Animal rights activist group PETA has sent a letter to a Nashville megachurch imploring them to stop using live animals as sermon illustrations.
In a video of a recent service, Pastor Galen Davis can be seen revealing several different animals, including two different breeds of lion. The first, a mountain lion, is used as an illustration due to its inability to roar. The particular mountain lion is able to “scream,” but cannot produce a throaty roar, according to Davis. The pastor compared this to the voice of the devil and urged those in attendance to understand that fear may “scream” at us, but it does not have the power to rule our lives.
Davis went on to talk about how many people falsely believe that the Bible compares Satan to a lion.
“I was studying scripture and the Bible only refers to one person as a lion,” he continued. “Don’t be confused. The Bible says the Devil roams around ‘like a lion.’ That’s the problem: we don’t know what sound our savior makes and what sound the enemy makes.”
“But there is only one lion of the tribe of Judah that roars,” Davis declared, as he unveiled a fully-grown male lion, caged in a clear perspex box.
“And that lion is something so powerful, it’s so majestic, that when he comes to life..” the pastor then paused to taunt the lion by poking the side of its cage, “he changes things.”
Immediately, the enormous predator leapt up and roared, responding fiercely to the preacher’s provocation.
“He’s in a cage and y’all freaked out,” Davis continued, laughing nervously at his congregation. Those in attendance let out a collective gasp as the lion pounced toward the pastor, held back only by a thin sheet of plastic. Stepping away from the beast, Pastor Davis laughed off the encounter and continued on with his message.
“Let us not confuse the scream of fear as the roar of faith,” he declared.
PETA took issue with the elaborate animal display, and responded with some faith comments of their own.
“All animals are individuals, created by God’s wondrous hand, and they feel joy, sadness, loneliness, and fear, just as humans do,” they wrote in a letter to the church leadership. “Using them in these types of displays undermines what it means to be a good steward of God’s creation.”
PETA also objected to the congregation’s use of creatures from Hollywild Animal Park in Spartanburg County, noting that the facility was fined nearly $19,000 by the Department of Agriculture after an investigation found animals were being held in unsafe enclosures and lacked veterinary care, as reported by Greenville News.
“We hope that, upon reflection, you’ll agree that this cruelty doesn’t reflect the tenets of your church and that you’ll decide to leave animals out of your future events,” the letter concluded.
But Maury Davis, the church’s former lead pastor and the father of Galen Davis, said he sees nothing wrong with using live animals as a means of helping communicate the gospel in an effective manner.
“Certainly, I don’t believe in abusing animals,” Maury Davis said. “But, using animals, to me, is not wrong.”
And while Pastor Davis is happy to talk to PETA about their concerns, he said that it is unlikely that dialogue would be constructive.
“If I thought there could be an intelligent discussion, I would be willing to have that, but just arguing with people that are making really outlandish claims would be a waste of time and energy and fruitless,” he said.
(H/T: Greenville News)