In a spare moment yesterday, I decided to clear my computer of all the garbage it had accumulated since I last did a cleanup. In doing so I found the above screenshot of Christian hunter Steve Scott, a man who regards The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as an “enemy.”
But then disaster struck. My old iMac gave up the ghost, and I lost all my data, including Debakcsy’s excellent unpublished piece and the image. But, a friend, an IT expert, recently managed to retrieve all my old files and export them to a new computer. I was so delighted that I decided that A Murder for All Seasons: The Odd Intersection of Blood Sports and Christianity was well worth publishing, albeit a little late.
But first, read what Scott wrote about the HSUS:
Through clever fundraising campaigns that capitalize on the misrepresentation of their very name and using that money to buy votes on Capitol Hill, the Humane Society of the United States is lobbying right now to strip us of our rights and our heritage.
Wayne Pacelle and his followers want to impose their emotion-driven values on the rest of us, replacing our beef with tofu, taking our guns, and abandoning the North American Conservation Model with a doomed-to-fail laize-faire approach to wildlife. Simply put, the HSUS seeks to ban hunting.
A Murder for All Seasons, by Dale Debakcsy
Just when you think that American Christianity can’t be any less self-aware, along comes a movement of such brilliant and crass vapidity as to make all the vile evangelic excesses that came before seem somehow reasonable and under-stated.
The new trend here is a vigorous application of Christian principles to a spirited defense of hunting. Between the gore-soaked ramblings of the Duck Commander, Phil Robertson, and a steady flow of gun sport devotionals, we are told to believe that the wholesale murder of innocent creatures by massively over-equipped and under-contemplative white people is precisely what Jesus always had in mind for the human race.
And perhaps these writers are correct, as their works throw more light on the twisted psychology of Christianity than the more PR-minded works of traditional theology. All of the sweaty-palmed fetishism of religious practice, the idolatry of blood and suffering, are writ with unabashed pride by these authors too far lost to their death-and-Jesus kink to dissimulate.
I spent some time that I’ll never get back ploughing through the NINETY CHAPTERS of Steve Scott’s Faith Afield: A Sportsman’s Devotional recently. Structurally, it’s a hard book to take. Each of those chapters has the exact same build — take an object related to hunting, explain it in a couple of paragraphs, and then spend the next three paragraphs trying to justify how Christian Living Is Like That Thing.
Chapter 68, for example, starts off talking about scent-eliminating products and how they affect your need to be aware of the direction of the wind, before lunging desperately at a segue with, “I believe we Christians sometimes forget the wind in our lives too. The Holy Spirit is described as ‘wind’ in the New Testament…”
Each chapter is therefore a game of Six Degrees, where you start off with a bit of hunting vocabulary and have to leapfrog it through obliquely selected bits of scripture to a standard message about Christian Life. The sheer devotion with which Scott sticks to this construct through ninety almost identical iterations is phenomenal but not surprising for a book that takes George W Bush’s Stay the Course as its inspirational leitmotif.
Yes, it’s tedious. Yes, it has nothing to say in its Life Advice that hasn’t been said in tens of thousands of other pot-boiler devotionals on the shelves. But that’s not why we’re reading it. We’re reading it to see how a man convinces himself that he has the right to take the life of something that never did him any harm.
Scott slips up every so often, and lets some tantalizing bits of psychology through which have as much to say about the Christian mindset as about the hunter’s doublethink-mortared lifestyle. The best comes in a masochistically-fraught passage detailing the rules of the chase.
After a fantastically dishonest section detailing the high ethics of hunting practice (“There are no fences, no unfair advantages, and no guarantees — just passion and pursuit”) he moves on to the real story:
Our god is a god of fair chase. He views us as a trophy worthy of pursuit. He is passionate about his hunt, and our love, affection, and obedience are his most prized trophy…. God is relentless in his pursuit of us.
Amazing, isn’t it? Here, Scott is turning his tawdry need to destroy life into something holy by simultaneously playing the role both of hunter and prey, exhilarating in the notion that he is being stalked by God just as he stalks the deer, which of course means that, just as he wants to be captured by God, so does the deer really want to be taken by him.
It is a grand moment of imaginative sado-masochism in which a man, in a single moment, gets to experience the thrill of killing and surrendering. That’s potent stuff, and it’s understandable that it becomes addictive to the point of over-riding all other evaluative processes.
Take for example the few parts in this book where Scott honestly attempts to grapple with the horror of what he is doing. It’s a classic moment of Scripturing taking the place of Thinking at precisely the moment where Thinking might fail to give you the result you want:
All sportsmen must grapple with the issue of killing. Without killing there is no authentic hunting. How is it that we can love wildlife yet be able to pull the trigger or loose the arrow knowing that a life will be taken? There is no easy answer, and the role of hunting is not for everyone.
This is precisely the point where a normal person would review arguments, perhaps wonder a bit about where the right to kill comes from, or question how it is that what one wants to do lines up so well with what is celestially allowed.
Scott will have none of that. His very next step is, “The killing of animals is found throughout the Bible,” and that’s it. The Bible says it’s fine, so Scott’s moral responsibility is done. In an earlier chapter, he sums it up even more crassly:
I hunt because it is a privilege. It is a right (see Gen. 9:3). It is a blessing.
And that’s not even the most blatant summation of his position. It’s actually down-right responsible when put next to this gleaming declaration of moral self-absolution:
God has instilled in the heart of many people … the desire to match wits with some of his finest creatures. If we do not pursue what God has wired us to do, we do him a dishonor.
This is what Christianity in America has come to — the idea that, if you really want to do something, then you have the right to do it. Otherwise, you’d be dishonoring God, obviously! You want to murder those beavers that have never done you a lick of harm? Great! Have at it — never doubt for a moment that every twisted whim you can conjure from the depths of your sadistic God complex fantasies shouldn’t be acted upon, and constantly. Because constant self-gratification is what Jesus is all about.
We should be thankful that these books exist, really. More self-aware authors might realize that advocating against “unfair advantages” on one page and then going on to describe one’s collection of electronic fish finders, hunting cameras, precision engineered weapons, genetically engineered hunting companions, industrial-grade camouflage, fine honed optics, and extensive array of decoys and scent traps is grossly and grotesquely hypocritical, and avoid putting it in their books, thus depriving the rest of us of that insight into how deeply Christians will allow themselves all manner of luxurious self-indulgence so long as they can gloss it with a baldly disingenuous statement of principle later.
More psychologically informed authors might not want to draw quite so close a connection between their fantasies of being pursued by God and their actions on the hunting fields, but that rich sexual imagery is perhaps the closest the rest of us are ever going to get to the truth of day-to-day religious fervor.
A man with an eye towards public relations might not be quite so blatant about drawing parallels between the need to get kids to hunt early and the need to get them hearing about Jesus early, thereby revealing the latter as every bit as much a process of violent desensitization as the former.
But Scott, rather than avoiding the unfavorable comparison between numbing a child to death and eroding their soul by the notion of sin, proudly proclaims his role in establishing a combination hunting/preaching youth camp with the express aim of hitting kids from both directions before they can build up any defenses against his righteous onslaught.
Debakcsy’s horror of killing for fun is shared by Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta:
• Dale DeBakcsy (aka Count Dolby von Luckner) is the writer of the biweekly column Women In Science at Women You Should Know, and has been a regular contributor to The Freethinker, American Atheist Magazine, and The Humanist, and was the artist and writer behind the atheist webcomic The Vocate and the historical webcomic Frederick the Great: A Most Lamentable Comedy Breaching Space and Time.