P.S.: Please don’t eat the chimpanzee

P.S.: Please don’t eat the chimpanzee May 29, 2012

Surfing around for an image to enlist for the previous post on the story of Peter’s vision from Acts 10-11, I came across some rather odd bits of artwork.

Like this one, for example, from a Sunday school curriculum illustrating the story.

Acts 10 says Peter fell into a trance and: “saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air.”

I’d just like to point out that a chimpanzee is not a four-footed creature.

And while Southern Baptist bishop Al Mohler and I may disagree about the meaning of Peter’s vision, I’m guessing that Mohler would completely agree with me on this point: Nobody should be eating chimpanzees.

Chimps are fun to draw, which is probably how one ended up in this Sunday school sketch. But the creepy implication of this artwork seems to be that God is telling Peter that it’s perfectly fine to eat a chimpanzee. That’s just wrong.

Here’s another illustration of the story complete with another chimpanzee.

And look at the other animals shown here. There’s the delicious pig, of course, but also a lion, a leopard and what I think is meant to be a wolf.

Think of the poor children in Sunday school staring at this picture. If they get past the horror of the chimpanzee coupled with the words from the story — “kill and eat, kill and eat, kill and eat” — then they’re bound to start pondering how they would rank these animals in some kind of “What if you had to?” scenario. OK, they’ll think, first the pig, then the rabbit then which? … the skunk? the bear? the horse? the buzzard?

These kids are going to be traumatized.

Maybe this explains why this story from the book of Acts is so widely misunderstood — everyone was too distracted by the terrifying Sunday school illustrations to pay any attention to the story itself.

Bonus question — and this one doesn’t involve killing and eating anything, so vegetarians and vegans can feel free to play along in this round: Which animals in these illustrations would the apostle Peter have recognized?

Different Cornelius.

That’s not an entirely frivolous question. It implies something about how we understand divine revelation.

Here we have the story of the apostle Peter receiving a vision directly from God — a vision specifically intended for and designed for Peter and only for Peter, an unschooled fisherman from Galilee who hasn’t yet traveled beyond Palestine and Syria.

Why would God send such a man a vision that included skunks and raccoons — creatures native to the Americas that Peter would have no way of recognizing and no basis for understanding?

If God wished to communicate with this particular man, Simon Peter of Galilee, then wouldn’t it make more sense for the vision only to include those “unclean” animals that Peter would recognize as such?

But here we’re again approaching the realm of controversy, hinting at questions about the cultural constraints and culturally constrained meanings of divine revelation. That raises the possibility of another heated disagreement with Team Mohler, and since the idea here was for something more light-hearted and irenic we’ll just back away from such questions here and save them for another time.

Here we’ll just focus on those things that Team Mohler and I can fully agree on. Such as that no one should be eating chimpanzees. And that it’s probably wise to avoid any mention of chimpanzees in the Sunday school materials for a story about a man named Cornelius.


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  • c2t2

    To be (marginally) more serious: I think I’m defective.

    I seriously don’t have any food taboos*, and I can’t figure out why. I’d eat chimp. I’d eat a beloved family pet. I’d eat human. Seriously, just verify the safety of the meat, death by natural causes, and prior consent (if possible) of the deceased, or at least their families/owners. Then I’d try the meat just for the experience.

    This horrifies people, and I realize I’m the one with the malfunction. I’d like to know why, but I don’t even know where to begin researching this. Can anyone in the slacktiverse point me in the right direction?

    *The only exception would be spiders, IF they are still recognizably spiders. I have a highly specific phobia of that shape, but grind ’em up and I’d be fine.

  • Many years ago, in my English-slash-Rennaisance History class (The honors program at college was a sequence of four classes each covering a different time period from the point of view of a different department. I got Ancient World Theology, Middle Ages History, Renaissance English and Modern Philosophy), while discussing Milton, the professor characterized it as a mainstream belief that, before the fall, man did eat meat, but it could be derived from the animals without hurting them. Like, pigs would shed bacon or something.

