This month in the Patheos Book Club, we're featuring the new book The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals, by Laura Hobgood-Oster. The following questions are ideal for personal or group reflection. Read an excerpt from the Introduction here.

  1. What was most surprising to you in this book: the stories of the saints and other places that nonhuman animals appeared in the Christian tradition, or the contemporary plight of animals in our culture?
  2. Before reading this book, how aware were you of the realities today of companion animals? What about animals used for sports? Animals bred for food? Animals used for experiments? If you knew about their plight, how did you come to learn of it?
  3. Do you think it is possible for humans to encounter God through their interaction with animals? Why or why not? Have you had a relevant personal experience?
  4. What do you think about the possibility that other-than-human animals have emotional lives and self-awareness? How much in common do you think we humans have with the rest of the animal kingdom? Does this affect how you conceive God?
  5. Do you know of a congregation that has included animals in any type of worship service? If so, what did you hear about it? Was it well received? Can you imagine attending such a service yourself? If so, what would you think of it?
  6. Is it important for contemporary Christians to know the stories of early martyrs, such as Thecla, and of the saints, such as Roch? Why or why not? Which, if any, would you like to know more about?
  7. Have you ever before considered the connections between eating and religion? Do you agree that everything you choose to eat could be a religious decision? If so, what would that mean?
  8. How did you react to the book's discussion of hunting? What do you think about the Safari Club and other sport hunting groups that brand their programs as Christian endeavors?
  9. Thinking of science and laboratory experiments in particular, what do you think Christianity has to say about animal sacrifice? Who can or should be sacrificed? Who should decide? And where would you draw the line?
  10. As you saw in this book, Christianity has changed and evolved over time. How much do you think it can change and still be Christianity? What is unchangeable?
  11. Do you think Christians and the church are ready to step forward to help the rest of animals in creation? If so, in what ways? If not, what do you think it will take to engage Christians in this issue? Or, do you think it is an inappropriate issue for Christians to engage?
  12. Having read this book, will you now change anything in your daily life? If so, what?

Return to the Patheos Book Club for more resources on The Friends We Keep, including an excerpt and an interview with the author.