THEY SHOT THE GORILLA?

Harambe dragging the child
Harambe dragging the child

Yesterday through various media outlets people began to watch a video of a 4-year-old child who had gotten into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. At times the gorilla seemed to be protecting the child while at other times it was evident the gorilla was a wild animal and was not interested in nor capable of protecting a child. The decision was made to put Harambe down. Harambe was a 450 lb Western Lowland Gorilla. This fact made the decision to end Harambe’s life more painful to the experts because Western Lowland Gorillas are an extremely endangered species with less than 175,000 in the wild and fewer than a 1,000 in captivity. This story has captured our attention and people are not short of opinions on the subject.

THE APPALLED THAT THE ANIMAL WAS SHOT 

Remember this sign is being displayed on Memorial Day
Remember this sign is being displayed on Memorial Day

This group spoke quickly and clearly on the subject. They were appalled that an animal was killed. Some in this group wanted to know why the animal was not tranquilized rather than executed. Here are some comments in various articles I have read on this subject.

W. Rackley, “The gorilla should have killed the child.”

J. Lopez, “He looked like he was helping, harmless animal, poor thing…”

Damon T. “They should have let nature take its course.”

Martin R. “Arrest the mother and father…. don’t kill innocent gorillas.”

This group has moved fast to create a petition Justice for Harambe. They are calling for the investigation of the parents who they feel are responsible for Harambe’s death. To many the killing of this gorilla is equated with murder. It is hard to understand but to some in this group the killing of Harambe is considered a greater injustice than the murder of a human.

THE INCENSED OVER TERRIBLE PARENTS

The truth is the parents did allow their child to get away from them and end up in the gorilla exhibit. This is the first such occurrence since the gorilla exhibit opened in 1978. No one seems to be certain how this happened. Any person who believes a toddler can’t escape from the parents’ sight simply is not in touch with reality. It takes only a moment for an adult’s attention to be diverted and a child make an escape. As a pastor of 25 years I have much experience of helping parents look for lost/hidden children on our church grounds. I have been to emergency rooms dozens of times with children who have fallen down stairs, drank insect repellent, fallen out of tree houses, etc… Some people do not understand how a parent can lose a child. Here are some comments by the incensed.

Spirit of 1616, “This mom is completely at fault.”

Maria F. “Parents need to be arrested.”

W Morales, “…hate the parents, innocent gorilla died cause the stupid idiot parents.”

W. S. describes this mother as a “worthless piece of ‘manure’ mother.”

Luke 2:43 says of Mary and Joseph, the earthly parents of Jesus, “After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.” Mary, the woman most blessed of all women, did not know where Jesus was. I wonder if she would be called ignorant, an idiot or stupid?

One story read the child had been told several times,”No, you can’t get in the water.” The child repeatedly asked to get in the water. I have no idea if that is true or not. What I will say is it is poor, lazy parenting to allow your child to ignore your decisions and continue to labor for their way. Such a child needs to be taught submission to authority, they will have to practice submission the rest of their lives.

THE REAL EXPERTS

On Monday armchair quarterbacks overran social media with their opinions on what the gorilla was doing, and how the child was not in danger, and the gorilla was protecting the child. Thane Maynard is an American Zookeeper and the director of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. He said there was no other option than putting Harambe down. He explained how tranquilizing a silver back, especially one that is annoyed, would cause him to jump in a rage. It could take up to 10 minutes for the animal to go down from the effects of the tranquilizer. As hard as it is to believe possible a tranquilizer would have put the child at an even greater risk. Jack Hanna was interviewed on CBS This Morning. Certainly Jack Hanna is an expert on wildlife, raising enormous amounts of money for the preservation of Gorillas. He concluded killing this gorilla was the only solution.

The experts, the very ones who have dedicated their lives to animal care, concluded a full-grown silver back gorilla’s life is not as precious as the human’s life. I am grateful the experts who determined the course of action to be taken in Cincinnati were persuaded this course need to be taken.

THE BIBLE

As a Christian I am persuaded the only opinion that really matters on any subject is God’s. We learn how God feels on any subject by studying His Word, the Holy Bible. As Christians we often discuss and celebrate the sanctity of human life. The Bible is clear that human life is the supreme life on earth.

In Genesis 1:26 the Bible says that man is created in the image of God, animals nor angels have this distinction. This verse goes on to say that humans have dominion over animals. Dominion means that animals are to be subjugated by humans, they are to be reigned over by humans. This verse alone is all that is needed to understand in God’s eyes a child is more significant than an animal.

