Monday, January 14, 2013

A Covenant with Kol Basar

A View Looking Out from the Front of "Bill's Cabin" Near Hordville, NE
"Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” -Acts 14:17 

This last weekend I went deer hunting with my friend Dirk Grenemeier for a second year in a row. Last year Dirk and I were out for 2.5 days, despite not seeing any deer until leaving the property: It was good to be out again on the property that was previously owned by Dirk's late father-in-law and best friend Bill Morse and mother-in-law Ann. Dirk and his wife Debbie now own the cabin. It was good to be in God's creation, to hear stories about Bill and to think about him as well. Well, on Friday, I got my first doe; she came up over the hill, along with five others, and I whispered "Dirk! Dirk! Look Deer!" Dirk said, "Shoot, Mike." I aimed, got one of the does in my sight and whispered again to Dirk, "I'm going to shoot Dirk!" He said, "Shoot, Mike." I said, "I'm going to shoot!" Dirk said, "Shoot, Mike!" I squeezed the trigger and the doe fell immediately. Dirk lined up to shoot again in case one shot had proved inadequate, so I plugged my ears with my fingers (we were in a tent and our rifles were loud), but upon seeing the doe wasn't moving, Dirk pulled up his gun. We went to "dress" the doe and Dirk asked me if I wanted to do any of it, and I said "no, you go ahead." I took a few moments to gather myself and to take everything in and then helped some with holding the doe's hind legs as Dirk "dressed" her. On Saturday, along with Dirk's son Grahm and nephew Will, we drove up to Clarks, NE and had the doe processed.

What have been my reflections on the event? Well the moment of shooting a deer was this for me: sacred. It's amazing to me how many people (including close family members) are a bit turned off that I would shoot a deer, but at the same time have no qualms with eating meat. Regarding objections to hunting, I'm most willing to engage my vegetarian friends who have the benefit of consistency going for them; I myself am eating more veggies these days: But I continue to see animals as provided for the human race, in part, to eat. But the sacred moment was in this: I have eaten hamburgers my entire life. Most of my life unfortunately, I have barely given a second thought to how food makes its way to my plate. When you take the life of an animal, you realize that a significant and substantial sacrifice has been made on the part of the animal. The creature who had life coursing through her veins one moment is now felled the next, because I pulled the trigger. I thought about the sacred moment of taking the creature's life for food so that I might have a source of nourishment and sustenance, that in essence that doe gave up her life that I might continue on being strengthened and sustained in mine. It made me all the more committed to eating as little industrial meat as possible, for a doe out in the Nebraska wilderness is given a kind of life of decency that a cow on the feedlot is not.

I just completed a 60-page fall project for my doctoral work. The title of the project was "Loyalty and Affection for a People and Place." I wrote about the thought of Wendell Berry and his love for God's created order, and also I interviewed eight pastor friends of mine who had served a combined total of 158 years in pastoral ministry between them. In one of the closing sections in the project called "Final Implications," I began by quoting from Duke Divinity School professor Ellen F. Davis:

"From a Biblical perspective, the covenant is not purely a two-way relationship between human beings and God. The covenant is a three-way relationship, . . . thinking about the aftermath of the flood story in Genesis when God makes a covenant with kol basar, 'all flesh,' . . . all of the nonhuman creatures. . . ."

And I commented in my paper:

"How do Christians need to think more intentionally about the larger context out of which their lives and ministries transpire? Will we continue to deplore 'worldly goods' all the while enjoying their fruits that sustain us and uphold us in order to thrive and flourish? Our 'spiritual' work is ever-so-dependent upon the material sustenance that the world and its nonhuman creatures provide, whether thinking of the goodness of sunlight, soil and water coming together to produce crops for food or nonhuman creatures providing love in the form of pets, food in the sacrifice of their lives or replenishment for the soil in the form of microbes. Such nonhuman creatures may inhabit the soil or the linings of our intestines in the form of probiotics promoting human health; either way, our lives are ever-so-dependent on the nonhuman part of creation. On this point, Christians need to have a deeper connection to 'the soil.'”

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