I don’t know if you saw those pictures that were circulating on Facebook. I saw them. I looked, I got sick.
They are of a man torturing a dog. If you haven’t seen them, please don’t feel you need to look them up. I titled this post ____________ and Dog because I don’t know how you can properly refer to that mad creature as a man.
I deleted the link from my page and then deleted the link when it showed up again, shared by another dog-loving friend. I got on the couch with my dog. I prayed. I guess that’s what you call it, when you say, Oh my God, I just can’t take this. I cannot take it. You have to do something. You have to not allow this. Why do you permit this? What possible cosmic use is there for sadism and cruelty like that? Why can’t You just kill that man? I would kill him myself if I could.
And on and on like that. It was charming. The good thing about being a Bible-reading girl, though, is that no matter what rant you want to bring to God you can bet it has already been given by the Psalmist, so you don’t really have to worry about being coherent. Just “Oh my God what kind of vile, horrific species ARE we? Why is that scum allowed to breathe the air?” will do. Whatever is on your mind has all been said already.
So now I hear your objections. First of all, human beings and animals are tortured in sadistic ways every day. What’s so especially upsetting about this?
Second of all, what does God have to do with it? Why engage in theodicy when we can turn to sociology, neurology and psychology for answers and solutions?
Let me answer that first question first.
It’s about dogs. Cruelty to dogs hits me on a deep gut level of soul sickness because all I have ever observed about dogs is that they exist to be best buddies to human beings. For the price of a tiny bit of kindness and food, dogs are actually genetically programmed by now to be our most loyal and affectionate animal companions. I have never met a dog who didn’t seem to have been wound up by Nature to wag its tail and become absolutely psyched by the presence of a human being who might interact with it in a vaguely positive way. It’s their job. It’s all they do.
Cats have other jobs. Cats have enough of their own agenda that I can understand (not accept, just understand) why sick human minds have ascribed evil intentions to cats and hurt them. Cats have those weird snake eyes. If out of your right mind with fear of Satan or something like that, I can imagine how that fear could drive you to hang a cat. It’s still horrifying and gives me shivers, but I can imagine being in that frame of mind.
Pardon me while I go hug my cat for a moment, by way of apology.
I understand that this is a personal thing, my thing with the innocence and essential sweetness of our canine friends. I eat and wear animals. I am not an animal rights activist. I just do not understand how someone could take a dog into their care and then torture it. I don’t know how the human mind gets twisted like that. While a child can trigger all sorts of bizarre projections (“She was defying me! From her crib! I had to put her in her place!”), how the HADES does that happen with a boxer? Sick, sick, sick, evil.
(If you want to know who I think about all the time, it’s the Rev. Bill Schult [formerly] of Amnesty International. I pray for him almost every day. Because I know I could not show up for work like that. It’s beyond me. That is all.)
Why a theological reflection about these images? Why rail about this to God? Surely we can get a grip on this horrible spectacle by looking at psychology, neurology (does this guy have a damaged frontal lobe like so many other sociopaths?), sociology (he didn’t get enough love in his childhood, somebody abused him in this way) or cultural studies (should we blame his macho Latino culture?), economics… etc.
I turn to God at moments like this because I have a visceral response to this kind of image and information that only the transcendent Otherness that I call God can help me hold. The kind of existential dread that overwhelms me when I am confronted with evidence of this degree of human depravity is not something that I can process at the intellectual level until I have expressed it as a cry of the spirit, a lament to creation itself — and specifically to that aspect of creation that is responsible for the evolution of human morality.
Why are we the way we are? Biological destiny, evolution, survival instinct, genetics, yes. But those are the means by which we have become the human animals we know today, not the reason.
When I cannot tolerate the what of human nature (let alone the why), I turn to God because the God of my understanding and experience is both within and beyond nature and human nature. The God of my understanding is a spirit that grieves with us in the cosmic sense and is just as sick as I am at the treatment of that little white dog with the crunchy ears and the panicked, perplexed, heartsick expression on his face. That is to say that in spiritual terms, all is wrong in the universe when such harm is done. The holiness at the heart of being is violated and torn.
That little dog. I will never forget him. But on Good Friday, when we are called to remember all innocent victims of our violent nature and to contemplate the unfathomable fact that the sacred soul at the center of creation loves us in spite of it, I will remember that dog again.
That dog died for our sins. The trust on that face. The bewilderment. The suffering not only of body, but of spirit. What’s going on? What did I do?
Oh, sweet puppy. You didn’t do anything. We’re so, so sorry. So, so sorry that our deplorable nature and your beautiful, pure nature collided in such a devastating way. Be at peace, little friend. And Lord, hear our cry of rage and outrage, our prayer that your shall overcome our wickedness. Thank you, God, for our dogs and make us worthy of the purity of their trust and affection.