The Failure of Comfort Dogs: All Dog, No God

Animals are a first article gift from God. Dogs fall into this category. They’re creatures over which man has dominion, and beasts that we have domesticated. God has blessed us with plenty of temporal gifts for this short life: Dogs are one of them.

Dogs are unique animals in that, for the most part, they’re playful and loving. I’m fairly certain this is why Lutheran Church Charities has started a “K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry” and not a “Feline Comfort Cat Ministry.” Dogs have a unique quality to bring happiness to adults and children alike, more so than any other animal (e.g., fish, ostriches, honey-badgers, etc.). This isn’t even true of all dogs: It’s why they use Golden Retrievers and not Chihuahuas or Rottweilers.

It’s okay to recognize that some breeds of dogs possess unique qualities that make us happy, but this should never be confused for “ministry.” Plenty has been written on the proper definition of ministry; I won’t address it here. Suffice it to say, it is a grave error to confuse the temporal comfort from dogs with the eternal comfort from God: The forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Christ.

Now, they don’t quite say that the Comfort Dog Ministry is a ministry in and of itself (though the title leads one to believe that); rather, they say, “our dogs are trained service animals prepared to interact with people in ways that provide a bridge for compassionate ministry to take place” (“A Bridge For Compassionate Ministry: LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry,” Brochure).

Yet, after analyzing several videos—here are a few: CBSCBSNKETVCBCNewsyInside EditionAFPGMAafter the Pulse Nightclub Shootings in Downtown Orlando, I realized that this “ministry” failed to let “compassionate ministry take place.” You would think that the dogs would be a “bridge” or a “means,” but they became the end! They were only a distraction that brought the world’s attention to themselves.

Here, the Comfort Dog Ministry leaders had all eyes on them—several news channels, social media, smart-phones, etc.—and they had the opportunity to say whatever they wanted. What did they do? They talked about the dogs instead of Jesus. Various videos talk about how the dogs are “non-judgmental,” “help people process what they went through,” “they are trained to be comfort-rugs with a heartbeat,” “they share what is going on, an important step in the healing process.” The only thing that sounded remotely Christian was this statement: “they allow us to show mercy and compassion as Christians to those who are suffering.” But this statement is about Christians and not about Christ! (Watch the interview here.

With all eyes on them, they failed to speak of the one true God who had actual mercy on sinful mortals by condemning His Son in our place. They failed to speak of God, who judged His only begotten Son as guilty of our sin so that those who believe in Him would be declared righteous for His sake. They failed to speak of God, who provides true healing for all sorrow through His bloody wounds. They failed to speak of God, who suffered for our sake to forgive our sins. They failed to speak of the true Comfort given by the Holy Spirit, that by the suffering and death of Christ all of our sins are forgiven. They failed to cheer our broken hearts with God’s Word. They failed to speak God’s Word of Law and Gospel which is the only means to lead sinners to repentance.

They spoke of the dogs over and above God’s gift of marriage between one man and one woman, and about the dogs instead of Christ being the only true God. I understand that they had a short amount of time to speak, but they should have immediately directed attention to Christ rather than dwell on the conversation about the dogs. They claim that the dogs are a bridge, but, in fact, they are an end. Their failure is to spend time speaking of a dog rather than God.

In a time when seminary education is expensive, when pastors are repaying student loans, when missionaries are raising their own funds, when churches have large debts to pay off, etc., the money of churches and individuals would better be spent on supporting the pure proclamation of the Word of God through the mouth of God’s ordained servants: Pastors. Dogs do not speak God’s Word; therefore, they provide no comfort. Pastors preach God’s Word of Law and Gospel which gives the comfort of the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s bloody and torturous death for sinners. This Word is a “bridge” in and of itself. It does not need another vehicle or means. The Word itself is the means. We should trust that the Holy Spirit works when and where He pleases when the Word is preached. We should find our comfort in the fact that God’s Word will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent.

About Pastor Rojas+

Rev. Roberto E. Rojas, Jr. is the sole pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church (also known as "Zion New Life") in Winter Garden, FL, established in 1891. He attended the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN (M.Div., 2008-2013; STM., 2013-2014). During his studies at the seminary, he participated in a year-long exchange program in the Westfield House in Cambridge, England, and also in the Seminário Concórdia in São Leopoldo, Río Grande do Sul, Brazil. He and his beautiful wife, Erica, are happily married and live in Gotha, FL.

