In Reference to the Article: God's Hunters?
Dear Reverend Joseph Classen,
It has come to my attention that you are a man of religion and an avid hunter. At first glance the contradiction between these two avocations is perplexing, as traditionally religion has been thought to encourage and embrace compassion.
Ideally religious teachings profess to guide followers to a higher spiritual and moral state. Some religions extend compassion to ALL living beings and deliver a message of unconditional compassion for both animals and humans. The semitic religions extend compassion only to humans, and as defined by the concept of dominion, grant man the right to harm and kill animals for his own benefit.
Your casual acceptance of the violence of hunting and meat consumption indicates a lack of the understanding done by such violence. Violence to animals and humans is inextricably linked. When you allow for the slaughter of animals, it often acts a precursor to human on human violence. It is therefore morally irresponsible to teach people to kill any living being, but especially so in the name of sport.
In religions which grant unconditional compassion to all living beings the harming or killing of an animal is viewed as sinful:
"He who harms animals has not understood or renounced deeds of sin" Jain Sutra "
Great secular thinkers in the west have also understood the root of compassion that seems to allude you: the taking of an innocent life cannot be justified to benefit man:
"For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love." Pythagoras, mathematician
"The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men." Leonardo da Vinci, artist and scientist
"Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all living beings, we are all savages". -- Thomas Edison
Violence is violence and encouraging it whether it be towards an animal or a human does not fall within the definition of compassion, which is: deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. This definition does not specify human or animal just another. Furthermore your lack of awareness of the suffering caused to the animals you so enjoy harming is troubling in a person empowered to promote the message of Christian compassion. The ability to extend compassion to the weak and disempowered is the mark of high moral development. The converse is also true.
In your words: "I enjoy being out in God's creation in this particular way. It's very peaceful and rejuvenating."
Peaceful is not a word that comes to mind when one thinks of stalking and hunting down another living being, who cherishes his life as you do yours. The taking of a life that is not freely given is an act of violence. Distorting the meaning of the word peaceful to suit your own selfish pursuit does not change the definition. Peaceful: undisturbed by strife, turmoil, or disagreement; tranquil. Your inability to see the turmoil and pain you wreak on the creatures you hunt down defies logic and distorts the meaning of peaceful to include violence and domination.
When consideration and respect are granted to All beings...ALL beings benefit. The definition of dominion established thousands of years ago is a relic in the modern world, where the concept that All beings exist to be mutually beneficial to each other would go a long way towards healing a troubled and violent world.
The lack of compassion in your position undermines your moral claim as a spiritual leader for your community. It is irresponsible and cruel to endorse hunting for the pleasure of the sport, as there is no pleasure in it for the victim. The self-serving position granting humans the right to harm and kill living beings who have done them no harm cannot be used to justify the killing of innocent creatures, who are as entitled as humans to dwell on the earth It is a poor excuse for the suffering it inflicts.
The harm do is twofold: you have let down you parishioners by encouraging violence and taken innocent life as you find it pleasurable. Your failure to grasp the spiritual poverty of your position is distressing and alarming as you have been entrusted with the spiritual development of the members of your congregation. You have let them down. Perhaps it is time you considered renouncing your deeds of sin.