you asked me where milk came from I would have said, “the grocery store”. There was little in my life that was not paved or concrete or metal. Interacting in Creation is a very new experience and gift for me.
One powerful source of God’s presence in my life started with a chain reaction. I became fascinated with Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Night Stars. But it was an image sealed off from the Creation around me. One night walking my dog Nova with my daughter Lucy pointed to the night sky and asked me what I saw. I looked up and focused on the stars, the blanket darkness that was strangely warm, and the illumined light. What a feeling! We are not alone.
What where do these stars go? Where do any of us go? We are all connected and created in an image of relationship. And relationship never ends.