Comments

The Failure of Comfort Dogs: All Dog, No God — 174 Comments

  1. Thanks for pointing me to the interview. It is great seeing Christians do something nice for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Unfortunately, it should be noted that in another article one of the trainers mentioned that, although they usually are one among many groups from several churches to try and help comfort the victims of crimes and disasters, in the Orlando case no other churches showed up at all. Maybe it’s not ministry but it is still a loving and kind thing to do and I am glad they do it.

    I appreciate the link to the video and will have to be sure to send them some of my tithe.

  2. A very good article. We should all be reminded that any good work we do should always point people back to Christ, our crucified and risen Lord and Savior! I hope people can do better next time after reading this. Thanks for your insight.

  3. Didn’t watch the interview, but is it possible that it was edited to remove references to Christ and the Gospel? Secular news organizations are wont to do that.

  4. I read your article with a sad heart. How very sad that an LC-MS pastor would berate such a wonderful Lutheran ministry as Kare-9 Comfort Dogs. In my opinion, what you wrote is absolutely despicable. What they do may not meet your standards of ministry but that does not give you authority to write such a vehemently negative article opposing them. You based you opinion on one event. I see these volunteers and their dogs bring comfort and kind words to America’s Veterans, their family members, and overworked staff on a weekly basis. They use their own time and monetary resources to bring comfort, joy, and kind words to those who need it most, hurting Veterans with no family, no friends. They do this very tactfully in difficult settings. Veterans, grieving family members, and staff greatly appreciate the silent presence Kare-9 handlers and dogs bring.

  5. That there maybe was an inadequate Christian message in short TV interviews doesn’t necessarily mean that the centrality of the Gospel is missing in LCC’s direct dealing with disaster victims.  We need more information from those who have been directly involved with these encounters.

  6. @Lynn Hanson #6

    I see these volunteers and their dogs bring comfort and kind words to America’s Veterans, their family members, and overworked staff on a weekly basis.

    If you want to refute what the Pastor said, tell us if they say anything about God. If they don’t, he’s right. It’s about dogs.

    Let them enjoy taking their dogs out but don’t call it “ministry”.

  7. Hmmm,

    For a second, I did not know that the writer of the article was a real pastor, no collar in the picture…with some fancy new age title for the Church…

    But I say that with some sarcasm (loving sarcasm), sort of like the tone against LCC. I know you are a pastor of a Church, but, do you truly know what LCC does? Also not every waking minute of our life is proclaiming Christ via the Gospel, we live it, we act it, as Saved Christians. Yes, we Pastors do it most often.

    So if you bust LCC, OK…then put on a collar too, show the fact you proclaim Christ by your pastoral vocation.

  8. @Pastor Prentice #9

    Off topic but…we have several Christian churches (including Lutheran) around here with the beautiful name “New Life”.  It has nothing to do with “new age” and everything to do with Romans 6:4     :–)

    Zion New Life conspiculously displays its Lutheran identity on its website, signage, etc.

  9. Thank you, Pastor Rojas! Your article speaks clearly to what real ministry is. If the Church wants to help people with the Gospel, they should focus on preaching, not petting. Also, thank you to all those who wrote comments that defended the scriptural position of comfort dog ministry. Those comments are very helpful in the ongoing discussion of the definition of ministry. The superabundance of biblical defense for your position certainly goes a long way to “correcting” Pastor Rojas for his definition of ministry requiring that the Gospel be proclaimed.

  10. @Pastor Prentice #9

    Pastor Prentice, Pr. Rojas has written a thoughtful, honest piece questioning the value of these comfort dogs while upholding the office of the holy ministry, the comfort Christ’s Word gives as spoken through the mouth of a humble shepherd. You look at his picture (not his argument) and all you have to say is that he should put on a collar? Let collars be anathema if they get in the way of the oral proclamation of Christ’s Word. Just as God spoke creation into existence by the Word, as He declares puts sinners to death by the Word of His Law, as He justifies the ungodly by the Word of the Gospel, so also in tragedies, the Word of Christ will give comfort. We have to believe this. Faith doesn’t come by petting, or talking, but faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). We have to trust the power of God’s Word. If the Word isn’t spoken, there might be a creaturely kind of comfort, but it isn’t the divine comfort God wills poor sinners to receive by His Word.

