Now the term “Pet Parent” seems innocent enough, doesn’t it? These days, it seems that pet advocates are encouraging pet owners to consider themselves “Pet Parents.” The idea is that people should feel as emotionally and financially invested in their pets as real parents are in their children. After all, the pets are “part of the family,” right?
Actually, what we have here is simply another insertion of naturalistic philosophy into the fabric of American culture. Now don’t take this to be an anti-pet tirade. I am not anti-pet and, on top of that, I think pet owners should, in every respect, treat their pets well.
But pets are not the children of humans. They are, well … pets. The purpose of parenting is to raise children in a way which helps them grow into productive adults. Sure, we pamper and clean up after them some. But we also spend a lot of time teaching them. We must assist them in grasping the things they need to know about life, and help them develop the self-discipline to reach their highest human potential. With pets, all you can do is pamper and clean up after them. There is no legitimate parenting.
Let’s be frank. The real reason pet product and pet service companies encourage the use of the term “Pet Parent” is because they want to make pet owners feel a higher level of responsibility for their little “babies” – this, so they can sell more (and more expensive) goods and services. After all, you can only buy the very best for your furry children, right? What a bad parent you would be if you didn’t get the more expensive gourmet food, the more exotic toys, the most complete health care and the most comprehensive insurance. And shame on you if you don’t celebrate Pet Parents Day. Of course when the little fur ball passes on, you must also buy them their own cemetery plot at the local pet cemetery.
It is one thing to recognize the ploy being foisted on us by the marketing people. After all, they do the same things to get us to buy cars, food, greeting cards and everything else. But in this case, they are actually advocating a belief that Americans are more prone to buy into because we are becoming more and more accepting of naturalistic presuppositions. The belief goes: The only thing which exists is the natural universe, so we and our pets are both merely animal creatures which have naturally evolved in different directions. As such, our pets are as important in the natural universe as human beings and should be given the respect they deserve.
But that is not a biblical worldview belief. Human beings are actually persons created in the image of God. We have been specially created with the ability to know and interact with God in an objectively real personal relationship. No other creature holds that distinction. As such, no other creature has the same value in the eyes of God.
This does not mean it is okay to treat pets badly. God has also made us stewards (managers) over the material universe. With that, he has given us the responsibility to faithfully take care of his creation. Pets are both a blessing as we enjoy their affection, and a responsibility. Accordingly, we need to be aware of the spiritual trap that is “pet parenthood” and, instead, embrace the stewardship responsibility of pet ownership.