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So Much for Wolves Being Bad (LSP #193)

So Much for Wolves Being Bad (LSP #193) May 24, 2021

Hi and welcome back! A recent article from the science world reminds me of one of the strangest ways that the Bible doesn’t line up with reality: its descriptions of wolves. Today, Lord Snow Presides over the collision of Bible-wolves with reality-wolves.

don't get too close tho
WHO’S A BEAUTIFUL BOY. (Thomas Bonometti.)

The Bible Does Not Like Wolves.

Over on Open Bible, you can find collections of Bible verses on all sorts of topics. But I’ve never looked up animals there. Today, though, I went there because I really wanted to know what the Bible had to say about wolves. And yes indeed, they had a lot of entries on that topic!

Here’s a small selection of New Testament mentions of wolves from Open Bible:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15)

Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. (Luke 10:3)

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. (John 10:12)

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. . . (Acts 20:29)

Things don’t improve much in the Old Testament, where various important figures (and particularly people from enemy tribes and nations) get compared to wolves in the worst ways:

Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil. (Genesis 49:27)

Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. (Ezekiel 22:27)

Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning. (Zephaniah 3:3)

In fact, these animals were regarded as so ferocious and unthinkably cruel and violent that one prophecy involves them communing peacefully with lambs (Isaiah 11:6)!

I mean, I guess I’m not surprised that a primitive tribe of shepherds might not like wolves much. Even if their wolves were probably smaller than the norm, life was difficult back then. Any loss of their herds might have been disastrous.

But this demonization — literally done in some cases — has gone on for centuries, long past any time when it might have been semi-accurate.

Rehabbing Wolves’ Image.

Back when I was fundagelical myself, I remember being distinctly surprised to learn that wolves weren’t necessarily the evil demons in furry flesh that I’d learned about in the Bible. Elfquest, a comic book series I enjoyed from my tweens, helped a lot there. Though its wolves weren’t entirely Earth-normal, it got me very interested in learning everything I could about these fascinating creatures.

Nowadays, lots of organizations exist to try to educate the public about wolves. Finding accurate information about them is as easy as running a search online.

The BBC ran a special about this exact topic in 2015. In it, they described how important wolves have become to the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park — and presumably many other places. Most of all, they stressed that these predators can be dangerous to people, but mostly they stick to their own business.

Oregon Wild offers a lot of similar information on their site. They aim much of this information at hunters and ranchers, who may be under some misconceptions about just how dangerous or competitive wolves are to their own operations.

All Pet News offers a few theories about why people keep thinking wolves are evil.

And I liked the San Diego Zoo site, which offers a lot of information about the social and family life of wolves.

Suffice to say: those Bible verses describe wolf behavior that doesn’t look much like reality.

Today’s Story Brings Home That Stark Difference.

Earlier today, I saw this story from Science News. It concerns a study from Wisconsin about how their wolf and deer populations interact. As it turns out, in the counties where wolves live, the number of car-and-deer collisions dropped dramatically — by 24% on average.

So their scientists wanted to know why those collisions had fallen so far.

They found out that wolves use human-made roads as “travel corridors.” Why not? The roads are there, and they certainly make swift travel much easier. But the local deer are aware of this behavior, and they stay the heck away from the roads in response. That means there are way fewer deer on the roads for drivers to encounter. And that, in turn, means way fewer collisions.

A 24% average drop means about 38 fewer collisions between cars and deer. But that means almost USD$11M in savings for humans. Just imagine the investigations, repairs, and hospitalizations that aren’t happening in those 38 non-collisions! More than that, imagine the deaths and life-altering injuries not happening there, since animal-car collisions hurt about 12000 people nationwide and kill about 150.

Amy Grant’s angels can stuff it. Wolves apparently protect more motorists in Wisconsin than her imaginary friends ever could.

Too Many Christians Need Their Familiar Demons.

Even though wolves’ protectors and admirers have been pushing back on that demonization, a great many Christians are still madly in love with the idea of wolves as vicious, voracious predators seeking their very own necks at every moment.

Last year, Bonnie Kristian (remember her? yeah) described QAnon in Christianity Today as “a wolf in wolf’s clothing.” I’m sure she thought that metaphor was terribly clever, but she did real and actual wolves really dirty to make her point. Of course, her tribe would have instantly understood that point. That’s why she used it. These straw wolves are a well-understood component of Christian mythology by now.

And she’s hardly the only Christian invoking this imagery. It is everywhere in the religion! One guy’s sermon from a site full of contributed sermons even tells us what the “fruit of wolves” is:

  • Confusion (hidden motives, harmless disguises, pretense of innocence)
  • Harsh Methods (destructive tendencies, “ravenous” – to take by force, and then some Bible verses)

Oh, really.

Cuz actual real-world wolves seem neither excessively confusing nor particularly harsh. They seem a lot less harsh and fake than the Christians demonizing them, at any rate.

These metaphors and analogies cause a lot of misunderstanding about innocent animals that are just living their lives, but who cares about that? Not these Christians.

They need their demons, and their religious forebears volun-told wolves long, long ago to fill that role.

Today, Lord Snow Presides over the truth about wolves — and yet another contradiction to Christian mythology.

NEXT UP: We dive into Hell — but which Hell? See you tomorrow as we work it out! <3


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About Lord Snow Presides (LSP)

Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow was my very sweet white cat. He actually knew quite a bit. Though he’s passed on, he now presides over a suggested topic for the day. Of course, please feel free to chime in with anything on your mind: there’s no official topic on these days. We especially welcome pet pictures!

About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.

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