  11. Excellent article! I thank Pastor Rojas for writing it and BJS for publishing it. The idea behind the comfort dog “ministry” — that it serves as some kind of a “bridge” to sharing the gospel — calls into question the inherent efficacy of God’s Word. God’s Word does not require a “bridge” to make it effective. This “ministry” serves to give credibility to a common error, espoused above by Rev. Prentice, who writes: “Also not every waking minute of our life is proclaiming Christ via the Gospel, we live it, we act it, as Saved Christians. Yes, we Pastors do it most often.” No. We do not proclaim Christ by what we do. We proclaim Christ by what we say. The proclamation of the gospel is not about our piety or good works. It is the message of Christ crucified for sinners, of God justifying the ungodly by the vicarious obedience and suffering of Jesus.

    To confuse the emotional comfort the presence of an animal may (or may not) provide with the genuine comfort of the Comforter is a serious kind of confusion. Thank you, Pastor Rojas, for confronting this issue!

  12. The idea that we pastors should wear a certain kind of collar to show that we proclaim Christ by our pastoral vocation may be a stylish opinion in certain circles, but upon examination it lacks any foundation. We Lutherans do not identify ourselves by what we wear, but by what we confess. As Charles Porterfield Krauth put it so well: “Faith alone makes men Christians, but confession alone marks men as Christians.” Neither dogs nor collars have anything to do with confessing Christ.

  13. I think some folks need to separate their ‘feelings’ from the reasonable facts being presented in the article. As some rightly say these days (in the era of safe-spaces), facts don’t care about your feelings. Set the feelings aside and look at the points being made. What is written by Pastor Rojas isn’t unreasonable. We all ‘love’ cute, fuzzy, cuddly, puppies. This article isn’t a hit piece against Golden Retrievers – that’s what people see when they think with their feelings. Nor is it another example of a cranky LCMS pastor ruining everyone’s fun. This article merely points out that dogs are not a substitute for the Gospel, nor should they be considered a replacement for human care. And it raises the honest question: is this happening? I don’t know if we have enough information to determine an answer.

    For that reason, I don’t find it unreasonable to ask questions in regards to any ‘ministry’ or ‘program’ being run either at the Synodical or District Level. Anything that needs funding, time, energy, and staff… should be regularly examined, critically and honestly. We might be better off asking more questions… such as, why we feel the need to call everything under the sun a ‘ministry’in the LCMS? As if attaching ‘Ministry’ to something suddenly validates it.

    All that being said, do we need the comfort dogs? The answer is: No. We don’t ‘need’ them. Is it okay to have the dogs? Sure. I am of the opinion that as long as they don’t interfere with or become a hindrance to the actual mercy work of proclaiming the Gospel to those who are suffering, I see nothing wrong with it… until it becomes a hindrance – and that temptation and risk is always present on account of that sin business. Let’s not pretend this isn’t a real danger to be aware of.

    We should always give pause when dealing with a substitute for human touch and human care. We are disconnected enough in this day and age. What some may see as a bridge, others may see as a barrier. The Comfort Dogs can be beneficial, but, the leash needs to be short… lest we give way to mere fuzzy feelings about fuzzy critters as the means also being the end.

    In defense of Pastor Rojas – as he was a classmate of mine: He is a solid Theologian and a faithful pastor. He is asking questions, good questions, and pointing out the risks that can arise when we don’t keep an eye on ‘ministries’ in our Synod. I see nothing wrong with that.

  14. Wow, what places is BJS going down?
    There is NO ERROR on my part.
    01) I preach Law and Gospel. Word spoken. First and foremost.
    02) We then share love for one another, always acknowledging Christ at the head. Sanctification, walking with…
    Talk about who is confused…

  15. I am very disappointed by the article that appeared in BJS about the LCC Comfort Dogs. I have one of the dogs. His name is Samuel. All I can say is in the times I have used Samuel in my ministry at St. Paul’s, Lockport, as the chaplain for the Lockport Township Fire District and with a wide variety of LCC deployments, this wonderful creature of God has been a blessing and an effective aid in showing the mercy and compassion of Christ to those who are hurting. Time and time again Samuel has been instrumental in helping to calm hearts and minds giving me the opportunity to share the all-sufficient Word of God and the comforting message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Is Samuel essential to my ministry? Absolutely not. And there are more times than not when I do not use him. But again, when I do, he’s been a blessing and for this I give all thanks and glory to God.

