Eating mercifully: Factory farming perpetuates pain and suffering on an unfathomable scale: "When tens of billions of animals suffer cruel deaths annually and only after living painful and distressed lives, it is an imperative for Christians to refuse to participate in the system."

Offering hospitality:  Treating animals as our neighbors in the creation by not encroaching on their homes, leaving forests standing, wetlands intact, creating spaces for animals who have already been displaced, and providing sanctuaries or wilderness preserves. 

The Christian tradition has many resources for a theology of compassion for and connection to animals, Hobgood-Oster shows. "At its core, Christianity is a religion of compassion, of solidarity, of hospitality, of communion and of justice," she says.

The call to Christians for radical hospitality in the twenty-first century encompasses many species, not just humans. Just as early Christians broke traditional concepts of hospitality by eating with those who were considered unclean, so does our time call for a re-examination of the boundaries of hospitality. Other animals -- those faced with the threat of extinction at our hands -- must now be invited into the circle.

The Friends We Keep includes an extensive resource section, with a guide for group discussion; ideas for ways individuals and households -- as well as communities and congregations - can take action to help animals; a directory of Christian and secular organizations addressing animal issues; and recommendations of books and articles for further reading.

About the Author

Laura Hobgood-Oster, Photo: Jimmy SmithLaura Hobgood-Oster is Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies and holds the Paden Chair in Religion at Southwestern University. Featured in the documentary "Eating Mercifully," produced by the Humane Society of the United States, and frequently interviewed by national print and broadcast media, she is the author of Holy Dogs & Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition and executive editor of the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. She lives in Georgetown, Texas.

Read the Patheos interview with Laura Hobgood-Oster here.

Return to the Patheos Book Club for more resources on this and other books here.