When your hollow bullet causes a prairie dog to explode on impact, that’s called a tap. The real prize, however, is a double tap. That’s when your single bullet kills both a mother and one of her babies. While watching Youtube videos of hunters gunning down these ground squirrels you’ll hear giddy men get schoolgirl fanatical when they score one of these exalted goals.
The recurring sentiment that ‘people kill people, not guns’ is one of the most treacherous and plainly false arguments being pushed by the NRA and its devoted legion. The connection between stricter gun control policies and low murder rates has been shown again and again. Yet facts have no place on the Right, where a large, strange contingent of men keep fierce allegiance to the cult of the gun: Christian hunters.
Christian hunting organizations—there are many, including Christian Deer Hunters, Christian Bowhunters and Christian Hunters and Anglers—use select biblical quotes to justify their hobby, often claiming that it is part of man’s earthly duty to fell any creature that cannot withstand the puncture of a Bushmaster. The divine dominion man has been granted here is, of course, arrogant: only a man would write that man is the creature whom god has chosen as his favorite. Yet when the fatal consequences of such a mindset result in mass shootings and domestic violence, the Christian Right throws up a smokescreen of invented liberal moral failings and supposed attacks on our ‘freedom.’
Having the highest murder rate by use of firearms in the developed world isn’t simply a moral failing, nor does it have anything to do with freedom. It’s the result of a wealthy gun lobby and its deranged troops that uses scripture to justify the fact that they like to kill things. And in America, we like to kill things: 80% of gun deaths in the most developed 23 countries occur here, as well as 87% of all kid deaths.
Equally important to the pockets of the gun lobby is the psychology behind hunting, which traces back at least 50,000 years to the Upper Paleolithic era. Throughout our history, human and animal sacrifice were intertwined. Killing humans to appease the gods—for bountiful harvest, victory in war, better weather conditions, and to fend off offensive spiritual beliefs—was truly a global phenomenon. The Bible, one of the most violent books ever written undercover of being a religious text, champions the ultimate human sacrifice. This archaic psychology lingers today in American hunting culture.
Still, with the thwarted sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, ritualistic slaughtering of humans began to subside. A new civilized culture was born, our bloodthirsty aggression transferred to animals. The pro-hunting argument in favor of animal protein does not explain the inordinate amounts of flesh we consume today. As Colin Tudge has shown, hunting-gathering societies relied on women picking berries and nuts, and growing plants, for the tribes’ major calorie source; animal kills occurred on average once a month. Yet now we eat more meat than ever: the world’s annual supply jumped from 71 million tons in 1961 to 284 million in 2007.
On average, Americans slaughter 10 billion animals a year for consumption. The idea that hunting is a necessary component of our food supply is simply a myth. Yet how do we convince a culture, some of whom deny that evolution exists and champion the notion that the earth is 6,000 years old, that such practices need to be abolished in the way that human sacrifices were? We can’t even commit to compassion over losing those we kill in war; as Chris Hedges wrote in War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning,
While we venerate and mourn our own dead we are curiously indifferent about those we kill.
The idea that animals would be venerated is impossible in a culture that cheers the idea of blowing up entire Middle Eastern countries.
That hunting psychology fosters a culture of firearms should not be a surprise, nor should it be shocking that lax gun regulations promote mass murders. Yes, the shooter in Newton was mentally unstable, yet he was raised in a fringe survivalist household stockpiling firearms for an imagined forthcoming social (and religious) revolution in which the righteous would finally experienced Rapture. Because of this deranged religious zealotry, innocent children and teachers were murdered.
It’s hard to take a group of Christian bowhunters asking its members to ‘please prayerfully consider how God would lead you to financially support our many programs’ seriously—again, notice the illogical leap that wraps financial stability, divinity and hunting together. But we can’t overlook their disturbing sincerity. Christian hunting is a bastardization of an outdated religious text, and does not reflect the social, psychological, ethical or even nutritional needs of modern America.
As Marvin Harris wrote in Cannibals and Kings regarding animal sacrifice,
Cases in which production systems have changed to conform to the requirements of changed religious systems regardless of cost/benefit considerations either do not exist or are extremely rare.
In a country where meat is subsidized to be sold as cheaply as possible, an ethical culture that understands value in the totality of life is unfeasible. The religious hunting mindset will continue to translate as human sacrifice, whatever the neurochemical imbalance. Hunting for sustenance is one thing, unnecessary as it is for human nourishment. Killing for sport—laughing aloud when you ‘tap’ a defenseless animal—is a twisted remnant of an antiquated psychology we’ve kept alive through repetition and bloodthirst, and has nothing to do with being religious. If anything, it keeps us trapped in the perverse cult of sacrifice as valuable (and dangerous) to us today as the fraying book it worships worthy of the dustbin of history.
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