  16. Thank you Pr. Rojas. These dogs are not a ‘ministry’ nor are they the ‘gospel’ but they are repeatedly presented as such. At the last District convention, comfort dogs were 1 of 5 dedicated “mission work stories.” They even get District mission grant money. Recently, my 2 year old grandson visited an LCMS church in Missouri and was covered in dog hair after the late service as the comfort dog usually sits in the back pew during the early service. Beautiful! Amid other issues, just another church in a long list of LCMS churches that my daughter and family can’t attend because they want to be Lutheran. If people want to have comfort dogs, God bless them. They have their place. But it’s no more a ministry (or even a good work!) than anybody doing the laundry or drinking beer; unless we want to ignore Scripture and the Confessions and jump on the Pietism wagon.

  17. @Pastor Prentice #17

    Pastor Prentice-
    Pastor Preus directed you to this line in your comment “Also not every waking minute of our life is proclaiming Christ via the Gospel, we live it, we act it, as Saved Christians. Yes, we Pastors do it most often.”

    The only way Christ is proclaimed for the forgiveness of sins is the through the preaching of the Gospel, and the only way faith is created is by the Word of the Gospel preached, not our living or acting. See Romans 1:16 and 10:17.

    So yes, your statement about living “it” and acting “it” is an error, but not unsurmountable. I’m sure you can see this.

  18. Rev. Prentice, you write, “There is NO ERROR on my part.” This is what you wrote: “Also not every waking minute of our life is proclaiming Christ via the Gospel, we live it, we act it, as Saved Christians. Yes, we Pastors do it most often.” The antecedent of “it” is the Gospel. We do not live the Gospel. That’s your error. The Gospel is a message. It is a proclamation with words, not deeds. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation because it reveals the righteousness of God which is from faith to faith. The Gospel is not what you do. You erred when you wrote that we live the Gospel and act the Gospel. Your error is similar to the error upon which the comfort dog “ministry” is predicated. That error is that there is something lacking in the gospel itself that must be supplemented by kind deeds that we do. Our kindness, our comfort, our good deeds, our whatever becomes the catalyst that activates the gospel rendering it efficacious. This is bad theology.

    If by our evil conduct that people witness we discredit ourselves, then the gospel we speak will not be given a fair hearing. If the argument is that we Christians should behave like Christians so that God’s name is not profaned among us by our evil lives, I am sure that all of us with agree with it. But to identify the gospel with our lives or our lives with the gospel is false, misleading, and harmful. Such error should be identified as error and refuted.

  19. All the advertising I have seen of comfort dogs very clearly conflates the comfort of Christ with the comfort of emotional empathy. That’s a dangerous error whether it’s intended or not. This article is a very appropriate caution and to the same degree a fitting rebuke. To call the work that comfort dogs do, or the work that those who bring them to suffering people, a ministry is dangerous. It is the hens coming home to roost for our Synod’s foolish equivocal use of that magnificent biblical “ministry” word to refer to otherwise fine things that are nonetheless not instituted by Christ. It’s a ministry. Fine. It’s a service. But when we call it a Christian ministry or otherwise imply that it is, it is at best a distraction and at worst disingenuous – or worse yet, an intentional replacement (but I would certainly hope not!).

  20. “they should have immediately directed attention to Christ rather than dwell on the conversation about the dogs”
    True enough. The interview would have never aired at all. I am cheered, though, by seeing my Christian brothers and sisters doing a good work in their community

  21. Wow, must be careful of words here:
    01) Yes, the Gospel as proclaimed (Paul stresses greatly) is Christ crucified…given.
    02) We live as Christians by faith…and that faith is lived out in love, lest as James says, it is dead.
    03) Also, we must love one another, sinners and all, command of God. Not easy.
    04) And as we live, we share the cross, and Christ crucified.

    So…does LCC and dogs help some of this???

    Yes, we live by faith and the love of the Gospel toward a sinner, all comes by the Word proclaimed.

  22. @Pastor Prentice #27

    Wow? Really? Pastor Prentice you were kindly rebuked and corrected. Show some humility. Be corrected. What you said was false. “As we live, we share the cross …” Fine. But you said before that we share the gospel BY living. There’s a world of difference there. Yes, Pastor Prentice, you must be careful with your words.

