Views on politics and current events

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Random Thoughts While In Church

Last Sunday in church was Shepherd/Sheep day. Most of us know the story and the analogy. Christ is the Shepherd, and we are the sheep. I've heard it countless times myself. But for some reason this time around, the story and the analogy struck me as being very odd.

Not that I've paid much attention to the analogy over the years. I think it is a gross simplification as to what a person's relationship should be with their deity. But on this day it was as if I was hearing it with different ears.

The preacher started a detailed comparison between 'human' sheep, and the 'sheep' sheep. The biggest point she seemed to want to make was how dumb sheep are. How many times have I heard this kind of species bias? Like us humans are so far above animals that we have the right to judge them?

Fact of the matter is, a sheep in the wild is just as smart as a sheep needs to be. Most all they have to know is where to find food and water, and how to make baby sheep. Some skill in climbing rocks and mountains would come in handy too. For this they have been abundantly endowed by the Creator.

But are domesticated sheep dumber than wild sheep, or are the things that sheep raisers demand of them contrary to their natural behavior? And after so many centuries of selective breeding and domestication, perhaps there has been an intentional sheep dumbing down. No doubt the sheep that displayed the traits that man was looking for (a fine coat, good looking legs for leg of lamb roast, size, easily managed) are the ones that got the opportunity to roll in the hay, as it were. The ones that didn't have the desired physical attributes ended up in the stew pot with no chance to breed. These ancestral sheep just may have been the smart ones, but lost out because they couldn't cut the mustard otherwise. After all, if you were a shepherd and had your choice of a dumb sheep with good looking gams and a fine coat, or one that was smart and more difficult to contorl, which would you choose?

Then the clincher of the sermon. Humans are as DUMB as sheep! At least in this religious context. Sheep go astray, so do humans. Sheep need to be guided by the shepherd's crook, (maybe even whacked with it once in awhile) so do humans. If sheep stray too far, they run the risk of death by predation. So it goes with humans too (watch our for that devil!) The good shepherd tends the flock, provides and protects them. And so it goes with humans.

The 'domestication' of humans has been going on longer than the domestication of sheep. How much 'dumb' stuff do humans do because they are being forced into situations and environments that are not natural? How many doctrines and 'essentials' are demanded of people in religion that are against our nature? Are not some religions trying to do the same thing with people that the shepherds of long ago did with sheep? Trying to domesticate all the brains out, (makes sheep easier to control), giving preferred treatment to the brainless to reproduce (Think about it. The restrictions against marrying outside your faith attempts to do that.) Not to say that all domestication is bad. Society does require a certain amount of it for people to get along together. But domestication can be taken to extremes beyond the need for people to get along.

So is the shepherd/sheep analogy valid? If the shepherd had a more direct way of communicating to the sheep, perhaps. But as it is now, the only idea we have of what the Shepherd wants is given to us second-hand, at least for us poor mortals that have no hot line to God. And many of these 'shepherd go-betweens' seem to relish brandishing the shepherd's crook in a very punitive way against the 'unsheep.' Get out of line, and you're apt to get whacked alongside the head with the crook of the shepherd, or even something worse.

Am I so bold to think that I'm NOT a sheep and that I DON'T need a shepherd? Well, yes. I think the shepherd /sheep analogy , when taken to extremes can be abused tremendously. I prefer to go my own way, discover things out for myself. Now I'm not saying a mentor wouldn't come in handy. Someone I could go to when I really get confused and need guidance. So something more like a facilitator/mentor is what I'd like. Not someone to guide my every movement, and to whack my knuckles with a dogmatic ruler whenever I do wrong. But I do admit, having a facilitator/mentor instead of a shepherd would sure mess up the poetry; The Lord is my facilitator/mentor, I shall not want...

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