Hunting Is A Great Sport, And A Horrible God
Most people don’t often write about the things that they most need to consider personally. The question I’ve been wrestling with is this: When does something switch categories from being a passion, to being a god? Specifically, I’m wondering if my over-the-top drive to deer hunt ever crosses that line. I could add turkey hunting, cycling or even college football to this question. However, I’ll just keep it to deer hunting.
A year ago, during the peak of the rut, I contracted mad cow deer disease. Most people figured that out when antlers started growing out of my head. (Insert laugh). I thought about big bucks all day long. I kept fantasizing about them after work, during dinner with my g/f (now Bride) and while hanging out with our friends. When I went to bed, I’d toss and turn for hours imagining what the next day’s hunt might bring. For most of November, I was your typical rut-crazed, out-of-balance deer hunter. I logged hours in the woods that month.
Then January rolled around and I discovered that something was broken. It was a Monday afternoon and I’d filled my buck and doe tag. I was done hunting until turkey season. I sat at work and thought about what I wanted to do that week. Nothing sounded good. The more I considered my options, the more I realized that I wasn’t motivated to do anything. I didn’t want to hang out with friends, exercise, two of my more favorite things to do. As a somewhat highly motivated person, this realization really confused and bothered me.
Then, I saw my mistake. I’d made hunting so important, so supreme and central to my happiness, that when the season ended, my zeal for life ended with it.
This was sadly ironic. All of a sudden, the energizing, life-giving sport of deer hunting had evolved into something that sucked the joy out of all my other interests and priorities. That was when the question of whether deer hunting had become my god slapped me in the face like a blast of winter air.
That was also when I wondered if I was the only one who experiences the over-powering allure of hunting. When I pull back and look at our greater hunting community – our fascination with larger-than-life hunting celebrities, our constant push to develop new gadgets and gear, and our compulsive competition to shoot the largest racks – I suspect that I’m not alone; it appears to me that thousands of other sportsmen likely make hunting too important.
No Other Gods
When is the line crossed? When does hunting move from an exciting pursuit, to being a god? A long time ago, God summoned Moses to the top of Mt. Sinai and gave him the Ten Commandments. The very first commandment God gave him was, “You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)”
“No other gods” – that’s an interesting phrase. It’s inherent in the entire Bible that there truly aren’t any other gods, in a creator-sense. The same God who commanded people to not have “other gods” says, “I am God and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:22b)”
So when God commanded Moses to “have no other gods,” clearly he wasn’t taking about other literal gods. He must have been referring to things. Created things. Like that shiny, ridiculous, golden calf that the rest of the Hebrew tribe made while Moses was on Mt. Sinai with God. You remember the story – the Israelites grew tired of waiting for Moses to return, so they melted down their gold and made a calf. They wanted something to distract them, excite them, and keep them busy.
What turned that golden calf, a silly created thing, into a god? According to that passage in Exodus, it became a god when the people began treasuring it too much. They spent all their time working on it. They said to each other, “Let’s make this calf the most important thing in our lives.” And with that – presto! – a bovine became a god. (As someone who lives in the Midwest and knows how smelly and dumb cows are, this particular choice for a god baffles me.)
They spent too much money. They gave too much time. They paid too much attention. This is what turned that thing into a god.
Answering my question about whether hunting can be a god is beginning to sting a bit. I’d hate to have someone look at my past bank statements and see how much money I’ve spent on hunting over the past 8-10 years. I’d be just as embarrassed to have someone tally up the number of hours I’ve spent watching hunting shows, putting up stands, sharing hunting stories and spending time in the local hunting stores. I’d feel sheepish about having you look into my heart and see how important hunting is to me and how much mental and emotional energy I give to it (especially in September, October, November, December and January!).
My Bride and I don’t have an altar filled with wooden carvings or golden statues. I don’t have a golden calf in my home. But, according to the Bible’s definition of what qualifies as a god – something we treasure and pursue more than we treasure and pursue God – it appears that my passion to hunt can quickly qualify.
Let’s admit together, this isn’t a light-hearted topic. Truthfully, I’m a little surprised you’ve read this far. If it’s any consolation, I’m not having any more fun writing on this subject than you are reading about it. But, this is the most important stuff in life. What we choose to make our god/God determines our relationship to all the other people and priorities in our lives. We all have one sun, around which all other things in our lives orbit. We also have one Son who our lives should reflect.
When God commanded us to “have no other gods,” he was telling us to keep him that central thing. Because he’s worth it.
Great Sport, But A Horrible God
Hunting is a fantastic pastime. It puts us outside. It challenges us. It gives us adventure. It consistently surprises us – we never know what we’ll see or come home with. Hunting is an exciting, fulfilling sport.
But, it makes a horrible god. As fun and rewarding as hunting is, there’s no way that it can produce the meaning, purpose, and peace that only God can provide. Hunting simply can’t satisfy our deepest needs like God can.
I’m not done thinking about this topic. I certainly haven’t found all the answers. But, I have drawn one conclusion: Sportsmen will suck the marrow out of this sport, enjoying it as much as it can possibly be enjoyed, if we keep it in its appropriate place – circling around God, not giving it his status.