By: Frank L. Hoffman
In the July - August 2001 edition of the The Courier, a publication of the Hudson North District (New York Annual Conference) of the United Methodist Church, there was an article entitled "Cats, Dogs and Grifters" by Maureen Dowd. The body of the article was the retelling of the story of the Whitehouse squirrels:
When Ronald Reagan was president, he used to bring walnuts back from Camp David and feed them to the squirrels in the Rose Garden.
He'd keep the walnuts in the bottom drawer of his desk, and in quiet times between meetings he'd open the patio doors and roll the nuts out onto the colonnade, and legions of squirrels would come jumping up.
This part of the story expresses a sensitivity and compassion for God's creatures, even if it didn't extend to President Reagan's plate. This story also should have conveyed a very positive message to the other nations of the world, that the President, and the most powerful nation in the world, could be gentle and compassionate and eliminate the fears of aggression. His actions were those of a peacemaker.
But then things changed:
Then President George Bush Sr. took over. He opened the patio doors. The squirrels scampered up as usual. But instead of lunch, they found themselves looking into the jaws of the spaniel Millie, who bounded out to hunt down some fat and complacent quarry.
The squirrels, as Mr. Bush liked to brag, "were history".
I believe that the message of this story is that neither the squirrels nor the other nations of the world could trust George Bush or the United States, for he and our country could now act treacherously and even joke about it.
From my understanding of cats and dogs, their natures most often reflect the nature of the family with whom they live. For a dog like Millie to desire to hunt and kill, she had to have been taught. Even if she showed such tendencies, Mr. Bush could have prevented such actions; instead, he encouraged them. He desired to exhibit the violent role model.
The real tragedy of this story is its reprinting in a United Methodist publication with the following comment:
The moral: Transitions are a time of danger and opportunity.
This article presented treachery and violence as being a good thing. It seems to want us to laugh at the "silliness" of President Reagan's acts of compassion, and emulate the "macho" and violent actions of President Bush and Millie. What a sad commentary on the people who are supposed to be representatives of the Prince of Peace! And if this article is intended to help pastors entering a new church, as I'm afraid it is, its message is even worse, for it says that we can treat the new parishioners as President Bush and Millie treated the squirrels.
Where are the meek and gentle and merciful and peacemaking Christians who mourn over the suffering of this world, the people that Jesus told us to be in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10)? They are not in this United Methodist presentation.
This article, and the United Methodist Church through its publication of it, are sanitizing violence in our society and making it seem like it's a good thing. I believe it was just these kinds of things that prompted Jeremiah to write (9:3-6):
"And they bend their tongue like their bow;
Lies and not truth prevail in the land;
They proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me," declares the Lord.
"Let everyone be on guard against their neighbor,
And do not trust any brother;
Because every brother deals craftily,
And every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
"And everyone deceives his neighbor,
And does not speak the truth,
They have taught their tongues to speak lies:
They weary themselves committing iniquity.
"Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit;
Through deceit they refuse to know Me," declares the Lord.
It is time for us to repent of our evil ways. It is time for us to stop shooting ourselves in the foot by sanitizing violence in our society. It is time for us to become the peacemakers, the sons and daughters of God, for whom the whole of creation eagerly awaits (Romans 8:19).