When Religion Goes to the Dogs

There are great and precious promises given to us in Scripture. One such word of assurance and hope is found in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. That is reassuring to know, but sometimes one has to ask if the church itself is not doing a great job of undermining the faith.

That is, while we expect the enemies of the church to ceaselessly war against us, what is really alarming is when so-called Christian leaders themselves manage to sabotage the work of the church. In the past I have pointed out various examples of some Christians being their own worst enemies when it comes to delivering sharp blows against the faith.

Sadly, here is yet one more example of such self-immolation, this time coming from Canada. According to one media outlet, a Toronto Anglican church is run by a priest who seems to be unable to distinguish between human beings and animals. I kid you not. This is how the story is reported:

“An Anglican priest in Toronto has become the center of controversy after she gave a communion wafer to a dog during a religious service. The Rev. Marguerite Rea apologized to congregants on Sunday for giving the wafer last month to Trapper, a 4-year-old German Shepherd-Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, the Toronto Star reported.

“Trapper was attending the service at St. Peter’s Anglican Church with his owner, a truck driver whom Rea had invited to come to services after she met him and the dog visiting the downtown church on a previous day. When Trapper’s owner came forward to receive communion, the dog came forward as well. Rea extended her hand with a wafer to Trapper, who ate it. The dog did not drink any wine. A congregant complained to the diocese, and the local bishop called Rea’s action ‘misguided,’ the newspaper reported.

“Although Rea apologized for giving the communion wafer to Trapper, she told the Toronto Star that she has received many phone calls and e-mails of support since the controversy broke. And at least one other congregant supports what Rea did. ‘We’re all God’s creatures,’ the congregant told the newspaper. ‘If a dog goes into a church, he’s entitled to every service that’s offered, including spiritual nourishment’.”

And we wonder why the world just scoffs at the church. With friends like these, who needs enemies? It is good to see that the priest in question did offer an apology in the end. But the remarks of the member shows that biblical literacy may be at an all-time low in some churches.

Indeed, it is possible that common sense and basic thinking ability is at an all time low as well in many Christian congregations. Let me run this one by you again: “If a dog goes into a church, he’s entitled to every service that’s offered, including spiritual nourishment”.

OK, so we should allow dogs to sing along in the hymn sings? Maybe a Labrador should help conduct Bible studies as well. Or maybe a poodle should conduct confirmation classes. But why stop there? Let’s bring all God’s creatures into the action. Perhaps we can have cats conducting baptismal services.

Maybe we can get giraffes to help take up the weekly offering. Actually, an octopus might be better for that task. And we could get some ostriches to teach in the Sunday School classes. Since we seem to have plagues of rabbits and other pests in Australia, they would fit well into our mega-churches.

The list is endless. I am having a bit of fun here of course. But when we get this dumbed down by those calling themselves believers, then we are all in bad shape. The church is already struggling to survive from its many external enemies. We really do not need people within the church adding to this onslaught.

While the gates of hell may not prevail against the church, politically correct believers might just manage to achieve the same result. We are living in silly and senseless times. We certainly do not need the church to buy into this atmosphere as well.

If this were just an isolated incident, just a one-off, we might just laugh it off. But one suspects that such moonbattery is becoming far too common in our churches. In which case, tears may be a more appropriate response.

www.dispatch.com/live/content/national_world/stories/2010/07/28/dog-receives-communion-wafer-from-priest-during-service.html?sid=101

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21 Replies to “When Religion Goes to the Dogs”

  1. The sad thing is that in many churches who pride themselves in giving out Christ-like love to sinners, only those who are like themselves are clearly welcome, loved and nurtured. The outcasts of society, however, are best loved by Christians when kept at a safe distance and that often is outside the church walls. I am sure dogs are often treated better by Christians than some people.

    Interesting times indeed!
    Mercedes Underwood

  2. This sound pretty crazy, but really how biblical is communion in most churches?
    If what the highly respected New Testament scholar Gordon Fee has said about communion is somewhere near the mark and I believe it is, we need a reformation just there to bring us remotely back towards reality.
    What do you think?
    Rob Withall

  3. Yes I agree very much so Rob. Especially in the bigger churches I’ve visited, it seems communion is wheeled out like a freight train and with a flick of the wrist and a blow from the bull horn were told to worship God with our money and put in the bag. This of course is not funny at all.
    Daniel Kempton

  4. I couldn’t really grasp that things have got so low – is this animism in a new guise? 🙂
    John Angelico

  5. Incidents such as these demonstrate a crucial and destructive lack of Biblical Christianity in many parts of the church. Your most telling line Bill was ‘those calling themselves believers’. A couple of Jesus’ teachings come to mind – namely the wheat and the tares (that there will be ‘fakes’ within the Church), and also when He said ‘by their fruits you shall now them’. It is not our place to judge self-righteously, but it is our responsibility to rightly ‘judge’ (discern) what is happening.

    Incidents such as this demonstrate that there is something desperately wrong on a fundamental level.

    What a desperate need there is for true Biblical teaching within the Church! May we pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers into the field, the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.

    Isaac Overton, ACT

  6. Thanks Bill,

    It is comforting to know that Jesus promises the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. The obvious question of course is; How does Jesus define His church and does our definition match His?

