By now, unless you have been mercifully reposed in a remote area with no media access, you are aware that a child fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati zoo and in order to safeguard the child’s life the gorilla was killed. That was the right choice, made for the right reasons (as Jason Vaughn wrote here), but that is not what I want to talk about. What I think needs a little attention and biblical thought is the evangelical reaction to the story. I think it is high time we, as the Body of Christ, have an uncomfortable conversation about apes, abortion, and evangelical outrage.
If you are active on social media, and have interactions with many broadly evangelical people on social media, then you have no doubt seen various memes relating the death of a gorilla to abortion. For the most part these memes essentially say something along the lines of a gorilla gets killed and everyone goes crazy, but nobody cares about abortion. But the questions need to be asked, is that true, and if it is does that really tell us anything. Even if those answers are “yes” is there anything to be gained?
I have to say that from where I sit, the answer to the first question is a resounding NO! As for everyone going crazy, while there has been some limited coverage of outrage, as this story from the Washington Post illustrates, even in media outlets that have a decidedly secular humanist worldview, the coverage of the “outrage” has a decidedly “what is wrong with these people” bent. Despite living most of my adult life in and around the “People’s Republic of Boulder” and having many humanist, secularist, and dare I say hippy-ish “friends,” not one single “the gorilla was more important than the child” post showed up in either my Twitter or Facebook feeds. I simply haven’t seen any evidence that the country has “gone crazy” over the death of the gorilla.
Add to this that many care about abortion, and not only Christians. Virtually every poll taken in recent years shows that there is essentially a 50-50 split in the American public on the question of abortion. Year in and year out one of the largest protests that take place in Washington D.C. is the March for Life, with crowds often topping 500,000. Even in 2016 with a legitimate blizzard bearing down on the area, the crowd was massive. Clearly it is not true that “no one” cares about abortion.
Worse still, some of these memes take a decidedly antagonistic, even mocking turn. They are essentially extending a proverbial finger to the lost and shouting “heathens!” I am truly puzzled why any Christian would think it is a good idea to mock the lost. Unbelievers are described as being characterized by futility of mind and as having their understanding darkened (Eph 4:17-18) and slaves to sin (Rom 6:17, Rom 6:20), why would we mock them? Our hearts should break for them. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Paul’s point is clear, everyone enslaved to sin is destined for perdition, and every believer was just like them, and on the same road to ruin until God acted to save them (notice all of those passives, you were washed, sanctified and justified). Remembering who you were (and still would be) apart from Christ should result in sorrow for the lost, not in mocking of them.
Hear me clearly, every unborn child who is murdered through abortion is infinitely more valuable that every gorilla in the world put together. Yet that doesn’t mean that any sorrow over the destruction of the gorilla is inappropriate as long as abortion is tolerated in society. Scripture even says that the righteous man cares for the need of his animal (Prov 12:10), that you should exercise care for animals, even if they belong to your enemy (Exodus 23:5) and that care should be exercised in wildlife management (Deut 22:6). None of those principles are to be dismissed because the command not to murder (Exodus 20:13), is disregarded callously, flippantly, and frequently.
Believers know that, or at least they should, so what gives? Too many believers have exchanged a Kingdom mentality for a culture war mind set. Too many look on unbelievers and see “us and them” instead of “us apart from Him” and to be frank, it needs to stop.
When we express gleeful outrage that unbelievers see the world through spiritually darkened eyes we aren’t standing for the truth, we are rejoicing in evil. I have to say it is even worse when we manufacture things to be outraged about. I even read someone posit that expressing sorrow over the killing of a zoo animal is tantamount to human sacrifice. That is gleeful, hyperbolic outrage; that is an expression of anger meant to be enjoyed by the one who wrote it, and those who agree with him. It is rejoicing at (assumed) wrong doing. Yet as 1 Corinthians 13:6 says, love does not rejoice at wrong doing but rejoices in the truth; there is no place for this kind of gleeful outrage, which is nothing more than rejoicing over wrong doing, in the Christian life.
Just this morning I read this question posed by a Christian on social media, “How would the public react if a pregnant gorilla walked into an abortion clinic?” I have to say I honestly don’t care. I hope that the first responders would take whatever action necessary to preserve human life, even mass murderers, are image bearers and infinitely more valuable than any gorilla, even a pregnant one. I pray that whatever happened, my fellow believers would not use the event to celebrate the evil of the unredeemed.