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The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals Paperback – October 1, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hobgood-Oster, a professor of religion and environmental studies at Southwestern University, examines the role animals have played in the history and development of Christianity in an attempt to return them to a more central role within the faith. Readers familiar with this area of study will find little new, as Hobgood-Oster recounts the work of scholars and theologians who have come before her: Andrew Linzey, Marc Bekoff, and Peter Singer. But rather than detract from the book, this foundation only enhances it, as Hobgood-Oster suffers from none of the academic-speak that plagues some of the deeper works on animals and religion. Indeed, the book's great strength is Hobgood-Oster herself, exhibited in her conversational tone and personal connection to the stories of animals in Christian scripture, as well as her experience in shelters and refuges, about which she writes movingly. A study guide will lead laypeople and church groups into a deeper exploration of the gifts animals can bring to the practice of Christianity, something Hobgood-Oster believes can only enrich the faith. (Oct.) (c)
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Review

"For personal reading, and for group study, there is none better than this! Hobgood-Oster raises the toughest questions and helps us find biblical answers."
--Thomas P. Eggebeen, Pastor, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles

"Wonderful. Read and share this inspiring, wide-ranging, and easy-to-read book so that we can all expand our compassion footprint to every being, big and small, furred and finned."
--Marc Bekoff, best-selling author of The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy--and Why They Matter

"A carefully researched and powerfully argued book - both moving and revelatory."
--Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO, The Humane Society of the United States

"Well-balanced and highly readable, The Friends We Keep has all the virtues of good scholarship while being wonderfully suitable for a wide range of readers. Hobgood-Oster has provided a superb example of how to combine scholarship with faith experience and active citizenship. I heartily recommend it."
--Paul Waldau, President of the Religion and Animals Institute, Bob Barker Lecturer on Animal Law at Harvard Law School, and author of The Animal Invitation: Religion, Law, Science, and Ethics in a More-Than-Human World

"At last! A compelling and engaging book on how faith can speak to both our love for animals and our concern for their fate. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever loved a pet or who is concerned about the impact humans have on the livelihood of species."
--Janetta Cravens Boyd, Senior Minister at University Christian Church in Seattle, Washington

"I hope this is a book to which many will turn. In such lively and engaging prose, Hobgood-Oster shines a light on a hidden ethical issue so that we are forced to wake up to practices that have been tolerated and reinforced by Christians and our theology."
--Wendy Farley, Professor of Religion, Emory University

"With her sensitive retracing of the place of animals in the lives of saints and her constructive proposals for how Christians might include them with religious life in respectful ways, Laura Hobgood-Oster provides answers to the great questions surrounding faith and animals in this short, beautiful book."
--Jay McDaniel, Author of Of God and Pelicans, Earth, Sky, Gods, and Mortals With Roots and Wings.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press; Original edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602582645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602582644
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laura Hobgood-Oster is Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. She is also the dog rescue coordinator with Georgetown Animal Outreach and volunteers at the Williamson County Regional animal shelter. For over fifteen years she has been doing research on the role of animals in the Christian tradition - and most specifically looking at dogs. Hobgood-Oster also teaches courses on animals and religion, religion and nature, and heretics in Christianity. She lives with her spouse Jack and their two rescue dogs, Codi and Cooper.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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4 star
6%
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1 star
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See all 17 customer reviews
So much for being "Pro-life" and a "Christian".
Matthew DeLuca
I was very pleased with this book and having been an animal lover all my life enjoyed reading all about companion animals.
Music Man
I love the idea of the flourishing of animals on earth offering hospitality to us humans.
Craig Goodwin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lucy Bregman on December 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a marvellous account of the complex roles animals have played in human society and in Christianity. The author notes their taken-for-granted presence in the Bible, and at the sides of legendary saints.Her account reveals a much more positive presence for animals than many other scholars and critics of western "species-ism" have allowed. She looks at animals: as pets, in sports, for food, and as endangered wild species. What makes this so readable and lively is the lack of jargon, and also the inclusion of individual animals' stories (for example, rescued pit bulls). Her theological perspective gives this book a depth and sophistication too.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By SableSeal on November 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
"The Friends We Keep" is a close look at the existence and importance of animals in the Christianity, past and present. The author discusses several aspects of the relationship between animals and human beings including companionship, entertainment, food, and neighbors on this earth. In each chapter she masterfully balances research and theological commentary/analysis with anecdotes from her own experiences in animal rescue.

