Better a live dog than a dead lion: And other lessons from Cecil

Scar from The Lion King

Scar from The Lion King

Everything I know about lions I learned from Disney’s The Lion King. That’s why I was surprised by the uber-high level of public outrage over the recent killing of Cecil the lion by an American dentist using a bow and arrow while on safari. Apparently Cecil was a celebrity in Africa. You see, I grew up in an era when fathers and sons hunted as a hobby and to teach boys how to properly handle firearms. Granted, our pursuit of game was limited to pheasants, quail, ducks and the occasional black tail buck, and we ate what we harvested from nature. An African lion would have been an unusual sight in the valleys and National Forests of Northern California. As the years passed, my lethality as a hunter has declined dramatically. I’ve become more a danger to myself than any game in the field. If I had faced off with Cecil in the African bush, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But I digress.

Let me say up front that even though I still “hunt” (or more accurately I “hike while armed”), I do not approve of hunting African lions unless it is to protect human life or livestock, or to reduce overpopulation. I know hunters who like to use a bow and arrow because it is more challenging and gives the animal a better chance (so they claim). I’m not a fan of bow hunting because I’ve also known hunters who wounded game with an arrow and were unable to track the animal and recover the meat. Bow hunting requires an extremely high level of skill to be humane. A skilled rifle marksman using the proper firearm is more humane than a bow and arrow. For that reason alone I look down my nose at the dentist who shot Cecil with an arrow. Also, one does not typically hunt African lion to eat the meat. It’s mostly a trophy thing.

The Cecil incident raises the question: Should all hunting be banned? Of the millions of people who raised heck over Cecil’s death and demanded the head of the dentist on a plate, I’ve no doubt many of them enjoy a good steak, crispy bacon, or a salmon fillet cooked on a cedar plank (an environmentalist’s worst nightmare). To the ears of responsible hunters, such protesters smack of hypocrisy. Granted, hunters in developed countries do not NEED to hunt for survival. Anyone can go to the grocery store and buy meat neatly wrapped in Styrofoam and plastic wrap. Consumers no longer have to get their hands bloody in processing the meat they consume. They certainly do not have to kill their meat on the slaughterhouse floor. Perhaps we have become too removed from the food chain.

To be completely honest, most of the time I’m not an uber-enthusiastic hunter. But an interesting thing happens every time I step into the wild in search of game: a deep hunter’s instinct stirs in my spirit. When I’m not in the field, modern life completely suppresses that instinct. I believe that instinct is present in EVERY person, and even the most zealous PETA acolyte would, given the right set of circumstances, feel that instinct. Deny it if you will, there is a hunter in the human soul. It’s part of our wiring for survival. Perhaps it was the immediate result of humanity’s fall in the Garden, or maybe it evolved after the fall. Either way, it’s very real. Unfortunately some hunters, such as the dentist who killed Cecil, misuse that instinct.

So what does the Bible say about humanity’s relationship to the animal kingdom and God’s creation in this post-fall world? Here are two verses that help guide us:

Proverbs 12:10: “Good people take good care of their animals, but the wicked know only how to be cruel.”

Romans 1:25: “They traded the truth of God for a lie. They bowed down and worshiped the things God made instead of worshiping the God who made those things. He is the one who should be praised forever. Amen.”

I don’t know if the dentist who killed Cecil is usually a good person or more evil than the rest of us, but the reaction of the millions who lashed out in anger against him, many even threatening his life, makes me believe that a large segment of society has fallen into nature idolatry. Perhaps even some Christians have crossed that line, as well. It’s like saying The Starry Night is a masterpiece of painting but Van Gogh is irrelevant, or worse, Van Gogh never existed. They call that cognitive dissonance, or as I prefer to call it: malevolent lunacy.

Our God-given role as stewards is to protect nature, enjoy it, conserve it, have a spiritual experience in it, even harvest appropriate portions of it responsibly, but absolutely not make it our god. When we worship nature instead of God, our relationships with each other get screwed up because our heart for each other grows cold. We may find ourselves going to extreme measures to live in harmony with nature, but only God can perfect nature. God gave humanity much control to affect nature, but not absolute control. In other words, despite our efforts to heal nature and live in harmony with it, we will still encounter sickness, death, exploitation, abuse and nature gone awry because we are not nature’s owner. The ultimate solution to nature’s problems is found in healing the human heart of sin. When Christ’s work in the human heart is finished, nature will be restored by God.

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Posted on August 7, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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