In Mark 5:1-13 Jesus encounters a man who was possessed by a multitude of demons. Jesus cast the demons out of this poor man AND INTO A HERD OF PIGS who then drowned in a lake. It can be concluded from Jesus’ actions the man was more important than the pigs.

Matthew 6:26 plainly says, “Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” Jesus asks a rhetorical question where the answer is understood to be of course you are more important than the birds of the sky.

I do not recognize the world we live in today. A child climbed into a gorilla exhibit and there is outrage the child was saved by killing the gorilla. Today some are outraged and protest over any and every thing. What people fail to realize is their continual protests and outrage turn their voices into background noise. I like for my voice to be heard on certain unjust causes, the saving of a child from maiming and death is not one of those causes.

How I Failed As A Father

movingdayThe last few weeks have been a special time for my family. Our oldest son has graduated from high school and is enrolled in college at Ole Miss. The last month may be the best month we have ever had as a family. We have gone to parent/student meals, had a baccalaureate service at the church I pastor, had family and friends in for a weekend of celebrating and then the graduation service itself. Micah, my son, was successful as a high school student and was recognized for his accomplishments. He is a good person who has demonstrated he loves Jesus. Not wanting to sound like a proud Papa, but the truth is everyone looking from the outside would say to Cheryl and me, “Job well done.” Cheryl is an incredible mother and has done a remarkable job. She deserves the credit for being the parent that has produced good boys. However, as I look at pictures of Micah as a young boy and then see the man he is today I must confess my heart is filled with regret. In this blog I want to share with you how I failed as a father.

I DID NOT ENCOURAGE ENOUGH

This is tough to type. I feel I have the gift of encouragement. All along my ministry people have thanked me for encouraging them. I especially love to encourage other pastors. I thank people for any service they do unto the Lord and our church and lavish them with sincere praise. Something happened when I came home. The encourager disappeared. I have never been an absentee Dad. I have always been involved in every aspect of my kids’ lives. I was not only at ballgames, I was at practice, I helped their teams anyway I could. I attended all the award ceremonies, helped with camping trips and took my sons fishing. I made time for my family. However, I did not encourage my oldest son enough. I look back now and I see how foolish I have been. Pay attention to little boys, they flex muscles, they wear superman capes, and dress like warriors, soldiers and heroes. James Dobson says boys have a “will to power and that is why they fight, climb, wrestle, strut and showoff.” As Micah participated, contributed or even excelled in sports, school, or whatever, I was always there but I always found something that was wrong. I am afraid maybe in my own insecurities I always found something that could be better because I wanted to be the alpha male in the Stewart house. Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” “Exasperate” gives the idea of stirring up your children to anger. If someone feels nothing they do is good enough they will lose heart. I have been a hands on dad but I failed in this area because I did not encourage enough.

I MADE UNIMPORTANT THINGS IMPORTANT

I don’t want to give the impression that I am a tyrant. My home has been peaceful through 25 years of marriage and 19 years with children in the house. We all have thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. We have countless memories of playing games, cooking and eating, traveling, and just sitting outside with one another and laughing like hounds. However, I was a strong disciplinarian. I do not apologize. Now that my son is moving out some things I thought were important really were not. Does it really matter if the house gets cluttered? Those that know me know I am kind of OCD. I want things to be in their place. I can tolerate a few things out of place but not for long. I remember Micah looking at me in confusion as I gathered up the scattered toys into a pile in the living room and declared my intention to crush them all if they were not put up immediately. As a five year old he gave me a look like, “This fool is crazy.” Through the years I have made neatness a hill worth dying on. He is moving out soon and I can tell you it was not worth it. He did not have to volunteer for everything. As a pastor I constantly ask for volunteer help. It is a requirement to be a pastor. I expected my boys to volunteer. They have picked up garbage, limbs, folded bulletins, washed church buses, washed cars, helped serve meals, helped in vacation Bible school, helped with the homeless, gone to nursing homes and hospitals. A few times Micah did not want to help with church or school functions. My goodness you should have heard the sermons I gave to him about how good God and the church has been to us and you are not going to volunteer to escort senior adults at the nursing home just because it is prom night? What kind of person are you? It didn’t take him long to learn to let my shame roll off his back. Through the years I made volunteering for good causes so important I felt my boys needed to volunteer every time. He is a man now and will soon be gone and I can assure it was not that important. Wanting to be the dominant male, I made demonstrations of respect too important. My sons have always been respectful to every adult they come in contact with. Cheryl and I have had complete strangers stop us and tell us how refreshing it is to hear respectful kids. They are respectful. However, I demanded respect be demonstrated to me always. When I am talking I always demand they look at me and not a phone or cpu. I took it as an offense against humanity and wrath usually fell if they turned away while I was speaking. When asked to do something if it was not done instantly I felt they were being disrespectful and corrected them sternly. Micah is moving out and I can assure you today it really doesn’t matter if he looked at his phone while we were talking.

