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Spurgeon-Twisting: Why the Prince of Preachers Would Not Embrace Animal Rights Activism

News Division

This is an article I never thought I would have to write. And yet, my love for Spurgeon compels me to save our bearded hero from being kidnapped by a Shakespeare-quoting self-pronounced feminist and her legion of gay fans, shoving him gagged and bound into an animal rights pigeon hole.

In an article originally entitled, Spurgeon on Animal Cruelty: Our Treatment of Animals is a Gospel Issue and with a later subtitle change from Gospel Issue to Spiritual Issue, Karen Swallow Prior used an article from The Sword and the Trowel in which Spurgeon laments real and needless animal cruelty to assert the famed preacher of the London Metropolitan Tabernacle would be one of her comrades in her fight against modern meat production.

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The nearly unanimous eye-rolling from all segments in regard to the assertion that animal stewardship rises to the level of a gospel issue was no doubt the reason the title subtly changed after several days to spiritual issue.

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After nearly four days, the Spurgeon-Twisting post and all traces of it have been deleted by the ERLC. I have to wonder if perhaps someone with the new Spurgeon Library at the SBC-owned MidWestern Seminary might have put in a call to the ERLC expressing what the collective theological world was thinking…Karen Swallow Prior might want to stick to Shakespeare. But for whatever reason, the ERLC came to its senses and Canerized the atrocious post.

Thankfully, though, Google Cache grabbed it from the memory hole. The ERLC research fellow, Liberty University professor and Human Society council member, Karen Swallow Prior (KSP), suggested that Charles Spurgeon would have endorsed an Evangelical Statement on the Responsible Care for Animals, which was sponsored by the radical Humane Society and naively signed by Russell Moore and certain other socially progressive (or lesser discerning) evangelicals.

Keep in mind, this document was created at the host-site of Every Living Thing, which asserts that animals have souls and animals are our siblings (source link). Keep in mind that Karen Swallow Prior was written about as far back as 2007 by animal rights activists – in fact, even by supreme kook-fringe, the Animal Liberation Front – as someone would could merge herself into evangelical churches and begin to indoctrinate believers with their animal-first worldview (source link). Keep in mind we’ve provided audio of KSP being asked whether or not human suffering caused by ending modern farming methods would be worth ending supposed animal suffering and she gave a very, very troubling answer (source link). Keep in mind that KSP, when advocating an end to the “cruelty” of modern meat production said “the economy of our country be damned” (source link).

With all of those things in mind, consider this quotation from the recently trashed article…

As tempting as it is to credit Dr. Moore and the other signatories with being pioneering visionaries, the fact is that the statement is not adding to Baptist legacy, but rather, reclaiming it. And perhaps no voice in Baptist history has weighed in more boldly or more passionately on the issue of animal welfare than the “Prince of Preachers” himself, the nineteenth century Reformed Baptist, Charles Spurgeon.

Spurgeon’s “passionate and bold” approach to the issue of “animal welfare” (as KSP prefers to call it) amounts to an article from The Sword and The Trowel entitled, “A Word for Brutes Against Brutes.” Spurgeon, as many know, was a civilized gentleman with a compassionate spirit and he gave several examples of what he meant by “cruelty to animals” within his article. Chiefly, Spurgeon spoke of a horse ridden in spite of having bloody and broken feet, a man who blinded the eyes of song-birds so they’d sing better, cockfighting and bull-baiting (a sport which pitted bulls against dogs, which had already been illegal in England since 1835), and killing baby rabbits for the sheer fun of it. Indeed, Spurgeon seemed to hate the wanton and unnecessary violence done toward animals – and even the unnecessary disruption of their daily affairs when done for mere entertainment, saying that he could sympathize with one gentleman who argued against needlessly stepping on worms or treating “even the meanest insect with wanton cruelty.”

Using these examples of Spurgeon’s disdain for things considered (and rightly so) “animal cruelty,” Prior then turns back again to that document sponsored by the radical Humane Society, which demands an end to mass meat production. In fact, the Wall Street Journal pointed out this very fact…

“[That evangelicals would sign the statement] would be forgivable if it weren’t covered in the paw prints of HSUS, which fancies itself a more sensible version of PETA, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, known for not-so-ethical treatment of humans. (As for religious outreach, PETA PresidentIngrid Newkirk once said: “Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses.”)

