Pastor’s Perspective – March 2014
Are you a Cat Christian or a Dog Christian?
Cats and dogs have become beloved pets and dear friends for many people in our society today. For many people, our pets become a part of our family. We post pictures of them on Facebook and mourn their deaths as we would a child. Some people enjoy the presence of both cats and dogs in their lives, while others hold deep preferences for one or the other. This has led to the inevitable question posed during discussions about our pets; are you a cat person or a dog person?
There is nothing subversive in the question as it is posed. It simply asks what your preference is, with the implicit knowledge that cats and dogs are remarkably different in temperament and attitude. While there is a spectrum of behaviors inherent in both cats and dogs, anyone who has had either a cat or a dog knows the differences between the two animals.
Cats are known for being self-sufficient, often to the point of being aloof. A cat wants to be alone for a good portion of the day, and will come to you when they are good and ready. Cats do not typically wait at the door for you to return home from work or school. Cats can be easily spooked by visitors but will quietly leave the room when they are disgruntled about a new face in the house. Cats will eat when they want to eat and what they want to eat. If you have ever gotten into an argument with a cat about their food, you will know that they can be as stubborn as a spoiled child. In short a cat can leave a person with the understanding that human beings were created in order to serve and take care of cats. In all of my years, I have never heard a story about a cat saving their owner from a predator or intruder.
Dogs, on the other hand, are known for being emotionally needy. They wait by the door for you to get home and may well tear things up inside of the house if you are late. If cats are aloof, then dogs are loyal. If cats are silent partners in any home, then dogs are loud and will disrupt conversations with their barking. Dogs will eat almost anything and the bigger the dog, the less likely that they will even bother to chew their food. Dogs want to be where the action is. While cats disappear into their own private spaces, dogs must be locked out of the room in order to keep them away from visitors.
For the most part, dogs are more teachable. While there is no such thing as a seeing-eyed cat, dogs can be trained to skillfully and patiently guide a blind person through the busy and loud streets of any major city. Dogs are also protective and aware of their surroundings. This laser focus can also get the dog into trouble. If the dog focuses on the wrong stimuli then you are in for trouble. A new neighbor or an active squirrel can set a dog off, causing them to pace and howl through the night. Once their attention is captured, it is almost impossible to get them to leave it be. Movements and sounds that you would blissfully ignore are brought to your attention by your ever observant canine.
Of course, cat people can and will argue with dog people over which of these values and attitudes make for a better pet and companion. Cat people enjoy the independence of their pets, and dog people enjoy being welcomed home by a jumping excited dog.
Are you a Dog Christian or a Cat Christian? Are you like a cat, or does your temperament and attitude more resemble the life of a dog?
Do you live for the moments when you are alone in your house or are you constantly seeking attention from the people you love? Are you constantly on the lookout for the perfect Church or do you stay put and loyally serve your local church come Hell or high water? Do you retreat away from new faces or do you meet strangers at the door and loudly welcome them? Do you live your life for others or do people get the sense that you only show up when you need something? Are you picky about what you bring into your house and who you receive counsel from, or do you simply gulp down whatever comes across your desk or flashes over your screen?
Dog and Cat Christians both have their good traits. Each one can be of service to the work of God in Jesus Christ, and each is necessary in order to maintain a strong and growing Church.
Cat Christians usually are more selective and restrained in who they let into their lives. While they are not likely to be protective of others, they know how to keep themselves out of trouble. They are likely to be self starters and don’t need a leader in order to study the bible. They can do it themselves and often spend months working without recognition or approval. Their instincts are good and need to be heard when new ideas are coming into the Church. While they are more reticent to try new things they can be proven to be wise counselors in times of tumultuous change.
The problem with cats is that they can be finicky. If you rub them the wrong way they will silently pick up and leave. If they feel like they can be fed better at another Church, they will quietly walk away. They are less likely to complain and more likely to leave. Cats are also more likely to get into trouble theologically and ethically. Their hidden and quiet nature can often mean that they are unlikely to utilize others to sharpen the iron of their ideas in the community of faith. This can lead them into non-biblical ideas or inadvertently place them at odds with the direction of a local Church.
The loyalty of Dog Christians can keep your Church together in times of trouble. This can be a good or a bad thing. Sometimes dogs can stay loyal even under the presence of outright abuse. Dog Christians put up with a lot more than cats do, and while this makes them coveted by most Churches, it also means that they can easily lose their bearings and direction while blindly following trends or leaders. Dogs are very trainable. With good leadership and patience dogs can learn to do just about anything, but don’t forget that the leadership must be consistent when training them. If you let up for even a moment the old patterns and behaviors will come rushing back.
While Dog Christians will stick with the Church they love through thick or thin, one should be careful not to cross them, because they will bark and occasionally show their teeth. Dogs can also disrupt the Church
with unnecessary distractions. Dogs will complain because they care, but must be silenced if they care about the wrong things. If you are incapable of training them to care about the things that God cares about, they will become a disruptive force that constantly distracts the entire house of faith.
Of course, as with all metaphors, they occasionally break down. All dogs and cats are not the same (I once had a Doberman that climbed fences and a Siamese cat that literally walked between my legs and followed me wherever I would go). It is, however, important for the Church (and its leadership) to understand the tendencies of these types of people so that we might be better prepared to effectively lead them.
Cats and dogs can help us to understand where we are in the change process and should be trained and disciplined in different ways. You will lose cats through sins of omission (i.e. not enough programming), while dogs will leave due to sins of commission (i.e. changing what has always been done). One will bark and bite, the other will quietly depart through the back door, but both are treasured members of the body of Christ and beloved by our Father in Heaven.
When we can understand the values and temperaments of all of God’s children, regardless of their ticks and quirks (literal and figurative) then we will be a Church that can both retain our members and reach out to new ones.
Now, if we can only train them to learn how to clean up their own messes…