A Tennessee megachurch is facing backlash after a pastor used live animals, including a ram and a lion, to illustrate his sermon.
A Tennessee megachurch is facing backlash after shepherds used live animals on stage to illustrate a sermon on Sunday.
The Cornerstone Nashville church used a cougar, lion, mountain lion, a ram and a miniature pony in the sermon, which focused on going back to school.
In the sermon, senior Pastor Galen Davis in comparison with a lion and mountain lion to each other and used them to show that the differences between fear and faith. The mountain lion, Davis explained, is not considered a big cat because it cannot roar; instead, he said, the screams.
“We need to evolve from a people of fear to a people of faith,” he told churchgoers. “That if the cry of fear comes in our lives, we know that it is not the real lion … We know that it is not what God has for us.”
The shepherds told WSMV-TV that they received threats after photos and video of the sermon circulated online.
“Is it really necessary for you to use animals to preach a sermon? Why?” a critic asked.
“This is really to tell. Disgusting pastor. It’s all for the show. It’s all for the money,” the other comments are on Facebook.
PETA Vice President Colleen O’brien said the organization Christian outreach division “is to promote the Cornerstone of Nashville, and to serve the meek by pledging never to exploit vulnerable animals ever again.”
“The use of animals as living props is not a way to honor the Christian message of compassion and grace for all members of creation,” O’brien said in a statement.
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The clergy defended their use of wild animals during the service.
“Sure, I don’t believe in the abuse of animals,” lead Pastor Maury Davis told The Tennessean. “But, with the help of animals, for me, is not wrong.”
“If I thought there was an intelligent discussion, I would like to have, but just arguing with people who truly bizarre claims would be a waste of time and energy, and fruitless,” he said.
Some of the churchgoers agreed with Davis, the call of the sermon is “great” while praising the “great church.”
“You go brother! Your congregation will never forget this crazy visuals to get across your message of faith! Praise for Him!!!” a Facebook user called them.
In a letter to the church, O’brien said PETA hopes “you agree that this cruelty is not consistent with the teachings of the church, and that your decision to leave animals out of your future events.”
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“All animals are individuals, created by God’s miraculous hand, and they feel joy, sadness, loneliness, and fear, just like humans do. Its use in these types of shows, it undermines what it means to be a good steward of God’s creation,” O’brien argued.
The animals from Hollywild Animal Park, a non-profit zoo in Spartanburg, South Carolina – more than 350 km away.
In 2016, Hollywild said it would pay a $19,000 fine after the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited for multiple violations, including unsafe conditions and lack of veterinary services, the Greenville News reported at the time. A year earlier, nearly 30 individuals reportedly died in an electrical fire.
According to WSMV, the state wildlife department was during the sermon and had given approval.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.