Yet consider what the Humane Society means by “cruelty.” In a 2003 speech to United Poultry Concerns, Paul Shapiro, a future-vice president at HSUS, said: “Eating meat causes animal cruelty.” He added: “There is a direct causal connection between the foods that we eat and how much misery we inflict on those around us.” Another vice president, Miyun Park, said at a 2006 Animals and Society Institute event: “We don’t want any of these animals to be raised and killed,” later adding that “we don’t have the luxury of waiting until we have the opportunity to get rid of the entire industry.”

What Karen Swallow Prior has done to the legacy of Charles Spurgeon is greater violence than what will be done to my turkey this coming Thursday. More than that, it’s a dishonest bait-and-switch and is illustrative the ERLC’s entire engagement with Every Living Thing. What Karen Swallow Prior means by “animal cruelty” and what the Humane Society means by “animal cruelty” is not at all what normal, level-headed people who understand we live in a Genesis 1:28 world mean by “animal cruelty.” They mean an end to all mass-production of meat utilizing modern animal husbandry, the artificial imposition of rules regarding the “humane” square footage that should be allotted to chicken, and how much exposure to direct sunlight qualifies as “free range.” They want the total abolition of factory farming, as Karen Swallow Prior said last April, even if “the economy of our country be damned.” In other words, even if humans suffer.

That Spurgeon, given the level of starvation and hunger among the urban poor in his day, would not see factory farming methods as a blessing enabling the feeding of impoverished masses is dubious. In everything Spurgeon wrote, we see a detestation of unnecessary, senseless and wanton acts of cruelty perpetrated on animals. And yet, we do not see someone advocating eating only wild game or animals raised under arbitrary and economically unsustainable rules, as has Karen Swallow Prior. We do not see, in any of Spurgeon’s writings, anything resembling the philosophy of the Animal Liberation Front, PETA, the Humane Society or the theology of Karen Swallow Prior.

But beyond what Spurgeon would think about Tyson Chicken and GMOs, there’s another misappropriation of his name. Spurgeon, in no uncertain terms, would detest partnership with godless atheists and wicked organizations with unbiblical worldviews. This is certain. You would not have found Spurgeon partnering with those who deny a Genesis 1:26 or Genesis 1:28 view of creation (not to mention Level Ground or other of Prior’s troubling partners). Just as the Wall Street Journal demonstrated that conjuring Wilberforce and others in her animal rights scheming should get her a “cease and desist letter from the great beyond” and misuses their legacy, it greatly abuses Spurgeon’s legacy to insinuate he would have anything to do with Every Living Thing or partnering with the Humane Society or others who operate from an entirely Darwinian worldview.

Karen Swallow Prior strongly opposes, for example, the “animal cruelty” of the circus (she mentions dancing bears wearing dresses as an example of such cruelty). This is what constitutes “cruelty” for KSP, and this is what she means as an author of the Evangelical Statement on the Responsible Care for Animals. What would, then, Spurgeon think about the circus? Would he list animal cruelty as a reason to detest the circus?

PT Barnum of Barnum and Bailey Circus once asked Spurgeon to tour with them and preach. It was quite an offer. How many could be reached? No doubt thousands. On top of the “gospel opportunity,” Spurgeon was offered one thousand dollars per lecture – an enormous sum for the day. Spurgeon’s response to Barnum was as follows:

Dear Mr. Barnum:

Thank you for your kind invitation to lecture in your circus tents in America. You will find my answer in Acts 13:10.

Very sincerely yours,

Charles H. Spurgeon

If Mr. Barnum looked up Acts 13:10, he found these words: “O full of all subtility and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (source)

What Spurgeon found offensive about the circus was not the “animal cruelty” (for nothing there resembled bull-baiting or cock-fighting), but that Barnum was lost. Barnum’s goal and Spurgeon’s goal were no doubt similar on some level; get the preacher to crowds for people to hear. But Spurgeon was motivated by gospel and Barnum’s goal was motivated by money. Their motivations were entirely different, and a partnership between the two was offensive to Spurgeon.

Karen Swallow Prior, this self-pronounced feminist, has conjured the wrong soul to defend evangelical partnership with the Humane Society and other radicals behind Every Living Thing. Her use of Spurgeon has been as twisted as her worldview.


[Contributed by JD Hall]

[Editor’s Note at time of publishing: We very much believe that when this article becomes public, the ERLC may put the article back up in response. At the time of this publishing, it is nowhere to be found]