    (Some time later, the Simpsons did a bit along exactly this line, with Homer and Marge as Adam and Eve, and pre-fall Homer peeling some bacon off of a jovial pig.)

  • JayemGriffin

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the “Fairest Creature in Creation” view is not actually from the Bible, yes? I know it’s definitely in Paradise Lost, but I can’t remember it in Genesis.

  • Jessica_R

    Ape shall not kill Ape, the rest is commentary.

  • ‘Coons (and possoms) were (and probably still are) considered good eats in many parts of the country.  Not “weird” at all.

  • Steph

    You might check out some books on the nature and purpose of disgust.  Some people do not have “normal” levels of disgust, others have more than normal levels.

  • I don’t consider it a “malfunction”.  The dividing line(s) between “food” and “not food” are largely cultural.  Dogs, cats and monkeys are “forbidden” in some places, not in others.  Locusts are mentioned as a food quite often in the Bible, yet most of us would see them as “not food”.

    Reently, a gentleman in Japan offered his “parts” as food, an offer that was accepted to the satisfaction of all.  I’m not sure I see these folks as “malfunctioning”.

    Indeeed, a tasting experience of the “Rocky Mountain Oysters” of various species might be a interesting experience.

  • “In Oleana, little roasted piggies
    Walk about the city streets
    Inquiring so politely
    If a slice of ham you’d like to eat.”

  • Steph

    Also, you’d eat human?  Do you mean that you’d kill people or that you’d eat a person who died in an accident?  Or that you’d be less grossed out by having to do that if you were with the Donner Party?

  • hapax


    Or how about…. fucking antler lasers?

    Ehh, in this case, Your Kink Is definitelyNot My Kink.

  • Matri

    I once had a male family memeber tell me in complete seriousness that
    ‘if I can shoot a deer that means I’m better than the deer’  That’s it

    You should tell him in the same tone that since a dog shot a human, that means dogs are better than humans.

    His reaction and backpedaling should be interesting to watch.

  • Matri

    Can anyone in the slacktiverse point me in the right direction?

    You could possibly be the reincarnation of Charles Darwin.

    Seriously, the dude ate everything with a pulse.

  • That power would set me up above the gods. And through the Daleks, I shall have that power!

    Everything can be related to Doctor Who.

  • Locusts are mentioned as a food quite often in the Bible, yet most of us would see them as “not food”.

    I’ve actually had grasshopper tacos.  They were….weird.  I think I would have been much more okay with just eating deep-fried grasshoppers, but the combination with the squishiness of the guacamole was unnerving.  I would eat bugs again though if offered in the right situation.

  • MaryKaye

    From an evolutionary point of view, one presumes that food aversions are there to keep you from eating something that will hurt you.  Just apply reason to avoiding eating things that will hurt you and you should be fine. 

    Eating your own species is epidemiologically risky.  It’s no accident that the prion diseases were first spotted in human-eats-human and cow-eats-cow scenarios, or that the HIV viruses probably got into humans via eating other primates.

    From a moral point of view, I don’t think you’re ever morally required to have negative feelings about something.  You may be morally required not to do it, but you can accomplish that while having whatever feelings you have.

  • P J Evans

     I think there are shrimp and lobster (or something that we’d call lobster) in the Mediterranean. If you live close enough to the sea, you’d probably know them. And they’re not kosher (no scales or fins).

  • P J Evans

     Horned lizards? Iguanas? Armadillos?
    I’d suggest hummingbirds, but they wouldn’t stay in the sheet – they’d be out of it and investigating the area for food sources.

  • c2t2

    Thanks everyone!
    Steph- I said I’d eat human with prior consent of the person/family, as well as safety controls. I try to ensure my meat is as cruelty-free as possible, no matter what animal it’s from. (If I’m starving, though, survival comes first.)
    Matri- LOL! I wish I believed in reincarnation just so I could tell people that!
    P J Evans- I know, right? That’s why I only mentioned flightless birds. I originally wanted to list a bunch of critters even modern folks have never heard of, but didn’t have the time for proper research.