    Glenn Christopherson

  7. Hi Bill
    Jesus did say the gates of Hell shall not prevail against It (Church). He would not have said this but He knew the gates of hell, as in demons were certainly going to try.
    They will never ever though succeed, because Jesus just told us. Right through history there have been attacks upon the Church, even on Its founder Christ Himself.
    The human (body) church of Christ is made up of sinners. According to St. Paul we all sin. But the Mystical Body of Christ is Holy. And I believe that the human part will be saved because of the Holiness of the Mystical Body.
    That is the hope that I believe came about through the suffering, and redemptive power of the Cross.
    “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
    Anne van Tilburg

  8. Yes, this is regrettable, but what are we disappointed by? This ‘communion wafer’ … is it a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and promise which we all participate in (in which case, the Anglican priest’s actions are foolish and insensitive) or is it the Eucharist (the transubstantiated body of Christ) as instituted at the last supper and fulfilled on Calvary. The latter would make it a sacrilege, and would understandably raise the ire of the faithful.
    Luke McLindon

  9. This woman clearly does not believe that Jesus meant what He said in John ch.6 v51 – 59 nor in her own priesthood, otherwise she would believe herself guilty of the most appalling sacrilege imaginable. Many left Him that day, but Jesus didn’t call them back or say they’d misunderstood rather He said “Does it shake your faith?” and “Do you want to leave me too?”
    Anna Cook

  10. Hi Guys,
    I know this has nothing to do with the subject of the blog, but… it always concerns me when we talk about Matthew 16:18 as if the church is somehow on the back foot against the attack of our spiritual enemy. Gates are defensive barricades not offensive weapons. Every defense that hell has against that which God has established and is establishing will not stand. I’m thankful we are not on a losing team. God has already predetermined that the church will triumph – our job is not to get in His way while he does it. That we as the church represent Him well, represent Christ well and represent the truth well – which is perhaps where the subject of this blog causes us all to scratch our head a little and wonder if we are representing something that even begins to resemble the truth. I am extremely thankful for Bill and others committed to the truth – no matter the cost. Thanks Bill.
    Peter Shurley

  11. The Anglican Church in Canada is, and has been for a long time, aberrant. Much like the Episcopal Church in the US. In the US, soon after the Ordination of Women was allowed, a new cross appeared on the High Altar in the New York Cathedral featuring a naked female Christ which they called ‘Christa’. So a woman priest gives Communion to a dog in Canada. Expect more. Where an ecclesial community such as the Anglicans feel free to do what Christ did not do, ie ordain women, there is a bunch of folks who can remake any other aspect of the Gospel in the way that they think Christ ought to have done it even only he had had the benefit of twenty-first century enlightenment.
    Fr John Fleming

  12. Thanks Peter

    Yes quite right. Matthew 16:18 is describing a church on the offensive, not the defensive. And yes, God will ultimately triumph. But of course he has chosen to partnership with his people, and we can at times mess up his work, and be more of an embarrassment than a help. But in the end he will certainly wrap everything up, and establish his everlasting kingdom. So we need to work with him, not against him!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  13. A German Shepherd / Ridgeback mix sound like a fine dog though.
    Phil Taylor, UK

  14. I found the situation most offensive when the dog was alleged to have been deserving of “spiritual nourishment”. This parishioner is very badly catechised. Spiritual matters are totally non-applicable to animals, who have no notion of spirituality at all. They act purely from instinct, and in this case, from the instinct to eat. Since the “host” was part of an Anglican service, it is not at all likely that there was anything sacred about it, despite the important symbolism. If a Catholic priest had given the dog the Host, on the other hand, it would have been a supreme sacrilege, being an insult to the actual Body of Christ. God bless.
    Carol Phillips

  15. I found this pretty funny as at first i thought the minister had done it out of jest but to then hear the comment had me shaking my head. This does pose questions though, firstly, who ordains these people? and if action hasnt been taken by such and as the matter has become a public matter public statement of prompt and proper correction and teaching and or removal is wanting!!! and secondly, how many people are still a part of that congregation without the assurance from their oversight that a mature Bible following Minister will be overseeing the (repentant) Minister for a period of time to ensure the Bible is lifted up and not some weirdo unscriptural rubbish continued?????
    Dorian Ballard

  16. Probably a symptom not the basic problem. If outsiders are welcomed into communion then there must be an explanation of what it is all about. Sometimes it is tacked on with no real attempt to let the people know what it is all about. Once some tried to become fit for it first which is mposible. Now it is often a seemingly meaningless rite tacked on the end of a service. Everybody is welcome whether they believe or not.
    Katherine Fishley

  17. Hi Bill. This is a late response from me but better late than never. You said: “And yes, God will ultimately triumph.” I rarely if ever disagree with you but … God has already given us the victory through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). That is why Christ said the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.
    Fr John Fleming

  18. Thanks John

    But I am not wrong – and neither are you. Biblically speaking we are both right. Yes, the victory was of course won at Calvary. But what I was referring to is the final eschatological victory, when Christ returns and he puts all his enemies under his feet, and so on. There are plenty of passages which speak of this final triumph over all that opposes God. Indeed, just read earlier in the passage you mentioned. In 1 Cor. 15:20-29 Paul speaks to this very issue!

    In theological terms this is referred to as the “already, and not yet”. Already Satan has been defeated, but he is not yet fully subdued, and he is still working his evil on this earth. But final judgment is guaranteed. I have written this up elsewhere: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/05/07/v-e-day-and-the-end-of-the-world/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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