Worse than Death
“Such a horrible idea has come into my head, Su.”I have always thought the notion that animals are outside of God’s grace and do not inherit eternal life was false. And I believe this notion to be false because I do not believe that God will permit anything human to perish. I have seen sparks of humanity in pets of my own and in the pets of others. There are too many Greyfriars’ Bobby stories not to conclude that animals are worthy of eternal life.
“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”
-- Prince Caspian
As a general rule, I don’t like nature specials. How many times can you look at a lion killing a wildebeest or crocodiles chomping on a baby hippo? But I recently saw some footage taken by an amateur photographer in South Africa called the “Battle at Kruger” that was actually uplifting. It’s one of YouTube’s most popular videos right now and is really quite extraordinary. It demonstrates, at least to me, that animals, though given less grace to work with than humans, can achieve a higher level of humanity than humans, such as the post-Christian whites of the Western world, who have turned away from God’s grace.
For those who haven’t seen the video, let me give a brief description. Two adult Cape Buffalo and a baby buffalo come near a lion’s pride, which is hiding by a water hole, waiting, no doubt, for something good to eat to come along. They get their wish. The Cape Buffalo run when they see the lions, but it is too late for the baby buffalo. The lions catch up to the baby at the water’s edge and accidentally knock it into the water. As they try to pull the baby out of the water to chomp on it, a pair of crocodiles come along and try to pull the baby back into the water. You can imagine what the baby buffalo must have been thinking: “If not for the honor of the thing, I’d just as soon not be the main prize in this tug of war!” The lions get the baby away from the crocodiles and start to do what lions do with their prey. But then the extraordinary thing occurs. The Cape Buffalo are back! And they have come back en masse. The rather large pride of lions find themselves facing an even larger herd of angry Cape Buffalo. The buffalo disperse the lions in no uncertain fashion, throwing one lion into the air, and rescue the baby buffalo, who is miraculously able to trundle on home with his victorious kinsmen. I’ve been told that this extraordinary sense of solicitude for their own is very typical of Cape Buffalo. Whenever the herd is threatened, they form a perimeter with the babies in the center, the females in the next circle around the babies, and the males in the outer circle around the babies and the females. What does this tell us? Well, it tells me that Cape Buffalo are decidedly more Christian and thus more worthy of salvation than the modern, white post-Christians.
Let us change the social structure of the Cape Buffalo to that of the post-Christian white people and see the results: The Cape Buffalo are living and thriving. They form their protective perimeters when threatened, and in between times, they earn their daily bread and enjoy God’s bounty. But one day two buffalo leave the herd and go off to college. At first the other buffalo are proud: “A Cape Buffalo has never gone to college before.” But the parents of the two collegiate buffalo are not pleased when Mabel Buffalo and Robert Buffalo come home on their Christmas break. They have some strange ideas. Robert, who is a divinity student, tells his parents and anyone else in the herd who will listen, that good, clean buffalo do not form perimeters when the tribe is threatened. They should let lions, hyenas, and jackals prey on the females and the children of the herd. They should do this, Mabel and Robert maintain, because love of the stranger, the outsider, is the first law of Christianity. Robert then proceeds to explain why narrow-minded Cape Buffalo exclusivity is the one sin God will never forgive. When Robert finishes his oration, Mabel sings a new hymn she learned at college. The hymn extols the beauties of the lion, the nobility of the hyenas, and deplores the evils of the Cape Buffalo.
Now at first, the Cape Buffalo laugh at Robert and Mabel. “There wouldn’t be any Cape Buffalo anymore if you had your way,” says old Silas Buffalo.
“Good,” Robert replies, “the world would be better off if there weren’t any Cape Buffalo.”
“But you’re a Cape Buffalo yourself,” sobs Robert’s mother.
“I don’t consider myself a Cape Buffalo anymore. I’m simply a reasoning, thinking animal. I belong to the universe and to the God of the universe, not to some specific tribe or herd.”
The Cape Buffalo, particularly Mabel and Robert’s parents, are relieved when Mabel and Robert go back to school. “Maybe they’ll grow out of it,” they say.
But of course Mabel and Robert don’t “grow out of it.” And Mabel and Robert’s ideas about the sin of exclusivity and the beauty and wonders of the stranger begin to spread throughout the herd. It becomes very hip among the younger Cape Buffalo to wear T-shirts with slogans like, “Have you hugged a lion today?” and “Stop the hate, Marry a jackal.”
Then one day we see the consequences of the new ‘love the stranger, hate your own’ philosophy. Two females and a baby buffalo stroll up to the water hole for a drink. A pride of lions are also near the water hole. The females, who see the lions, are slightly apprehensive. “Should we run?” asks one female.
