Humane Religion Magazine
May - June 1996 Issue
Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs: 22:6.
This verse of scripture is usually recited in order to remind parents that if children are taught a moral, upright way of life, such training will guide their activities for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Children who are taught to behave immorally will also be guided by that early training for the rest of their lives.
Too often, Children are taught that killing animals is an acceptable pastime.
This is painfully obvious in the heritage men bequeath to their sons when they teach them that killing is an acceptable pastime. These fathers condition their children to regard hunting as a recreational activity--a "sport" useful for reducing stress and conducive to male-bonding.
The empathy for animals that children have developed through identification with the rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and deer that fill the pages of the books they have been familiar with since infancy, is systematically worn away as they are taught to kill the creatures they had learned to love.
And when they show remorse or concern when faced with the murder of animals they know are capable of feeling pain—of being happy or fearful—they are ridiculed into submission. They are taught that manliness means an erosion of compassion and empathy.
For the most part, the fathers who do this to their sons are victims of the same conditioning. But what of the mothers? At a time when women have increasing autonomy, few have been able to use this freedom to counteract the violence and brutality their husbands are inculcating in their sons. They are told that in opposing their husbands they will "emasculate" their male children.
These women do not even receive support from the Pastors of their churches when they make an effort to have their sons, as well as their daughters, emulate the love and compassion that Jesus lived and taught.
Their ministers are afraid of seeming effeminate to the men in their congregations, or of alienating them. They will preach against a thousand sins from their pulpits, but they will not condemn the cruelty and murder that is called "sport" and "recreation. "
Even though they receive no help from their churches, women and men who understand that hunting is opposed to the compassionate lifestyle Jesus enjoined on his followers, must speak out against it. It will not be the first time that the people in the pews were conscious of errors their leaders did not yet recognize.
Slavery, sexism, child labor, and countless other ills were recognized as such by individual church-members at a time when their religious organizations were still blind to the ungodliness such things represented.
The problem of correcting church errors is not new. In the time of Jesus, his disciples complained to him that he "offended" the religious leaders of his day when he said of the Pharisees: "These people honor [God] with their lips, but their hearts are far from [God]." In answer to his disciples complaints about what he had said, Jesus further indicted those leaders. He told his followers to ignore some of the things these men were teaching because "they are blind guides and teachers. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a ditch."
It is up to those who understand that hunting is the wanton murder of God's creatures, to give witness to that truth in their churches. They must help their leaders, and those who have been misled by them, to climb out of the ditch into which they have fallen. #