  • J_Enigma32

    I’d love to hear his rationalization of sharks, then…

    Fun fact: sharks are actually really quite smart for fish. They play, they may feel emotions (something they have over octopi, another alien intelligence that lives on earth) and half of the reason they’re biting you is because they don’t know what the hell you are. Unfortunately, this expression of curiosity can be highly lethal because, well, they’re still one of nature’s killing machines and an alpha predator.

  • Anton_Mates

    Why would God send such a man a vision that included skunks and
    raccoons — creatures native to the Americas that Peter would have no way
    of recognizing and no basis for understanding?

    If God wished to
    communicate with this particular man, Simon Peter of Galilee, then
    wouldn’t it make more sense for the vision only to include those
    “unclean” animals that Peter would recognize as such?

    Well, I imagine Peter would be able to understand them.  He’s never seen them before, but he’s not going to be like “Argh, what are these blasphemies against nature and reason that my eyes cannot even register properly.”  They’re pretty obviously furry critters of the dog/cat/weasel variety, and hence unclean on all kinds of levels.

    Also, maybe the addition of unfamiliar animals broadens the message to cover unknown individuals and communities, not just familiar ones that were previously judged profane.  Peter shouldn’t just change his attitude toward Samaritans and Canaanites, he should default to loving acceptance when he runs into his first Scythian or Ethopian too.

  • Arrogantemu

    One thing struck me this time about Peter’s vision: where he is when he’s having it. He’s up on a rooftop in Joppa, overlooking the harbor – a hub of travel and commerce where ships come from all over the known world and go forth into every corner of it.

    He dreams of a sheet tied at four corners. Is it possible that this is – at least subconsciously – a reference to a sail? The sheet bears all manner of living things – and Peter’s actions over the next few days will set the course for a faith that will spread, like the ships, across the world. Did his fisherman’s heart stir within him?

  • Rhubarbarian82

     The shark bit reminds me of when I traveled to Japan a few years ago with a large group of friends, and we had an ongoing argument for the duration of the week I was there about the ethics of eating whale meat (which is legal in Japan). Most in the group had no qualms about doing this. As our generation grew up with the “Save the whales’ campaign in full effect, I couldn’t believe there wasn’t just a general inhibition towards eating an endangered species.

    When arguing on the endangered species front failed, I tried switching to the fact that whales possess language, and even regional dialects. This also failed, partly because a lot of people in the group couldn’t differentiate between language and communication (that is, I don’t think a language complete with regional dialects is comparable to screaming wordlessly because you’re angry and want to smash).

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Don’t imagine many of those pictures include kangaroos, eh?

  • LectorElise

     I don’t have an incest taboo. On a strictly intellectual level, I get why incest in general isn’t the brightest/healthiest/moral idea, but I have zero squick reaction to it. Abusive incest, yes, but that’s to the ‘abuse’ part, not the incest.
    I’ve always operated on the theory that, like orientation, neurotypicality is a spectrum. Some people just have quirks. You don’t have food taboos, I don’t have an incest taboo, somebody else doesn’t get why people are so viscerally disturbed by fecal matter, etc. The brain is weird and wonderful. As long as you’re not engaging in unethical food practices/non-consensual cannibalism, I wouldn’t worry too much.

  • Matri

    So long as it isn’t anyone I know…

  • Locust is supposed to be pretty good. I borrowed a book a long time ago that discussed unusual foods, and during the Dust Bowl locust bread was quite popular. 

  • Reminds me of Car Wars. One supplement came with deer counters. Which of course the Car Warriors loved to blow up.

    I secretly marked half and said radical environmentalists have released realistic robot deer that run up to the nearest car and explode. 

  • Tonio

    A good moral argument against incest may be the suggestion I’ve encountered, which is that truly consensual incest may be so rare as to be unimportant. Apparently the vast majority of incest is not consensual to some degree, usually with one partner deliberately exploiting the family connection to “seduce” the other, and this can lead to needless guilt for the latter.