“No,” says the other, “That would be an indication that we are bigoted, reactionary Cape Buffalo who do not love and trust the stranger.”
So the two females approach the water hole. The baby, who takes his cue from the adults, happily starts to drink from the water hole. The lions attack. The two female buffalo escape, but the baby is left in the clutches of the lions.
When the two females get back to the herd, the one who was slightly apprehensive (she still has some remnants of maternity in her bosom) says, “Please, won’t somebody help me rescue Oscar?”
The male Cape Buffalo – and there are hundreds of them – just yawn. “Don’t be a prejudiced, exclusivity-oriented Cape Buffalo,” they say. “The lions are not dangerous.”
“But they’ll eat Oscar.”
“What nonsense! They’ll just jostle him a little and let him go. You’re overreacting.”
“Besides, even if they do eat him, you must remember it is part of their culture.”
“Yes, that’s quite right; you can’t blame them for practicing their culture. Besides, when you consider all the terrible things Cape Buffalo have done to lions over the years, you can’t fault the lions for being angry.”
And on it goes. But one Cape Buffalo -- his name is Leonidas – steps out from the herd.
“I intend to rescue Oscar or die in the attempt.”
“You can’t do that! No one will follow you,” says a limp-hoofed Cape Buffalo named Irving.
“I will fight whether others follow or not.”
And Leonidas goes off to fight. Two other Cape Buffalo, whose names have been lost to posterity, go with him. Leonidas and the noble two attack the lion pride and free Oscar. But in the battle with the lions, the other Cape Buffalo, the liberal, ‘enlightened’ buffalo, stab Leonidas and his two companions in the back while they are fighting a rearguard defense against the lions. The baby runs back to his mother, the apprehensive female, while Leonidas and his brave lieutenants become food for the lions.
The mother of Oscar had an internal conversion that day. She becomes once again a full-fledged Cape Buffalo. She takes Oscar away from the herd into the mountains. And there she teaches Oscar what it means to be a Cape Buffalo. She tells him of the bravery of Leonidas and his two friends. She tells him of the days when Cape Buffalo, every single one, defended their women and their babies and took pride in their heritage.
“Someday, Oscar, when I am dead and gone, you must return to the herd and reclaim them. Lead them back to the ways of the older Cape Buffalo such as Leonidas. And never trust the so-called learned buffalo who tell you the mind-forged lie that there is no such thing as evil and that there is no such thing as a Cape Buffalo.”
When his mother dies, Oscar returns to the herd. But the herd is almost extinct now. Oscar expected to have to fight his way through a whole horde of liberal Cape Buffalo before gaining the ascendancy of the herd, but there is no resistance, just a few feeble Cape Buffalo mumbling in the pasture, “Cape Buffalo exclusivity is bad, the stranger is good, it’s only natural after all…”
Oscar takes a wife for himself, picks out a few young females and young males, and then takes his small herd away from the liberal remnant.
“Now, it begins. In this new land, we will live and die as Cape Buffalo. This I swear before God and on the sacred horn of Leonidas.”
The old adage that charity begins at home is correct. We learn to love at the hearth fire. If we don’t love there, we will not then love the stranger. Love of the stranger comes only when we love kith and kin. And then it comes only when our kith and kin are secure from the slings and arrows of the stranger. The Southern plantation owner could extend ‘cradle to grave’ health care to his darkies only when he was secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t rape his daughters and murder his sons.
Before the Europeans took Christ to their bosoms, their love for their own kith and kin produced enough fire to heat their hearths. After their acceptance of Christ, their love for each other was so intensified that the fire produced at their hearths was great enough to heat the hearths of the stranger. The liberal, inspired by Satan, wants to put out the hearth fires of the European in order, he claims, to fulfill his Christian duty to the stranger. But is the stranger served by being deprived of the heat of the European fire? No, of course not. Who then is being served? Well, above all, Satan is being served. The liberal, in his vainglory, imagines that he can use the devil for his own ends. But he will suffer the same end that all of his Athenian progenitors have suffered. When your theology is written in hell, you must either renounce that theology or be prepared to go to hell with your theology. The liberals have made their decision. They stand with Satan. We can’t convert them by dialoging with them. We can only counter their infidelity to His civilization with our fidelity. And if any of them have just a tiny remnant of grace left in their hearts, they will respond to our fidelity with baby steps toward the light. But we can’t convert anyone if we’re not strong in our belief that our European heritage is sacred. If we treat our heritage as something shameful and hideous, to be shunned, we will deserve to share the fate of the post-Christian liberals. And that fate is much worse than death.