  23. I would like to say one thing in regard to ministry when dealing with someone who has gone through a traumatic loss. First, before I start, I just want to say I haven’t had a chance to watch the interview yet, so take my comments with a grain of salt. I don’t really know the timing of when the comfort dogs were used compared to when the Pulse Nightclub Shootings took place. That piece of information would be important regarding what I have to say. We have to remember the grieving process. Grieving normally starts with denial, then anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. As a former military officer I have done my fair share of knocking on doors to deliver bad news, and I can honestly say that in my experience the Kubler-Ross model is pretty much spot on. That being said, depend on the timing of the event to the ministry, the better part of ministry may have been to be silent. When someone is in denial or anger, it is usually better to be silent and just be present. That being said, ministry needs to continue through all the stages of grief where a relationship can be built with the victims. I think you will often find that a comforting shoulder and silence at the beginning will yield better results long term than trying to force conversation when someone is still angry or blaming God. As I said, I don’t have a firm grasp on what that specific group was facing, but I tend to trust that people intend to do what they say they have set out to do. We may be unfairly jumping to conclusions here. I think Pastor Prentice made a good point about reaching out to the leader of that ministry. Just a thought.

    One last comment. Our actions most certainly are a proclamation of the gospel and we would do well to remember that. Jesus certainly intimates that in the sermon on the mount, as does Paul when he rebukes the Corinthians for their actions which were bringing condemnation on the church from the surrounding pagans, as did James in his epistle, as does Peter in his first epistle. If our actions are not consistent with our message, then we disgrace our message.

  24. @Rolf Preus #15

    God’s Word does not require a “bridge” to make it effective.

    …but doesn’t the Bible encourage such bridges?

    “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:35

    “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  Matt 5:16

    “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  James 1:27

  25. For so long we have defined missions as both evangelism and community service. The one is motivated by the Great Commission, but the other is service to our neighbors. While the Bible commands both, we need to keep them separate in our minds and our budgets. Otherwise we are tempted to prioritize on one and ignore the other. The problem is not with resources going to service dogs, but mooshing them with mission work.

  26. @Sean #29

    “If our actions are not consistent with our message, then we disgrace our message.”

    Absolutely, so our actions aren’t “the message” i.e. “a proclamation of the Gospel.”

    A proclamation of the Gospel is proclamation of the Gospel.

  27. In other parts of the Internet this article would be known as “click bait.” Certain to stimulate controversy but ultimately insignificant.

  28. Excellent article, Roberto! While provocative on account of how many people sadly fail to make the important distinction you make, it does much to bring peace to a needless controversy that ignorant, if well-meaning, people have begun and perpetuated. Thank you for your significant contribution.

  29. Of course I wish that the team members had articulated the Gospel in those interviews (or that the Gospel they did articulate hadn’t been edited out, which is also a possibility), but you can’t judge the whole program (or even this specific outreach) a failure just because they didn’t. People were helped in a time of need by Christians, whom they knew to be Christians, and it is quite likely that some of them got to talk to those Christians when the cameras weren’t around.

  30. What is the ministry instituted by Jesus?
    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28)

    “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'” (Mark 16)

    “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24)

    “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.'” (John 20)

    Either we believe what Jesus says and trust that His Word creates faith, or we don’t. Either we believe the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, or we don’t.

  31. On topic:
    1-would have been interesting to see whether or not anything more Christ-centered was said but edited out (This would not surprise me)
    2-I didn’t even realize such a ministry existed in the LCMS
    3-these types of ministries, well-intentioned though they may be, do run the risk of becoming an end unto themselves, and it’s something we all need to remember in our own vocations and opportunities in our interactions with the unbelieving world.

    Off topic:
    I prefer British bulldogs

  32. I give direct support to Comfort Dogs and to a missionary and am saddened that a young pastor chooses to lecture the Church on the necessity of choosing between the two. LCC helps us to love our neighbor and that is a good thing in and of itself. Is it the ultimate thing? No. But meeting physical and emotional needs should never be implied as optional or as something one does after every sinner is reached with the Gospel.

    Anyhow, I know several of the dogs and a number of their handlers. Christ is proclaimed, whether the proclamation is quoted or noted in a news article or not. And their presence at ground zero of so many catastrophes certainly paints a more positive face on orthodox Lutheranism than does a narrow-minded, nitpicking essay such as this.

  33. @Walter Snyder #41

    1) Supporting pastors is infinitely more important than purchasing a $12,000 dog for “ministry.” Jesus Himself mandates the church to support preachers of the Word.

    2) There are several videos showing that they have failed to speak the Law and Gospel. Are there any current videos that demonstrate what you have said? Are there any videos that show them preaching the Word, as you say happens so often? If it happens so often in private, why didn’t it happen publicly here also? If it’s happened before, why didn’t it happen at the time of this tragedy?