This book may be a challenge to read as it forces Christians and Westerners not only to look at the darker side of modern living in the West, such as large scale animal production for consumption, but also at darker aspects of Christianity. Being confronted with the idea that the focus of Christian leaders on human beings may in part be responsible for the marginalization of animals, for instance, could be something of an uncomfortable experience.

At the same time, however, "The Friends We Keep" offers the encouraging sense that the principles of love and compassion central to Christianity can provide a means by which we can have a better relationship with the environment and each other. It also offers suggestions for those who wish to take a more active role in living well with our non-human neighbors.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MHB on March 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved this book. I have tried to read other books in regards to animals and Christianity, and have been bored after the first 15 pages. This book draws you in right from the beginning with compassionate insight, an easy writing style, and amazing historical perspective. The author clearly researched heavily for this book. Although there is no church in my town that recognizes animals as our fellow God-made creatures, the book makes me hope that it is only a matter of time before Christians come to realize that loving animals and treating all of God's creatures with respect is central to Christian compassion. I read this book in a day... a very good read :)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cassondra Davison on January 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book by chance while browsing the internet. An ad popped up on the sidebar and it's brief description was written well enough to convince me to take a closer look. After reading a few reviews and previewing some pages, I was moved to buy the book outright, and am very happy I made that decision.

For anyone wishing to begin a study in Animal Theology, I highly recommend this be the book you start with. Though the author is an avid lover of all creatures, her writing offers an unbiased study of animals and their relationship with humans in the ancient as well as modern worlds. The candid stories and lack of collegiate-grade phrasing makes this book extremely readable to wide variety of individuals. It is, however, not without researched content. It is clear from the first few pages that the author spent much time painstakingly piecing together accounts of interpersonal relationships with animals in their earliest form, and her insight into this realm offers a no-nonsense approach to the subject; no opinions, just facts. This style of writing offers the reader a chance to draw their own conclusion, thus giving them a launching pad for any future studies.

Whether you are an animal rights activist, a student, or the layman just looking for a good read, I highly encourage you acquire this book.
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Format: Paperback
The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals is a reminder that the tenets for Christianity promote compassion for the humane treatment of animals as well as fellow human beings. Modern humans are often isolated from the animal world; yet animals have been an integral part of Christians' lives for generations. Chapters discuss what the Christian faith implies for human-animal interactions in "What a Friend We Have: Our Animal Companions", "Lions and Christians: Animals in Sport", "Eating Mercifully: Animals for Food", "Good Christian Hospitality: Animals at Home on the Earth", and "Where Have All the Animals Gone?" A handful of black-and-white photographs illustrate this thoughtful testimony about re-evaluating how Christians should view the role of the many animal species that God created.
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Format: Paperback
While I dedicated a whole chapter in Year of Plenty to the topic animal dignity as it relates to faith and consumption, I am still a novice on the topic so I was grateful to recently come across Laura Hobgood-Oster's book, The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals. It is a timely book on the hopeful and sometimes problematic relationship between the Christian faith and animals.

The heart of the book is three chapters on "non-human animals" as companions, in sport, and for food. Hobgood-Oster offers a compelling combination of scholarly research, historical review, and contemporary commentary on each of these topics as they relate to Christian faith and practice. While the emphasis on faith is the unique contribution of the book, I also appreciate it as a general resource of information about these topics. The sections on the evolving role of animals as companions in human history and the use of animals in blood sport in the ancient world are especially compelling.

The thesis that I took away from the book is that despite a rich history of animals involved in the unfolding good news of God in the Bible and in Church history, there is currently a troubling disconnect between Christianity and concern for the welfare of animals. Hobgood-Oster sets forth the goal of highlighting these many resources in order to "provide a foundation for contemporary Christian action and theological development" as it relates to animal welfare.

My general assessment of the book is that is delivers on this promise. It is a veritable treasure chest of stories about the role of animals in the Bible and church history.
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