  • I’d agree to this. I have heard of maybe one case in the news where the brother and sister were of age, were clearly both consenting, and the only reason it was even IN the news was because I think someone else found out and it got reported to the police, or somesuch.

    Otherwise I can’t recall a single case I’ve ever read/heard about that wasn’t coercive in some degree.

  • alfgifu

    I was going to reply with another example of what appears to be innocent incest – well, from the perspective of the couple (both consenting adults), although the fact that they have gone on to have four children raises further tricky ethical questions (two of those children have developmental difficulties) – Patrick and Susan Stübing.  Although they are brother and sister, they did not meet until both were adults, and I’d remembered – wrongly – that they were unaware of the sibling relationship when they started the romantic one.  But it turns out that they did know, and that they are considered to be an example of something called  genetic sexual attraction.  Apparently this is a recognised phenomenon: genetically related people are separated at birth (e.g. when one is adopted) and find one another sexually attractive when they meet again as adults.

    The Wikipedia article is fairly sparse, but notes that being raised separately prevents the desensitising effect that usually prevents people from wanting sexual relationships with close relatives.

    People do have different levels of squick about things, and I think my incest-squick is fairly weak; I find these stories fascinating and completely contrary to all my own instincts, but not inherently sickening or anything (I am more troubled by the idea of having children when you know there is a high chance that they will suffer from a debilitating condition).

    Mind you, my grandparents were second cousins, and as you go back in the family trees some parts of them get awfully squashed together, so I’m probably not a poster child for genetic diversity myself.

  • Tonio

     Squick is not the same as moral revulsion, and I suspect that some homophobes are misinterpreting their former reaction as the latter. If the couple takes steps to prevent conception, and if it’s a truly consensual relationship, I’m not sure there’s a basis for deeming the relationship to be objectively immoral.

    If the vast majority of incestuous relationships are not consensual, which I strongly suspect, is that sufficient to deem incest in general to be immoral as simply a philosophical shorthand? Are laws against incest grounded mostly in squick, or does the state have an interest in preventing the suffering that results from the offspring’s genetic issues?

    I don’t know the answers to those questions. I’m suggesting instead that one should question one’s squick, not rejecting it automatically but also not accepting it automatically. And any claim that an action is objectively and universally immoral should have some logic behind it instead of being grounded in squick alone.

  •  I’ve encountered, which is that truly consensual incest may be so rare as to be unimportant. 

    Don’t we usually reject out of hand arguments that go “I’m pretty sure that most of the time it’s abusive, so to hell with the freedom of consenting adults who *do* want this”?

    I mean, “Historically, it has almost always been coercive,” pretty much *is* the argument against polygamy.

  •  What’s the story on incest anyway? I’ve heard people suggest that the health complications on potential children is not as bad as it was, but it was always on the Internet where cited sources are thin on the ground.

  • The other thing of course is that “incest” covers a pretty wide range of relationships, and the boundaries tend to be “whatever my particular society has decided they are”.  

    Reproducing with your sibling? Almost certainly a bad genetic idea. First cousin? Will work out okay, from a genetic standpoint, most of the time unless everyone in the population is doing it. Second cousin?  Only slightly more chromosomes in common than any random two people. 

    But reproducing with a sibling isn’t the same thing as, say, a night of  ill-advised drunken experimentation with a half-sibling, or a  one-night-stand with a stranger who turns out to be your long-lost older brother’s child, though they all fall under the term “incest”, even though they have radically different implications in terms of genetics, and don’t all involve the same family dynamics or likelihood of coersion.

  • David S.

    Magic the Gathering’s Grey Ogre offered this piece of wisdom.

    The Ogre philosopher Gnerdel believed the purpose of life was to live
    as high on the food chain as possible. She refused to eat vegetarians,
    and preferred to live entirely on creatures that preyed on sentient