    3) Mere presence in the midst of a disaster does not paint a more positive face on “Lutheranism.” The pure preaching of God’s Word does that.

    4) Why do you think that pointing out the failure to preach Law and Gospel is “nitpicking” or “close-minded”? God’s Word is pretty important, wouldn’t you agree? Maybe, more important than mentioning dogs, right?

  34. @Walter Snyder #41

    First, may God bless the work of comfort dog handlers and the LCC.

    Sir, this “young pastor” has shown what I have seen several times first hand. This is not a “narrow minded essay.” It happens. It is a theological poverty, a disservice to people who need Christ. Who need the Gospel. Who need the Sacraments. Instead they get to pet and talk with a dog. When my District gave $10,000 of mission money to buy another! dog when many pastors are hurting because their congregation don’t support them or even to help start new churches -that is the tragedy. I can cite an LCMS church that would rather have a dog in the pew than my family and grandson (or any child with dog allergies.) Dear Lord!

    There are numerous “ministry” references from the LCC website: “The new handlers and caregivers spent many hours training in ministry”…”Comfort Dogs Mahlah and Damaris will serve their teams as a bridge to being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to those who are suffering and in need.” “LCC welcomes 18 new handlers to the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry.”

    Serious? The “hands and feet of Jesus”?! And the “more positive face on orthodox Lutheranism” you cite and I can talk about ground zero -it was therapy -NOT the Gospel.

    Jesus, Scripture, even our Confessions speak of only ONE ministry. And the LCC has missed it. It’s as if people think it a “ministry” and somehow comfort dogs work in disaster/tragedy areas are more God pleasing than changing a dirty diaper or taking out the trash; that we ‘sanctify’ it by calling it a “ministry” when it’s a vocation.

  35. @Pastor Jordan McKinley #39

    Either we believe what Jesus says and trust that His Word creates faith, or we don’t. Either we believe the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, or we don’t.

    …yes, but doesn’t the Bible also encourage bridges?  Pls see comment 32 and reply. I’m not understanding this thread. Is the problem just with the word “ministry”?  Thanks.

  36. Yes, this is yet another example of Christians with good intentions to bring comfort to people by following worldly wisdom. Even if they had mentioned Christ as the true source of everlasting comfort the news media would have edited their testimony out of the video or print medium. Christians are too eager for the approval of unbelievers and so fail in their Gospel witness.

  37. A bit of a textual critique, first. With all due respect, Pastor Rojas, your article did not prove its own point. You used anecdotal evidence primarily from one interview to support a much broader judgment. Beyond that, logically, if it’s misdirection of our resources to spend money on these dogs because there is no direct proclamation of the Gospel, then no congregation must ever donate to, or even set up their own food pantry, ir participating in LERT activities, e.g. *There is* an important caution in what you say, to be sure. The dogs can become an end in itself. And there is a danger that we will lose the Eternal Gospel in the fuzzy feelgoodness of “social gospel” stuff. We *must* maintain the distinction between witness and mercy, justification and sanctification. But it is not an either or. Indeed, as several of you pastors are strongly saying in the context of another controversy, we cannot become antinomians. I suggest the readers of this thread read or re-read “Christ Have Mercy,” but Rev. Harrison. We have some freedom to use our sanctified wisdom to find the best ways to do the mercy side, always with Witness as the priority, because The Witness is, of ciurse, the Eternal Mercy.

  38. I listened to someone who had direct experience with the dogs at the lcms congregation in Boston in the aftermath of the bombing. He was upset that the Sunday after the dogs left, there were a few folks from the community that showed up on Sunday morning, but said, when they found out the dogs were gine, “we came for the dogs” and left. This man used this as “proof” that the dogs are a pointless distraction. Respectfully, that’s illogical. The opportunity was there to say, “Come on in, anyway. We have Comfort even stronger: Jesus the crucified.” If they still didntcome in, well, that’s up to the Holy Spirit anyway. The dogs *did* provide opportunity for the specific Gospel in that case.

  39. Thank you Pastor Mueller for mentioning President Harrison’s book, CHRIST HAVE MERCY. It appears many would do well to read/reread it. See my earlier post.

