On Prey and Predators: Lessons for Visionary Religion Practitioners

I send you out as sheep among wolves;

Therefore, be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Matthew 10:16

Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by predation. That might’ve been due to movies and TV shows glorifying big cats, eagles,wolves, sharks and gators, while emphasizing that we were lucky we didn’t have to compete with them anymore, since we no longer lived in caves as hunters and gatherers.  As you know, being a hunter and gatherer exposes one to the risk of being – yes — hunted and gathered.

The Darwinian scenes from nature documentaries rather collided with the religious concept that all of this would someday be a thing of the past, with the lion lying down with the lamb in Christian depictions of paradise.  Lying somewhere between the lions on the hunt in the pages of National Geographic and the Christian Peaceable Kingdom, was the reality depicted in photographs of lions playing within striking distance of wildebeests and other herbivores, all peaceably sharing the water hole.

Things began falling into place as I learned about ecological balance, that dictates that predators prey upon the more vulnerable specimens – the newborn, the sick, and the feeble.  Thus, predators eliminate weak younglings, keep the herd free of disease, and eliminate the old.  The very beauty of the herd can be traced to the pruning imposed by the predators.  As Farley Mowat wrote, quoting an Eskimo hunter – due to millions of years of predation by wolves, the wolves and caribou have become one animal.

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