The following has been adapted, with permission, from the blog of Sigve Tonstad (originally posted October 9, 2012). Churches of all kinds across the nation are currently engaged in a month-long "journey of prayer" for America, and Dr. Tonstad has chosen to participate in this way. We will be sharing a handful of his prayer blog posts throughout the month of October.
Me: Dear God, today I am praying for the leaders and the people of Iowa.
GOD: That’s good. Iowa needs to be prayed for.
Me: Is there something I don’t know, or am I catching you at a bad time?
GOD: There might be something you don’t know, and you are catching me at a bad time. I am extremely distressed over Iowa.
Me: How so?
GOD: HF 589.
Me: What is HF 589?
GOD: It’s the Gag law.
Me: What ‘Gag law’?
GOD: On March 8, 2012, the Iowa State Legislature voted 66-22 to criminalize people who report on what is going on in factory farms without the owner’s permission, making it a class C felony! The final law is a little softer than my summary, but the idea is the same: to avoid publicity of animal mistreatment and abuse.
Me: I can tell you are upset about it.
GOD: I am very upset.
Me: What’s the big deal?
GOD: Don’t be so casual! First, how is this for a country that prides itself on the First Amendment to limit speech because it might harm commercial interests? Second, how does it sound to limit First Amendment rights so as to make it more difficult to curb abuses of sentient beings at a time when such abuse is approaching stratospheric levels? These are just two reasons why I am upset. I believe in transparency. If something does not tolerate the transparency test, perhaps there is something wrong about it. I dedicated a whole book in the Bible to the subject of transparency in government.
Me: Which book?
GOD: You are a reader of the Bible and you don’t know which book is the Book of Transparency?
Me: I guess not.
GOD: The Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible. If you haven’t read it lately, you should. It is about transparency in government, my government. I give full access, open doors to the Oval Office, if you understand the analogy. Open doors to the CIA, too, I almost said, but that would not be true because my government has no CIA. I do transparency, and I believe in the logic of the open society. If you haven’t read Karl Popper’s, The Open Society and Its Enemies, you should. Plato, Hegel, and Marx – they all in various ways justify secrecy and lack of transparency. And now the Iowa State Legislature, under pressure from Big Agriculture, has legislated to limit transparency!
Me: Is the problem lack of transparency, or is it cruelty to animals?
GOD: It is both. Perhaps you haven’t read the first book of the Bible lately either. In that book you will see that the very first blessing I ever pronounced on anyone was a blessing on non-human creation. I am into blessing what I create in a big way, wishing for it to flourish. I blessed humans, too, in the first book, but before blessing humans I blessed non-human creatures, giving them a bill of rights. The good people of Iowa, or at least quite a few people of Iowa and sixty-six state legislators among them, do not seem to be aware of my intentions in this regard. I might tell you more about it if you include Kentucky and Nebraska in your prayer journey. Whenever I think about this subject, I also think about Descartes, which makes me even more upset.
Me: Why Descartes? What does Descartes have to do with Iowa?
GOD: I am not going to play games and get sidetracked. But since you seem to be in a receptive mood, don’t you wonder way a city in the heartland of America is called Des Moines?
Me: It sounds French.
GOD: It is. Iowa belonged to the Louisiana Territory until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. And what about the state flag?
Me: It looks French.
GOD: And it is. But now I almost forgot how upset I am about Descartes.
Me: Tell me.
GOD: It would take the whole evening to tell you everything that upsets me about Descartes. He has nothing to do with Iowa except for the fact that he was French, but he has a lot to do with cruelty to animals. In what was supposed to be the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment Descartes said that animals do not have souls. Descartes was wrong about everything he said about the soul, human or non-human, but by saying that animals do not have souls he meant that they are not sentient beings. In the Cartesian version of reality, animals do not have fear or feelings, such as feelings of pain. The operators of factory farms might like to believe Descartes, but they make a big mistake if they do. I have not rescinded my blessing on non-human creation.
Me: Aren’t we making a mountain out of a molehill?
GOD: It may seem that way to you, but it is not that way to me.
Me: What do you like about Iowa?
GOD: I like that it has safe neighborhoods. It is one of the safest states in America in which to live.
Me: Is there anything else you don’t like? I almost hesitate to ask you, worrying that you may go off again.
GOD: You don’t need to worry. I miss the tallgrass prairie that used to cover most of the state. Now only one percent remains of the tallgrass prairie. I miss it. It was lovely.
Sigve Tonstad is Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine and Associate Professor in the School of Religion at Loma Linda University.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4826