A Tale of Two Scandals: How Cecil and Planned Parenthood are Really Related

Over the course of the past week, a pro-life agency has released four separate videos exposing members of Planned Parenthood engaged in selling the organs of aborted babies. While much of the public responded with horror, some defenders of the organization doggedly insist that nothing reprehensible has occurred.

Just two days ago, a dentist from Minnesota hunted and killed an African lion named Cecil, quickly igniting an uproar that has led to numerous death threats against the hunter, one James Palmer.

Whenever multiple scandals occur within a brief time period, the human tendency is to find and exploit any perceived connections. Sure enough, several writers have already asked: Why, when so many people hardly bat an eyelash at the killing of millions of unborn babies, is everybody so outraged by the death of one lion?

From many commenters, the response has been: Does one have to preclude the other?

Full disclosure before I go any further: I am pro-life. But I’ll address that later.

Among evangelicals, it’s generally not cool to be too sentimental about animals. Or the environment, really. If you’re a man who hunts…RAWR! You are a manly man, just like the Bible says you should be. If, conversely, you have reservations about killing for sport…well, you’re probably (a) married and (b) whipped. In many Christian circles, you just don’t question this.

Well…(deep breath)…I do.

When I read the Bible, I see plenty of evidence that God loves and cares for every part of His creation, and that everything He made reflects some aspect of His glory. Jesus tells his listeners in Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” The psalmist tells us, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6, emphasis mine). Most tellingly, when Isaiah, proclaiming the message God has revealed to him, describes the “Peaceable Kingdom,” he says:

…the wolf will dwell with the lamb,

And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,

And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together…

They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,

For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

As the waters cover the sea.

(Isaiah 11:6,9)

In other words, this kingdom — arguably the ideal state of existence — is characterized by peace among both people and animals; there is no fear of being killed or hunted.

Enough to build a watertight biblical case against hunting? I won’t attempt it here…but I submit to you that, at the very least, it’s possible to be a Christian and question the concept of recreational hunting.

Still, even if we agree to frown upon hunting, shouldn’t the actions of Planned Parenthood anger us so much that we don’t even cast a glance at James Palmer? This is where I agree with those who declare that concern over one issue doesn’t necessarily preclude concern over the other. If we worried only about the “big things”…well, we would never get anywhere. Why promote literacy, for instance, when people in the world are starving? Why clean my bathroom when other people are homeless? Why….?…well, you get the idea. It’s okay to care about more than one thing, and we can’t put off everything else until we’ve saved the world.

Are we to conclude, then, that the two issues are entirely unrelated except by an accident of chronology?

Almost.

The vitriol directed towards Palmer makes one thing very clear: many, many people believe that hunting is wrong. It’s not a question of taste, or a matter of, “Well, I’m glad you enjoy hunting, but I just don’t have the stomach for it.” No: the masses venting their fury upon hearing of this man’s heartlessness feel passionately that he did, in fact, do something wrong.

Of the arguments I hear from pro-choice advocates, the most frustrating is: “Fine, you don’t believe in abortion, but what makes you think you can tell me not to have one?” In other words: morals are subjective, and what’s wrong for you may be acceptable for me. This popular belief is examined in a recent New York Times article revealing that college freshmen (among others) “view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.” 

That cherished belief is, apparently, itself subjective. The truth is, even the most relativistic thinkers have a sense that certain actions are unequivocally unconscionable. The random killing, for example, of a beautiful and endangered lion in Zimbabwe.

If you had questioned James Palmer about his enthusiasm for hunting before he killed Cecil, he would most likely have said, “Fine, you don’t believe in recreational hunting, but what makes you think you can tell me not to shoot a defenseless lion?”

I oppose the taking of innocent life. Not because it makes me uncomfortable, or because my very personal and not-applicable-to-you belief system tells me I shouldn’t do it. I oppose abortion because it means a beautiful, defenseless creature is being snuffed out of existence. No amount of religious and philosophical pluralism should ever make us okay with that.

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