A church in Florida has garnered a lot of attention for using a caged lion on stage as a symbol for Satan.
The church, Flamingo Road Church in Cooper City, Fla., is featuring a series of sermons called “Wild”. The pastor of the church, Troy Gramling, arranged for the display of a lion in a cage as a prop for his sermon focusing around verses from the book of 1 Peter. The verses in question use the image of a “roaring lion” as a simile for the devil.
Despite the best efforts of groups like The Christian Vegetarian Association, the faith as a whole has never been particularly receptive to animal rights ideologies. Dedicated theologians and scholars would debate about the meaning of verses in the book of Genesis that explicitly name plants and trees as the food for humans. Others would argue the same book gives humanity “dominion” over the animals which could be interpreted as permission to eat them.
These kinds of debates are fruitless and serve only that small segment of any religious group that reads their respective scriptures in any depth. I would argue the real reason Christianity is not receptive to veganism is a simple matter of demographics. It’s not a matter of conflicting ideologies, it’s simply that for the majority of Americans, Christianity is seen as the “default” religion, and eating meat is seen as the “default” diet.
Christianity is by far the most populous religious group in the US, and in addition, the majority of people in the US eat meat. To think there wouldn’t be a large overlap seems silly.
Pastor Gramling utilizes the lion to inspire fear, and reiterates as many times as he can that the lion wants nothing more than to kill you. As if humanity didn’t have enough ill-will toward wild animals, Gramling wants to draw a mental connection between a majestic and beautiful animal and the cause of all evil in the world.
Gramling, speaking from a theatrical stage covered with a tree canopy, plants, and what appear to be taxidermied animals, tries to characterize the lion as blood-thirsty and malevolent. The simile of lion for satan depends on us fearing the lion. But the lion has much more to fear from humans who possess guns (a gun is also featured in Gramling’s sermon), and the ability to eliminate their habitat, than humanity has to fear from a lion.
Behind all the theological narrative, the metaphor, and the fear-mongering, the same fact remains that is always present when we display animals: we are using a sentient being as entertainment. The lion paced the cage nervously the whole time the pastor was speaking. It doesn’t take a zoologist to spot frustration and confusion in an enormous animal trapped in a tiny cage.
Animals like lions belong in the wild. They do not belong in cages. Lions certainly do not belong on stage in a church being used as a prop to inspire fear and hatred of animals. They shouldn’t be supervised by a man who sees an accidental attack by a lion as a possible source of greater profit.
Animals do not exist for our entertainment any more than they exist for our consumption. Boycott any institution that believes in exploiting animals for their flesh, their fur or their entertainment value.
Watch the sermon:
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