We were walking along Parkside, Odo the Beagle and me, when all of a sudden he dove into a front lawn and baby bunnies went running everywhere. Except for the one in his month. It made a terrible tiny squeak.
Meanwhile, I was still trying to figure out what was happening. Were these tiny things mice? Prairie dogs? Rats? Meanwhile, Odo did his damage to the tiny rabbit and dropped it on the lawn, eyes still open, its back legs running and running until they ran down like a wind-up toy, blood oozing around its mouth. I dragged the dog down the sidewalk before he got any ideas about second breakfasts. I had no more plastic bags with me, so I guiltily left the little corpse on the lawn for the owners to discover later. (Adam picked it up on the afternoon walk.)
It was 6:30 a.m. This was not the morning walk I was expecting.
My lovely dog is a killer. This is at least the sixth rabbit we’ve seen him kill since we got him.
I’m not sure I could ever kill anything bigger than a fly – I don’t even kill spiders. I am physically unable to watch “Game of Thrones” with Adam, who loves it, as do two of my most devoted church leaders.
And yet, we live in a world where killing is pretty normal. Animals kill each other for no reason. (Odo had been fed; he wasn’t hungry but couldn’t help himself.) Most of us don’t kill animals ourselves but most of us eat meat – we’re part of a violent slaughtering system that produces it for our consumption. People have killed animals on a regular, hands-on basis, for most of human history. My great-grandmother killed chickens with her own hands to make dinner. In high school, I watched my camp counselor break the neck of a rabbit named “Scratchy” for us to cook over a campfire and eat for our dinner that night.
And people kill one another more than we care to think about: domestic violence, war, crime, greed, sick desire.
I hate being faced with this. I believe in a God who desires nonviolence and grace for human beings. I believe violence is utterly destructive and sinful. But Heidi, if God desired nonviolence, why do animals kill each other so cruelly and needlessly? Why do people love violent movies? (Although admittedly, in real life, most of us would probably refuse to kill our own dinner.) Why does God destroy whole cities for greed and unfaithfulness in the Old Testament?
The early Christians Fathers would say that all animals were vegetarians before human beings messed everything up (i.e., Eve ate the apple). That’s when all Creation was ruined and creatures started killing and eating each other for meat. Some creationists I’ve read online believe this as well. I’m not sure this theology totally works for me but it’s interesting. (I’m not a creationist, and I read Adam & Eve as I read all creation narratives – as very important and full of truth, but not as literal. I could even include the Big Bang in that category, which is also pretty violent – just saying.)
Anyway, I want violence to be abnormal, strange, and perverse, but my own dog seems to be rubbing in my face that this isn’t exactly true.
People I care about and respect play violent video games and watch movies and TV shows with explicit violence, including my own husband. People who I know are intelligent and caring watch and enjoy football. We eat meat and even though we like to deny it, we know where it comes from. Old fairy tales were much more violent than Disney makes them out to be. And of course, the center of my religious life is God as a man nailed to a cross.
I have no answers here. I simply observe that violence seems to be a part of our natural and psychological life, but also that it destroys and traumatizes. My dog is a killer, and also my friend.
“I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” (Mt. 10:34)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Mt. 5:9)