A thousand words are about all my readers are going to put up with from me so let me summarize this blog by just reminding you all that the baby you have on your lap today will be on your heart tomorrow. Make every second with your kids count because you will never get that second again. Oh yeah, I don’t know a thing about flim flam or bim bam but as long as Ole Miss is paying for his school, “HOTTY TODDY.”

TRAGEDY IN MISSISSIPPI

casketThe subject I am delving into day is one that contains several hot-buttons. I am sure to push several people’s buttons with this blog.

In the last two weeks Mississippi has had two small children die due to being left in hot cars. Shania Cardine, 8 months old succumbed to heat exhaustion last week in Grenada, MS when her father, Joshua Blunt, left her in a car while at his place of employment. Joshua says he forgot Shania was in the car. Two weeks ago Caroline Bryant, 2 years of age, died from the results of being left in a hot car by her mother, Amy Bryant. Amy thought she had dropped her daughter off at daycare before she went to work. Here is a news report of Joshua Blunt and Shania. Here is a news report on Amy Bryant and Caroline. I want to share a few of my thoughts on these tragedies.

ANYONE CAN LEAVE A CHILD IN A CAR.

In the days following the first tragedy I read many people on social media lampoon parents who would leave a child in a hot car by accident. I understand such a mistake will leave one scratching their head. However, there are on average 37 deaths a year due to leaving a child in a hot car. That is about one every 9.5 days. This is a common occurrence.

When I was a pastor at Corinth Baptist in Magee, MS, I went to play golf in my hometown about 60 or so miles away. I made that trip to my hometown golf course several times each month. On this particular day I carried my son, Micah, who was less than a year old to drop off at my mother’s house so she could visit with her grandson. I strapped Micah into the car seat and began my hour-long trip. He dozed off immediately. When I reached highway 589 I began to turn left to go to the golf course when Micah moaned. He had been asleep for an hour and I hadn’t checked on him in several minutes. Terror gripped my soul as I thought about what could have happened if Micah hadn’t moaned. Would I have forgotten him while I played golf? Would I have seen him when I got out of the truck? I shudder to think about what might have happened. It was the middle of the Summer in South Mississippi; he would have perished quickly. People, it happens, it can happen to anyone.

I read a great tip last year, one mother takes her shoe off and puts beside her baby’s car seat every morning when they load up. This way she will always have a reminder her most precious cargo is riding in the back.

BOTH OF THESE FAMILIES NEED PRAYER.

Let’s be real for a moment, every one of us who are honest live with some level of guilt. We have all said an unkind word, done something that does not honor Christ or failed to do things we should have. Did you show enough love to your parents before they died?  In spite of all I just said, I doubt any of us feel the guilt these parents must be feeling. Their grief is filled with responsibility. Can you imagine the strain on marriages and relationships?

Psalm 103:13-14 says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Our Heavenly Father can provide what these wounded souls need if they will call on Him. Pray for them. Pray for them. Pray for them.

IF ONE IS PROSECUTED THEN BOTH SHOULD BE PROSECUTED.

As I write this Joshua Blunt is being charged with a crime while Amy Bryant is not being charged. To complicate this matter more I live in Mississippi and Blunt is black and Bryant in white. I live between the two communities of Grenada and Madison. Grenada has a larger black racial composition than Madison. I despise how the race card is always pulled out in any situation, especially concerning the South. The South of today is not the one of yesteryear and deserves to be applauded for gains that have been made in race relations. However, I have a hard time seeing a difference in these two cases, unless there is more to the cases than we are hearing. Blunt’s attorney, Carlos Moore, said the only reason Joshua Blunt is being prosecuted is because he is black. I am trying to work through my thoughts on prosecuting such cases. Is Amy Bryant being treated differently because she is white? Is Amy Bryant getting special consideration because she is a woman? I cannot convince myself that both should be prosecuted. I am certain that if a white woman and a black man do the same thing it makes no sense for one to be prosecuted and the other not be charged. Mississippi is a great place to live and raise children. I challenge everyone to mourn with Joshua Blunt and Amy Bryant who are both created in the image of God and both are brokenhearted. We should come together to honor Shania and Caroline, not divide into sides.