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This Made My Day

Story ID:9966
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Lexington Kentucky U|SA
Year:2014
Person:The Sleeths
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MATTHEW and NANCY SLEETH

I found this wonderful article in the January/February issue of the Humane Society
of the US - ALL ANIMALS magazine. I had set it aside temporarily, but I found it again
today. So, in reality, it made my day twice.

Entitled “Creed of Compassion” it is about Matthew Sleeth, an emergency room
doctor, his wife Nancy, and their two children who gave up a life of luxury to follow
their convictions. It meant moving into a townhouse in Lexington, Kentucky where
they hang their clothes in the garage to dry.

In reality, Nancy had been the impetus for their embracing a new life, because when
on vacation one time, she asked her husband the question which would turn their lives
around. The question was – What’s the biggest problem in the world? He responded
by saying that it was the destruction of the environment, the extinction of species,
and the pollution sickening and killing many of his patients. The next question would
cement a change they were willing to embrace --What are you going to do about it?

So now both of the Sleeths lecture and write books. “Serve God, Save the Planet” was his
first book, and it turned many evangelical Christians into environmentalists.

In his talks and books, Sleeth expresses concern for animals. Through his association
with the Humane Society of the US’s Faith Outreach program, he and his wife
encourage people and institutions of faith to focus on animal welfare. In 2012
they invited the HSUS staff to speak at Duke University at a faith and food conference.

Later when Interviewed by senior writer Karen E. Lange, Sleeth recalls how growing up
on a small dairy farm in Maryland he remembered that the Sabbath can help people treat
animals better.

On their farms he noted that they gave their cows names and they recognized that each
of them had a personality. Farmers were respected on how well they cared for their animals,
and it was a place that children would enjoy seeing. Not so today –he notes. When for the
first time he entered a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) with a hundred thousand
chickens in the barns he was shocked. No, he reflected, you could not bring children to see
this.

He rightly saw that we have moved from an agrarian society to an industrial one –so different
from the farm where as a kid he remembered the great care one took for the animals. This care
is no longer there.

In his Book “Serve God, Save the Planet” “ he wrote –“Caring about where our food comes
from...It is good for the soul.” I agree, and in another place he said, “If we’re the kind of people
who worry about how animals are treated, we are by definition better people.”

In the Bible he sees a consistent theme re how humans are to care for animals as well as how
to treat them with some dignity. He recalls there that if your enemy’s donkey is stumbling under
a load, you are supposed to stop and help the donkey.

He refers to another instance where Christ said that not a single bird falls from the sky without
God taking notice. And even though the sparrow is only worth a couple of cents, Christ was trying
to say “How can you get your head around how much God loves you, unless you can first wrap it
around how much he cares about this tiny bird?”

I also enjoyed reading another of the familiar Biblical accounts he uses as an example of concern
for animals. He wonderfully describes this one involving Eleazar who in Genesis was sent by
Abraham to look for a spouse for his son Isaac. He noted that when Eleazar and his 10 camels
arrived in the vicinity where Rebekah and the other women drew water, that this watering hole
would be a great test for Rebekak. If she was the right one for Isaac, she would not only assuage
his thirst, but his camels as well.

And lo and behold -Rebekah not only gives him water but she then turns to the task of drawing
water for his 10 camels. And the amazing thing per Sleeth – is that each camel required
between 20 and 40 gallons of water. So you can imagine how tiring this must have been for
Rebekah to bring up from the well - at a minimum -200 gallons to accomplish this task.

And even her brother Laban sees to it that the camels are rubbed down and fed. For Eleazar,
this was a clear sign that these people were good and decent people who stopped and cared
for animals.

While Sleete is not vegetarian, he says his concern for animals makes him careful of finding
out where his food comes from. He wants to know if the animals connected with his purchase
are being properly cared for. If he buys eggs, he wants to know how the chickens were raised.
And he noted that he probably now only eats a tenth of what he did when he was 20.

And finally, I am so glad that Lange asked him the question which is so often posed to us
who care about animals: When people say that it’s more important to focus on human concerns
than animal welfare, how do you respond?

“They’re inseparable. If we’re the kind of people who worry about how animals are treated, we
are by definition better people. “

Simple, direct and compassionate. Thank you Matthew Sleeth.