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Silly Animal Videos

My family has been told. If I ever am hospitalized for a duration, in a great deal of pain, waiting to die, or senile, they are to play silly animal videos for me. A lot. Maybe nonstop. I believe it will bring me comfort and laughter and hope.

I am a well-known softy for animals, and also a raging sentimentalist (although I generally try to keep this under cover.) If it means anything to you, I am also an Enneagram Nine. In times of stress, I want to check out, disengage, and retreat to my harmonious inner sanctum. I also tend to overthink most things and theologize about everything.

Add it all together and you have my fondness for silly animal videos—neatly divided into three theological categories.

Also an invitation: maybe you have some favorite animal videos. Please share them below in the comments, perhaps along with a little theologizing. Why do you think you especially like that one?

Be forewarned. Most of these videos have terrible production values. The background music is usually unbearably maudlin or else awful synthesizer stuff trying to convey anxiety. You will have to wend your way through lots of pop-ups and click bait. Like many of my sermons, when you’re watching these videos you’ll find yourself saying, “Hurry up. Get to the good stuff already!”

Category One: The Peaceable Kingdom
Wolves will live with lambs. Leopards will lie down with goats. Calves and lions will eat together.
Isaiah 11:6

These videos show unlikely pairs. Predators protecting their prey. Lost or orphaned creatures bonding together. High on the awwwhhh/cuteness scale.

I once heard that when Darwin first proposed his theory of evolution, it was syrupy, liberal Christians who were most distraught. Hard-nosed Calvinists had no trouble believing that “nature was red in tooth and claw.”

These peaceable kingdom videos offer us an alternative, maybe we could call it an eschatological vision. There is the well-known frolicking deer and Labrador. Or how about the long term friendship between orangutan and hound? Here’s a long compilation with benevolent baboons and heroic hippos.

Category Two: The Kingdom of God Has Come Near
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near! Repent, and believe in the good news.
Mark 1:15

These videos show people rescuing or heroically caring for animals. Often the comments on these videos say something like “This will restore your faith in human nature,” but I’m a Calvinist.

When a friend posted the rescue of ducklings from a storm sewer, I commented, “The Kingdom of God has come near.” And indeed it has. In these videos I see God at work in the world. When people do gracious and courageous things, the Kingdom has come near.

You’ve probably seen the kayaker rescuing the sea turtle. Bear cubs scampering out of a dumpster makes the rounds on internet pretty frequently. A chain of people pulling a dog from a river is classic, as is the dog on a tiny iceberg. Then there is the guy who splinted a fawn’s leg until it could heal and return to its mother. Here’s a long but nice compilation with everything from a moose to whales, a fox and a horse.

Category Three: Salvation
You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
Malachi 4:2

These are my favorites, I think. That’s surprising since bulls and cows aren’t exactly the most endearing animals. But the exuberance of freedom and release is stirring.

When I was trying to analyze why I like these so much, I concluded that this is what Jesus does for me. I should skip and frolic like this whenever I hear “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” or “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Watching beagles or chimpanzees released into the open after a lifetime as lab animals is beautiful. Their reluctance and astonishment at new things like sunshine, grass, and open skies, makes me wonder if our arrival in the heavenly city might not be similar.

Finally, there is just plain old laughter. This talking dog never fails to make me smile. The video has been viewed 184 million times. I’m at least a couple hundred of those.

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell is a recently retired minister of the Reformed Church in America. He has been the convener of the Reformed Journal’s daily blog since its inception in 2011. He and his wife, Sophie, reside in Des Moines, Iowa.


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