Last night, I watched two films – Jesus Camp, which made me want to justify my faith and explain away fundamentalist insanity to the two friends who watched it with me, and Planet Earth, the first episode. Both films got me thinking about why I react so strongly to things that seem wrong somehow.

Take, for example, the part of Jesus Camp where the kids are berated for all their evil thoughts and where they start to cry, sob really, at their own “wickedness.” Now, I know – as everyone does – that kids can be pretty awful (no more so than adults, of course). They can be mean and cruel and heartless to one another. But really, who is being “wicked” here – kids who want to fit in, as we all do, but don’t know how to cope with the emotions surrounding that OR the adults who are making kids feel worthless and scared? I feel like this is an easy answer. Something is not right about this picture. (Note, I understand the fervor behind fundamentalism – I really do. In a fit of zeal at age 12 I broke – with my little fingers – every non-Christian tape I had in my music collection, including DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s Parents Just Don’t Understand. I do know this fever of passion for God, but don’t think I don’t regret breaking those tapes or berating someone because they weren’t godly enough.)

I guess the thing that got me really worked up about this film was that these people seem to have forgotten some central tenets of Christianity – 1. Love people. Yes, sometimes love requires admonition, but really does everyone need to be told what they’re doing wrong (and who determines what’s wrong?) every minute of the day. 2. We’re all broken failures in terms of this life thing. We all screw up and make terrible mistakes. And we have no room to judge.

As Matthew 7 says,

Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

(from The Message)

Ah, if we only all “lived our parts.” . . . .

So this stuff was on my mind when I put in Planet Earth. Now, I have always been the girl who cries when the horse falls down in the Western, even if the cowboy has just been shot with twenty arrows. I guess I just find it easier to feel the pain of animals than of humans sometimes.

In Planet Earth, I’m watching this gorgeous aerial footage of the great caribou migration (wow!), and then the music changes. I have watched enough natur-y programming (and horror movies) to know this is not a good sign – something’s on the hunt. Sure enough, here comes the wolves – big, gorgeous white ones running straight at the herd to disperse them. I force myself to keep my eyes open.

As I watch a baby caribou gets separated from the pack, and it runs and runs, staying just ahead of the wolf for what seem like miles and miles until, finally, the wolf catches it by the tail and slings it to the ground. By this time, I am sobbing.

You see, I know this is nature, that these creatures evolved to survive and there is a balance to all of this. But still, somehow this doesn’t seem right. Something in the core of myself knows that this is not the way the world is supposed to work. I know – I really do – that we are all – animals, humans – supposed to have everything we need without having to prey on one another. I know this to be true because the God I love would not create a world where perfection wasn’t the ideal. I know that God does not desire us to be feeding off of one another. Yet, we have chosen to make the world this way.

I don’t want to wax philosophical for too long here, but it does seem to me that one of the amazing things that I will see when perfection is restored is that Biblical image of the wolf and the lamb (or the caribou calf) laying down together. Perhaps they’ll let me snuggle up.

Until that day, I try to live into the way I believe God wants the world to work – where we love each other along the path and try not to hurt one another too badly in the process. It’s a daily struggle but one that I gladly take on, trying to remember to always wash my own face first.
– “Caribou Herd” from Oil On Ice