Continuing Education Class

“Understanding Climate Change as a Biblical Mandate” is the title of a three-session course Stephen Jurovics will teach as part of Union Presbyterian Seminary’s continuing education offerings. The course will review numerous environmental teachings in the Bible and demonstrate that climate change is a religious issue, as well as a scientific one. The classes will include some of the information in Jurovics’ book, Hospitable Planet: Faith, Action, and Climate Change, as well as new material. 

The United Methodist Women selected Hospitable Planet for its 2018 reading program and “Education for Ministry,” a four-year educational offering of the Episcopal Church, chose Hospitable Planet as a common reading text in 2021 for its roughly 6,500 participants. 

Please visit for the course description and registration information. 


Stephen Jurovics, Ph.D. 

August 20, 2021     


Book News

I’d like to share some very good news. The four-year course of study called Education for Ministry (EfM), a program of the Episcopal Church, selected Hospitable Planet: Faith, Action, and Climate Change as the “Common Reading” text for 2021. That means that roughly 6,500 EfM participants will study the book this year. It is my fervent hope that such study will result in a dramatic increase in action on climate change mitigation by that group and perhaps their fellow congregants.

I have been asked to facilitate one study session with a group in Charlotte, North Carolina, and if others would like me to become involved in some way, please contact me at


Stephen Jurovics, Ph.D. 

February 17, 2021     


Treatment of Animals and Covid-19

View the PDF with full article and footnotes by  StephenJurovics-TreatmentOfAnimals-Covid-19

The name “creation care” committee, rather than “climate change” committee, used by many congregations and faith-based environmental non-profits signals that the organization’s agenda includes climate change as well as a concern for all of the God-created world we inherited. This scope plus environmental justice form the major part of the work of the North Carolina affiliate of Interfaith Power & Light (, an organization on which I serve. Many human activities now place great stress on the animals, birds, and marine life with which we share this planet. That stress and resulting distress of other life forms bumps up against biblical teachings about the treatment of animals. 

Part of the work of faith-based environmental groups entails demonstrating that climate change is a biblical issue, as well as a scientific one. The pandemic has moved us to recognize that Covid-19 is also a biblical issue, as well as a medical one. A doctrine scholars developed to summarize the numerous biblical instructions on the treatment of animals states that we must exhibit a concern for the distress of living creatures. That is, we are not to cause them distress, and when we see an animal in distress, we are obligated to relieve it.1

Early analyses of Covid-19 revealed that it resulted from zoonotic transfer, the transmission of a pathogen from an animal host to a human host.2 This transfer often results from human behavior toward the animal and, in particular, from the stresses to which the animal has been subjected.

In many parts of the world, human population growth has resulted in the destruction of habitats of birds and wildlife, placing them under great stress. Furthermore, unsanitary and crowded food markets in China, Vietnam, and elsewhere sell wild animals that have been hunted, captured, caged, and placed in alien environments. These actions and the loss of habitat inflict great stress on the animals, resulting in a weakening of their immune systems and sometimes the release of pathogens from the animal to a human host. A human that becomes host to a virulent new pathogen may be unable to generate an adequate immune defense, with Covid-19 as one example.

However the stress is induced in the animals, such actions violate numerous religious teachings about the treatment of animals. Moreover, as consumers of such abused animals, we are complicit in the animal abuse, making this a religious issue and, in addition, are likely experiencing adverse health effects.3

One of the effects of climate change on human health is infectious diseases and many of these are zoonotic in origin. These diseases now account for “75 percent of all new emerging infections”4 and their occurrences have tripled in the past decade. This suggests that even with promising new vaccine technology, we can expect to battle more emerging zoonotic diseases in the future, for their root causes remain: placing animals under great stress; high density populations; and a propensity for travel.

Creation care seeks to reduce negative effects upon this world, and upon us, that result from our acting contrary to religious teachings. Covid-19 is one of the more awful effects, and we may experience follow-ons of equal or greater virulence if we do not take action promptly. Phasing out wet markets and factory farming would diminish zoonotic transfer and the known and potential diseases associated with that transfer.

The section below includes a list of teachings about the treatment of animals drawn from many of the faiths practiced here in the Triangle.


Stephen Jurovics, Ph.D.


December 2020     




  1.  Jurovics, Stephen, Hospitable Planet: Faith, Action, and Climate Change (New York, Morehouse Publishing, 2016), chap. 5, 6.
  3.  Harrison, Ruth, Animal Machines: The New Factory Farming Industry (London, United Kingdom: Vincent Stuart Ltd., 1964).
  4.  Marcus Renney, MD, “The tipping point: Climate crises and zoonotic disease,” Atlantic Council, Oct. 14, 2020.



