Wolves: God’s Perfect Mistake?

The bumper sticker on the truck tailgate reads “Smoke a Pack a Day” with wolves in silhouette with an overlay of scope crosshairs. To the left of this disgusting affirmation of violence is a the ubiquitous Jesus fish emblem. I stood and ponder this display of opposing paradigms illustrated upon the same canvas. One decal promoting ignorance, fear, and intolerance, and the other representing acts of kindness and humility. How on Earth can someone obviously and wholeheartedly believe in the Christian God, and yet hate with such vehemence one of His creations?

Living in the ultra-conservative Bitterroot Valley, I am located smack-dab in the middle of anti-wolf, anti-environmental views and politics. The valley is teeming with more amateur wildlife biologists than wolves. Hardly a week goes by without overhearing some middle-aged man declaring the wolves are destroying “our wild game”, and the “guberment” biologists are nothing more than a bunch of lying and conniving leftist, Pinko, eco-terrorist communists. With each can of Bud Light, the hatred of the wolf burns hotter and the flames of their rampant paranoia grow ever higher. These people do not comprehend, or even have the desire to understand, the basics of game management, ecology, and how the wolf fits into the ecosystem. They compound this ignorance with fearing that which they do not understand. The wolves are painted as a greater evil than the Devil himself. A creature of no redeeming qualities whatsoever, a wanton killer and destroyer of Way of the West (as if the West of their imaginations ever truly existed), which is interpreted as outright, total human domination of the landscape. The wolf, this creation of God is wreaking havoc on God’s perfect creation…uh wait, hold on there!

Stated belief, either real or professed, in the Abrahamic God is nearly synonymous  with the right-wing brand of politics that pervades within the anti-wolf community. These God-fearing folks believe that their deity created the Earth in seven literal days, and when God saw his Creation he declared it to be “good”. Everything He created was deemed good in His own deified eyes. The forests were “good”. The elk were “good”. The wolves were “good”. This begs the question, if God declared all aspects of His creation “good”, then isn’t it incumbent upon all Christians, including those with anti-wolf views, to believe that all of Creation is good as well?

How did the Christians of the North America stray so far from the Creation?

It seems to me that one cannot love God and not also adore the entirety of His creation, including the wolf? To my limited understanding of Christian theology, isn’t God and Nature, one and the same? It seems that to profess to love the biblical teachings must necessarily dictate that one love the creation of the Creator? Perhaps I’m missing something?

The right-wing’s hatred of all things natural started in earnest with Lewis Powell’s memo to the US Chamber of Commerce in 1971. Powell framed the environmental movement and other “leftist” causes into a vast, Communist, anti-business conspiracy (a sentiment that has lasted until this very day). His demented notions have gone on to influence a generation of Dittoheads, of whom do very little in the way fact checking and self-exploration  (introspection, perhaps another leftist plot). The Powell Memo marked a separation of the new right-wing from the Nixon arm of the Republican Party (the ill-on-many-fronts man who enacted the Endangered Species Act and the Environmental Protection Agency to his credit). The new call to battle was against anything that smacked of preservation, conservation, or (gasp) sustainability, and with the emergence of Ronald Reagan, all aspects of the environmentally conservative thought from the Republican Party were rendered mute. For the past 30 years, the conservative movement has consistently bullied the debate by deploying a rhetorical apparatus consisting of equal parts malevolence, self-interest, and fear that creates a worldview the devalues an intact environment in favor of ancient hatreds, corporate profits, and, most unfortunately, the manipulated emotions of the people of the western United States.

The conservative right-wing politicians perpetually wrap themselves in the simultaneous flags of country and the Creator. However, why do they conveniently forget the fine example of Christian compassion in Saint Francis of Assisi? St. Francis defended the lone wolf of Gubbio (in present day Italy), a wolf who had preyed upon multiple head of livestock in the area. The townspeople were up in arms and sought to destroy the wolf for its “sins” against humanity. Francis encouraged the folks of the region to show the wolf compassion as the livestock were its only option as all wild game had been killed by the humans or pushed out by large-scale habitat alteration. “If God can work through me, he can work through anyone”, as Saint Francis stated. He saw his compassion as the Lord’s work. If sparing a wolf’s life is the Lord’s work, then what does the indiscriminate killing of God’s Creation classify as?

Now I know that certain Christians will and have cherry picked from the life and teachings of Saint Francis, but to be intellectually honest you need to accept all of his teachings or reject all of them. No more using his works for the pro-family agenda or the promotion of dutiful obedience to your Savior, at the exception of his environmental message.

How does the right-wing Christian movement live with itself on environmental matters?

The Christian Rights persuasive ideological discrepancy is easy to rectify when you consider the merging of the dishonest, morally bankrupt evangelical leadership coupled with the true power broker, the corporatist right. Misinterpretation of Biblical Christian teachings were truly cemented in stone when Jerry Falwell equated the environmental movement with “Satan’s attempt to redirect the church’s primary focus” away from evangelism and religious faith. This misguided, purchased sentiment has painted the vast majority of Christian thought in the United States for the past three decades.

As the country slides further towards ignorance and apathy, the simple notions of cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, good guys and bad guys ferment within the social discourse like a big turds in the punchbowl. People hate the wolf because they’re  “supposed to”, while others love the creature without consideration to the human or livestock costs. If I am to have compassion for the wolf, I also need to have compassion for the rancher in the same overwhelming fashion. I do not need to pick sides, I can love everyone. In fact, it is my duty to do so, as to solve the issue of wolf predation in the West we need to understand, listen, and empathize with all sentient beings.

Written by Radd Icenoggle

I am a native Montanan, who has spent a lifetime as an outdoors and wildlife enthusiast. I earned a degree in biology with an emphasis on habitat relations. During my studies, I had the great fortune to research and compose a thesis that explored the effects of slope aspect on...
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