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Christians and Recreational Killing
The new man:
When killing animals is represented as an opportunity for spiritual growth.

"PUT ON THE NEW MAN, WHICH AFTER GOD IS CREATED IN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUE HOLINESS."(Ephesians 4:24)

[It] still stands out as the most enjoyable outdoor experience of my life...I drank-in the beauty of the countryside and the creatures formed by the Creator." Stephen Bransford in NEW MAN magazine, a Christian publication.

Today I am with Dad...the cold prairie wind brings fluffy snowflakes to rest on the frozen ground, and the last few leaves struggle to release the leaves from the grip of the tall poplar trees." Phil Callaway, in NEW MAN magazine.

We are grateful [to God] for the mountains and valleys, the streams fields and forest...the animals you have arranged in scenes so grand...What beauty! The Rev. David L. Roose: an invocation.

The above-quoted words, echoing with gratitude for the god-given beauty of creation, might have been spoken by those people of faith who understand the need to protect and preserve that which the Creator has given us.

They could have been spoken by such persons, but they were not. They are quotes from hunters who are expressing their thanks to the Lord for the opportunity to roam the woods and forests of "the beautiful world God has created"--killing the creatures whom God has placed there.

Are these "Christian" men an aberration? Have they somehow failed to learn the biblical message of love and compassion; of nonviolence and stewardship of the earth?

Obviously, they have failed to learn it--but only because it is never taught in the churches they attend. Nor is it ever mentioned in the christian books, magazines and tracts, which abound. Instead, these men are accustomed to observing their Pastors join the other men of the congregation, listening in admiration to those who recount their experiences in stalking rabbits, raccoons, birds--or whatever other creature is unfortunate enough to be become the target of their "recreational" activities.

Reports of these encounters always stress the men's gratitude for the peace, serenity, and closeness they feel to their Creator as they prowl the woods, hoping to find something to kill.

The first quote printed above, from an autobiographical story by Stephen Bransford, describes a man's feeling of closeness to God as he and several family members spend ten days hunting--and killing--elk. Bransford describes it as a "trophy- hunt." This means there is no disclaimer that "we-eat-everything-we-kill". Instead, there is the unabashed declaration that God's creatures are being murdered, in order that their heads may be hung upon the walls of their homes.

Bransford's article also extols the spirituality of the male-bonding that took place on this killing expedition. God is duly thanked for this Grace, as well as for the beauty of His creatures.

The author reveals that his father, "the patriarch of our clan" was a hunter- preacher. Bransford and his brother had "competed mercilessly while growing up, especially at shooting and hunting. Our father had esteemed these outdoor skills."

The same issue of New Man carries another sentimental reminiscence of a son whose father also enjoyed killing as a pastime. The author, Phil Callaway, titles his article 3 Things My Father Did Right. Number two has to do with the quality time his father spent with him, on a hunting trip.

He was eight years old at the time and describes how he awoke, joyfully realizing it was "the morning of the hunt." Just him and Dad. He tells of his boyish pride at being in the woods with "the greatest hunter in the world. My real-life hero. Someone who has not only tracked, but shot, skinned, fried and eaten an entire rabbit."

This article is included under the Family section of New Man. The mission statement of this magazine announces that it "aims to inform and equip men with Christ- centered perspectives...to be Godly influences in their world." Obviously, the editors see no dichotomy between their stated mission and their promotion of killing God's creatures as a male-bonding experience that is also conducive to appreciating the wonders and beauty of God's creation.

The final quote used at the beginning of this article is from a prayer offered at a Trophy Award dinner for bowhunters. That banquet honored those who killed the biggest and best animals. There is no way to tell from the article if enlarged pictures of the slaughtered animals sufficed to validate the claims of the winners, or if the actual "trophies"--the heads of those who had been killed--had to be on display.

The minister who offered the benediction at this awards dinner is also the founder--"by the Grace of God"--of Christian Bowhunters of America (CBA). This organization ran a display ad in New Man magazine to solicit Christian men for membership. Its logo features a large arrowhead, on the way to its target. And at the tip of the arrow the cross of Jesus Christ is imprinted. Next to the logo are the words "Exalting Christ as Creator!" (Of course, "Exalting Christ as Destroyer!" would be a more accurate description.)

Last year, the PROMISE KEEPERS organization, which founded New Man magazine, attracted 700,000 men to the 13 conferences they sponsored. The organization claims these men as part of a great spiritual awakening that is taking place among males. And these awakened men are determined to provide religious/spiritual leadership within their families, as well as in the world outside their homes.

But what kind of leadership can be provided by men who believe that walking through God's creation, armed with lethal weapons, hoping--and praying--they will be able to kill an animal, has divine approbation?

It is not that New Man is unaware of the damage caused by repeated exposure to violence. An article published in their April 1996 issue deals with the terrible toll that violence takes on society. Written by Isamu Yamamoto, this article relies heavily on research done by Ted Baehr who founded the Christian Film and Television Commission about 10 years ago. Among the conclusions provided by the data is the fact that "the visual bombardment of seeing both real and unreal violence has calloused our sensitivity."

Baehr's research also showed that exposure to violence affects Christian's on three levels: the psychological, the cognitive, and the spiritual. The article goes on to report that "kids are extremely vulnerable to the violence that they see." Even more ominous is the conclusion that "on a spiritual level, images of violence can act almost as a possession over our minds."

These findings were printed in the same magazine that validates the claim that killing animals is a fit activity for born-again Christians. That it is a means of communing with the God of creation and a way of spending "quality time" with children. That it provides an opportunity for male bonding that can contribute to spiritual growth.

This acceptance of killing, as a pastime, is even more detrimental to Christians than the violence portrayed by the media. At least neither the movies nor television claims that its violence and mayhem is God-blessed or conducive to spiritual development. However, groups like the PROMISE KEEPERS and publications like New Man are perverting both the minds and hearts of those who look to them for leadership when they support recreational killing as an acceptable Christian pastime.

They may believe that a Great Awakening is taking place among the men of this nation, but Jesus Christ had something to say about gaining converts who are taught to live a lie. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." (Matthew 23:15 )

Reprinted from the Sept/Oct 1996 issue of Human Religion. Copyright 1996 by Viatoris Ministries.
 

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