Biblical Teachings about Treatment of Animals

But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work; you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. [Exod. 20:8-10]

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain for seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day onwards it shall be acceptable as the LORD’s offering by fire. But you shall not slaughter, from the herd or the flock, an animal with its young on the same day. [Lev. 22:26-28]

You shall not see your neighbor’s donkey or ox fallen on the road and ignore it; you shall help to lift it up. [Deut. 22:4]

If you come on a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs, with the mother sitting on the fledglings or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. Let the mother go, taking only the young for yourself, in order that it may go well with you and you may live long. [Deut. 22:6-7]

You shall not plough with an ox and a donkey yoked together. [Deut. 22:10] 

Teachings from Islam about the Treatment of Animals

Contributed by Zohra Osman

From the Hadith: authentic teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessings upon him)

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)  said “A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, While an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being.”  (Sahih Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once saw a donkey hot branded on the muzzle and said: “May Allah curse the one who marked this animal.” (Sahih Muslim).

Prophet Muhammad’s companions narrate, “We were on a journey and during the Prophet’s absence, we saw a bird with its two chicks; we took them. The mother bird was circling above us in the air, beating its wings in grief. When Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) returned he said, “Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its chicks? Return them to her.” (Sahih Muslim)

“It is a great sin for man to imprison those animals which are in his power” (Sahih Muslim)

Buddhist Teachings about the Treatment of Animals

Contributed by Elise Strevel

The Buddha:

“And so, with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings.” 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.”

“Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal Responsibility, not only Nation to Nation and human to human, but also human to all other forms of life.”

Matthieu Ricard (Buddhist monk, translator for the Dalai Lama, Ph.D. in Molecular Biology): 

Those who … persist in justifying the torments we inflict on animals should begin by explaining why the golden rule applies only to human beings and by what right they consider themselves authorized in so limiting it.”

“Benevolence toward all beings is no longer an optional addendum to our ethics but an essential part of it.”

Unitarian Universalism and Treatment of Animals

Unitarian Universalism has seven core principles and the one most applicable to the topic at hand is:

“Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.” 

Hindu Teachings and Treatment of Animals

Contributed by KB Chandran

One is dearest to God who has no enemies among the living beings, who is nonviolent to all creatures. [Bhagavad Gita]

He alone sees truly who sees the Lord the same in every creature…seeing the same Lord everywhere, he does not harm himself or others. [Bhagavad Gita]

You must not use your God-given body for killing God’s creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever. [Yajur Veda 12.32.90]

A Biblical Perspective on the Oceans

A realization that many of the diverse efforts to improve the environment are supported by both biblical texts and scientific findings has motivated many people of faith to act on these efforts for those dual reasons. Plastic Oceans Project requested information about where within Judaism one finds teachings about care of God’s oceans. The Psalms provide one rich source of such expressions, with a verse in Exodus 19 possibly serving as the root of the psalmist’s teachings.

Exodus 19 opens with Moses going up Mount Sinai and hearing God speak about the conditions for a covenant with all who left Egypt. Verse 5 includes the words “all the earth is mine.” “The earth” includes the land and the oceans.

In Leviticus, God gives the condition under which the Israelites may use the land, which belongs to God, to plant seeds, grow crops, and have food: the condition is to take care of the needy and the stranger. Multiple verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy provide examples of how to accomplish that care.

The academic Alan Avery-Peck synthesized these teachings by writing:
“The same notion of God’s ownership of the land explains Scripture’s insistence that the land be used only in ways commensurate with the holiness of its owner.”

I believe that if we substitute the word “oceans” for “land” in Avery-Peck’s statement, we have an equally valid synthesis of biblical intent. Using the oceans as a trash container, in particular a repository for discarded plastics, is not an action “commensurate with the holiness of its owner.” The Psalms reinforce this perspective.

The opening of Psalm 24 proclaims:
1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
2 for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.

By “earth,” the psalm refers to the entire natural world, for the Hebrew word translated as “world” is “tevel,” which means nature in its entirety.

The expression “The earth is the LORD’s” connects with the Exodus 19:5 verse, discussed above.

Psalm 95:5 gives another reminder that both the oceans and the land belong to God:
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

In modern times, we can take away the corollary that we are not to foul that which belongs to God. We may use the oceans, but with the understanding that they belong to God. Indeed, Leviticus 11 contains about two dozen verses detailing what may and may not be eaten, and the list includes constraints on what marine life may be consumed. When we load the oceans with plastics, we introduce substances alien to the waters, a consequence incompatible with the psalmist’s teachings.

Psalm 104 is virtually a paean to the natural world, with references to the waters in verse 3,
3 you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,

verses 6-9,
6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they flee;
at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
8 They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.
and verses 25-26,
25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

Thus, through the Psalms, as one source, we learn that the natural world belongs to God and that God “has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.” These teachings evoke a strong concern for the oceans of the world within both Judaism and Christianity.

Stephen Jurovics, Ph.D.
Author of Hospitable Planet: Faith, Action, and Climate Change.

