I grew up with a very loyal and loving welsh springer spaniel named Abby. She was awesome! She ran around on our six acre property, got muddy with me and my three brothers, and was very protective.
I love my brothersâfar more than any dogâbut in the middle of a fight or argument I would feel close to hating them. I never hated my dog. Most dogs have this lovable innocence about them that we all love.
Former Olympian Bruce Jenner recently announced publicly that he is now a she; Bruce is now known as Caitlyn. She posed for Vanity Fair's magazine front cover and the Internet went a little crazy. People were awestruck, proud, disgusted, confused, surprised and wowed.
After a recent extensive TV interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer many celebrities and commentators congratulated her, and many people wrote positive and negative things about her.
The famously masculine Olympian, once crowned the greatest athlete in the world after winning gold in the decathlon in 1976, sat on a couch flicking her long hair back over her shoulder declaring Bruce had always had a feminine soul.
Two thoughts struck me after seeing the magazine cover and watching the interview. In the interview Bruce (as he was then called) said something that stuck: he described how God created him with a great start in life, a loving family, looks and all the physical talents a boy could want, but he gave him this one thing, this little secret, this 'female soul' to nag away at him. Something about this stayed with me.
My second thought was, 'how will the Christian world react?' It didn't take much digging to find plenty of Christians condemning him.
A couple more targets
Caitlyn knew people would celebrate her new identity, whilst others would be confused and even condemn her. There's nothing new in all the stone throwing, and recently I've read of a couple of other cases in the Christian community who have had to put up their own shields while Christians cast more stones at their own.
A Methodist minister in my city has had some horrific responses to an article he wrote describing his plans to join his Muslim friends to observe the Muslim tradition of Ramadan. One concerned commenter suggested his Muslim friends are probably going to try kill him, while others questioned his faith.
He says, 'I allow myself to be challenged to engage the world around me through what I understand of Jesus, who challenges the worst of who I am and compels me to not give into some of my weaknesses when it comes to interacting with others'. I thought it was very brave and insightful, but not everyone was so encouraging. Stones were thrown.
Last week Tony Campolo publically announced his position on allowing same sex couples who are in a committed relationship to be accepted as they are in his church. He said he hopes he can encourage fellow Christians to accept and love and invite all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church. As always with the gay debate in Christian circles, people will get hurt as they clamber over who's in and who's out, who's right and who's wrong.
Insert dog story here
This could sound like a weird tangent, but forget who's throwing stones in which direction, let's think about dogs for a second.
As I mentioned earlier, my dog Abby was amazing. I like to imagine she had only the upmost respect and admiration for this human who would look after her, feed her, and yet somehow was superior.
Have you met a dog who has an owner who looks a little like them? This doesn't seem to embarrass dogs, they, like most animals, just carry on doing their dog thing. A dog knows it's a dog: living in the moment, fully engaged in a dog's life.
Dogs are always happy to see you, which is why so many people love them. Their essence isn't covered up by any agenda, they're wholly true to themselves and that's something we admire. Dogs can co-exist and connect with us, and to some subconscious level I think we value their innocence. I've heard it said that innocence is one of four core emotional needs. You'd have to beat your dog or neglect it before it'll change its mind in a hurry.
And although I'm drawing some kind of thought-provoking statement out of how loyal, loving and oblivious dogs are, I think they're purely glorifying their creator by being what they were created to be.
As humans we have the ability to hate, to scheme and to judge, and because of our intelligence we have the ability to destroy life, relationships and the environment more than anything else in the world. We judge and we fight, and we climb the hierarchical ladder of perceived success and fulfilment by standing on others heads. Did I mention we judge?
If a dog can bring glory to his creator, and create love and admiration in humans then surely we can take a step back and ponder whether this is a truth worth exploring.
But what about Bruce?
When Bruce Jenner told his story of God giving him that one vice, the one thing that plagued him, it sparked some compassion in me. I'm not naturally very empathetic, but we all have vices or issues we struggle with, and the declaration of his struggle to the whole worldâwhichever way you look at itâtakes courage.
I think Christians who are quick to judge and label and exclude always love to quote verses to shun, prohibit and justify their perceived status-quo. They will keep themselves in the 'right' and on top of the social, economic, religious or elite pile.
This view of God becomes more about control, and less about what I think Jesus really came to demonstrate. Jesus started a radical revolution, a new way, a new idea of loving till it hurt. This servant leadership changed the world, and is still transforming it.
In my experience judging others is the biggest reason why people change churches or leave them altogether. It seems the low position of the meek, the persecuted and the downcast are the ones to whom Jesus says 'you'll be lifted up'âthe last will be first.
Maybe dogs, with their humble obedience and blind trust of their masters share that same low position? The opening line of Jesus' most famous sermon says, 'blessed are the poor in spirit'. As other more learned scholars suggest: that means to 'know nothing, want nothing, and have nothing'. This is very countercultural on so many levels.
What would Jesus be saying to the famous transgender person making headlines, or the pastor sticking up for the gay community, or the minister wanting to learn more about his friend's religion? Maybe one day he'll tell me, but I'm pretty certain he wouldn't throw stones.
Brad Mills enjoys the outdoors and almost any sport... For a day job he's a journalist who works at the Rhema Media in Auckland New Zealand.
Brad Mill's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/brad-mills.html