  40. This article and the one written by Mr. Halverson have provoked many comments. I think that shows that they are attacking real enemies, and not wasting their time beating the air. They are actually inflicting harm on the enemy’s turf, and the enemy wants it shut up. I think it is a good sign that these words tick off so many people. As St. Paul says in Galatians 4, the false church will persecute the true. Jesus says that those who preach the Gospel will be delivered up to the synagogues, and the ones doing it will think that they are offering service to God. This article attacks fake, but nice, religion masquerading as being Christian. Somebody’s sacred cow has been slaughtered and they’re mad as hell about it. It’s refreshing that somebody should get mad at the true “ministry” of the Church is being defamed as ineffective, needing a bridge, and whatnot. All this talk of facilitating the Gospel makes perfect sense to our reason. That is the strength of the opponents argument. But we are children of the promise. We are not children of Hagar.

    I especially find galling all the head wagging and hand wringing by Pr. Rojas’s “friends” who want to help him out by making his message more palatable. People did the same with Mr. Halverson’s piece as well. They essentially say, “I am pretty much on the same page as the writer, but he could have said it better, done more research, etc.” I am quite sure that there were many of these sorts of things said about St. Paul and the other apostles. I’m sure there were people who thought they should have been more gentle with the Jewish authorities. There were people who thought that St. Stephen shouldn’t have finished off his speech with, “You stiff necked people, always resisting the Holy Spirit!” It’s a namby pamby way of appearing reasonable and moderate, but they are not on the side of truth. They don’t want Jesus glorified or God’s Word. They themselves want to be glorified as being moderate, reasonable–someone highly qualified to be District President one day. The spirit of the antichrist lurks in this churchy diplomacy.

    “Who shall dwell on the holy hill? … He who speaks the truth from his heart.” “Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything more than that comes from the evil one.” “I did not come to you with fancy speech…”

  41. Since this particular interview came about because of the use of comfort dogs following the pulse night club shooting and the Pulse was a gay club, I think it is important to understand something.

    As a celibate gay Christian I have over 40 years of experience in the LCMS. I have friends who have left the Church and turned to the gay community and others who have left the gay community and returned to a life of obedience and faith in Christ.

    The greatest factor which drove many of them away was not a desire for sex or a rejection of doctrine. It was the fact that Christians treated them very unkindly even when they were striving for celibacy and obedience. At best they were ignored. Often they were verbally abused in the name of love. As one said, when he was bullied at school it was the bullies who hit him but the Christians who stood by and did nothing except use their words to tell him how sinful he was. I also know some gay celibate Christians who make sure they have a few non-Christian friends just so they will have someone to talk to since their life in the Church is very isolating. Eve Tushnet, a well known celibate catholic writer, even made the statement that she was fortunate to come to the Church later in life as those same sex attracted people she knew who were raised in Christianity had learned to hate themselves.

    The first step in returning to Christ for those who did so was when a Christian did something nice for them or offered sincere friendship.

    I will not claim this dynamic holds for all, or even most, gay people since my life in the Church, of course, means that most other gay people I know are those who have had some significant involvement in the Church. But for those I do know, the way they are treated by Christians is a significant factor in whether they remain faithful or not, whether they are willing to give Christianity another try or not.

    Given the circumstances of the pulse shooting, a Christian organization willing to come and do something comforting and nice is, in fact, an extremely important thing. It does, in fact, form a bridge.

    Does it do this in all circumstance or all disasters? I don’t know. But it was a vital step in this situation. So even if the comfort dogs provided no other service than this one event, I would say they are well worth the 12,000 they cost apiece.

    That being said it is rather ironic to criticize the comfort dog program for not offering the Gospel when the LCMS statements on homosexuality have barely enough Gospel to be labeled as such. And what is there, sadly, is more than is offered through most denominations when speaking of the homosexuality.

    There are times when being kind and offering simply human affected is important and does take the first step to telling others that maybe Christians are not always as cruel as the Christians one encountered as a teen.

    It is not that comfort dogs and other such kindnesses should take precedence over doctrine and Gospel. It is that most gay people, including myself, have been offered doctrine and Christ by people who often treated us like less than human beings. And these kind of kindnesses help to fill in the gaps that should have been filled in before.

    Anyway, let me again express my deep appreciation for the presence of the comfort dogs in Orlando, showing kindness to a group of people to whom so many other Christians were unwilling to show any real love at all. It took courage to do this when most conservatives were talking about the shooting but doing nothing to help.

    Yes indeed, my donations will be well spent going to the comfort dog program.

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