“Dominion” in Genesis 1 Is not an Obstacle

“Dominion is an obstacle,” said Bishop William Barber ( as we shook hands in the hallway. “Yes,” I replied, “I covered that extensively in my book.” “I know,” he said, and walked on. 

With “dominion” the bishop was referring to the passage in Genesis in which God says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” [Gen. 1:28] The “obstacle” to which he referred is that many people view the surface interpretation of that verse as giving humans the right to rule, or have dominion over, all life on earth in any way we wish—no constraints are listed.

That’s what the verse says in Genesis 1. Do we encounter any challenges to that interpretation as we move from there to the end of Deuteronomy? Yes, many, which means it is incorrect to take the verse in Gen. 1:28 as the definitive statement on “dominion” without factoring in all subsequent passages that question or refute that interpretation. 

The first major challenge to the statement in Genesis 1 occurs just five chapters later in the Noah episode. God tells Noah to take two of every kind of bird and animal into the ark “to keep them alive” throughout the coming flood. Noah had no discretion to select birds and animals, as a ruler might. Rather, Gen. 7:1-5 ends with, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.”

Similar challenges to the unlimited latitude that Gen. 1:28 seems to allow occur in multiple subsequent passages. For example, the fourth commandment in the Decalogue in Exodus 20 instructs the people to refrain from working their livestock on the sabbath. Thus, a challenge to the notion that we can rule over the animals as we wish.

In Lev. 22:26-28, we read: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain for seven days with its mother, . . .” and, “you shall not slaughter, from the herd or the flock, an animal with its young on the same day.”  Again, we cannot rule without constraint.

In Deut. 22:10, we read: “You shall not plough with an ox and a donkey yoked together.”  And again, in Deut. 25:4 we find: “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” 

All of these, and others, constitute evidence that the passage in Gen. 1:28 makes a general statement about our power to affect creation, but does not stand unqualified throughout the rest of “the law,” Genesis through Deuteronomy. We accumulate a list of constraints regarding human behavior toward the natural world. That behavior commands us to care for God’s creation, and the various teachings we encounter instruct us how to do that. 

Thus, the Gen. 1:28 passage does not stand as an obstacle, does not relieve us of the responsibility to care for creation—which in our time means to reduce the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.


The Genesis 1 text is not the only place where one verse is seemingly contradicted by a subsequent passage. For example, in Gen. 9:3, God says: “Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat; as with the green grasses, I give you all these.”  Yet in Lev. 11, we find multiple verses that identify what can and cannot be eaten.  That’s why observant Jews do not eat pork or shellfish. 

In these two examples, we find a general statement given first, and then  clarifications/limitations given subsequently. 

From another perspective, the Genesis 1 verse that says “have dominion over” or “rule over” leads to the question: what does it mean to rule over the fish, the birds, and all that moves upon the earth? It’s safe to say God would want us to be good rulers, so what does that entail? That’s part of what we learn as we move from Genesis to Deuteronomy, with the first clarification coming just five chapters later in the Noah episode: save all species! 

Climate change, which humans are causing, is resulting in an alarming rate of species loss, and we are thus acting contrary to that biblical teaching.

In addition, note that the Gen. 1:28 verse does not say we have dominion over the land. In Exod. 19:5, God says to Moses on Mt. Sinai, “all the land is Mine,” which is a faithful translation of the Hebrew. How do we rule if we must operate with the constraint that the land belongs to God?

Thus, the notion that Gen. 1:28 enables us to rule over the earth in any way we wish is refuted by (1) subsequent limitations on our actions, and (2) the statement that the land belongs to God.

Confining oneself solely to the Gen. 1:28 verse and viewing that as an obstacle to caring for creation is an indefensible position. It constitutes a glaring violation of biblical teachings. It follows that the faith community has an obligation, supported by Scripture, to become vigorously involved in creation care/climate change.

Stephen Jurovics

Author of Hospitable Planet: Faith, Action, and Climate Change

Testimonial from Vincent dePaul Professor

I was delighted to receive an e-mail from a Vincent dePaul Professor at DePaul University in Chicago who used Hospitable Planet in a seminar on ethics and ecology. The professor wrote:

I wanted to let you know that your book was a hit in my two seminars. . . . I think the book works very well at showing how biblical verses can be grouped–as you do–to tell a story of how the Torah in fact limits human “domination” and instead calls for responsibility towards the environment and all that lives therein.
Students really appreciated what you are trying to do, even those who are not particularly religious (as it happens, I had no Jewish students, . . . but a good number of practicing Christians).  I returned short reflection papers on the book this week.  Quite a few sang your praises, such as one who wrote that she “just loved the book.”

I am deeply grateful that the students responded favorably to the case for creation care/climate change made in the book. If other faculty have used the book, I invite them to send me a note about the students’ reaction to it.

Stephen Jurovics speaking at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Raleigh, NC.