Joe Carter has a great post at the Evangelical Outpost blog asking when and how animal welfare disappeared from the list of evangelical concerns. He writes:
Consider this headline from a recent article in the New York Times: PETA Criticizes Egg Farm at South Carolina Monastery.
What is your initial reaction on seeing that headline? Did you roll your eyes at the thought of another liberal-leaning, anti-business story in the Times? Did you automatically assume that the “animal rights” nuts are off on one of their Quixotic crusades again? Or did it make you sad--like it did me--that an atheistically inspired movement appears to be more concerned about God’s creatures than some of our fellow Christians?
If a poll were taken on the question of which group has the most care and concern for the welfare of animals, Christians—whether Catholic, evangelical, or other—would invariably be at the bottom of the list. How did we lose our status as stewards of creation?
He goes on to remind us that whatever we think of PETA's worldview and antics, there is a strong tradition in the church of caring for animals as part of Christian stewardship, and that the way we exercise our dominion over animals says something about how we value Creation. (Kim has touched on related topics here in the past, most recently here.)
The point--that Christians ought to recognize the issue of animal welfare as one deeply connected to our role as stewards of Creation--is an important one. But Joe's post points to a deeper problem: once a person or organization on the opposite side of the political divide lays claim to a position, it can become really difficult for us as Christians to stand up in support of that position--even if it's one that is entirely consistent with Christian values. (Speaking personally about the animal welfare issue, I'll admit that I've often let my own distaste for organizations like PETA smother my desire to more carefully evaluate the morality of my food purchasing options.) That's a petty and un-Christian response, but I suspect the "if my enemy is for it, I have to be against it" attitude lies at the root of much of the current confusion and discontent in evangelical politics.
This problem is, of course, not limited to Christians. But it's important that we not forget about genuine Biblical principles just because an extremist group on the political left or right has "laid claim" to one of them as its pet cause.