A Theology of Hunting?

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The picture might seem incongruous to some people, but there’s nothing strange about a nun who hunts. Hunters come from all walks of life. Photo by Steve Sorensen.
The picture might seem incongruous to some people, but there’s nothing strange about a nun who hunts. Hunters come from all walks of life. Photo by Steve Sorensen.
The picture might seem incongruous to some people, but there’s nothing strange about a nun who hunts. Hunters come from all walks of life. Photo by Steve Sorensen.

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

Navy veteran and Catholic nun shows hunting is ecological stewardship.

A few years ago the host of a radio program asked me what I like to write about most. He was thinking about the deer, bears, and turkeys we shoot. When I said, “People,” he was surprised.

No, I don’t write about shooting people – but I do enjoy telling people’s stories and writing about the perspectives they have on hunting.

That’s why I was excited when the editor of North American Whitetail magazine contacted me to ask if I could write about Sister John Paul Bauer of St. Marys, PA. Last year the Benedictine nun (and a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Navy) shot a mature 10-point buck. The buck not only had a nice rack, it field dressed at 217 pounds, a real heavyweight for the northwoods of Pennsylvania.

Space prohibits me from telling the entire story here, but the Erie, PA diocese of the Roman Catholic Church shared her photo with her buck on Facebook. Within minutes, Sister John Paul was being pummeled by people from around the world. “How could a pious lady be a hunter?” “How could she justify killing a beautiful, innocent animal?” Those questions are legitimate, and right in my wheelhouse because I happen to have an education in theology.

Some people attacked Sister John Paul with a harmful intent. Here are a couple of the milder examples of the accusations misguided people made, and the replies a hunter could make:
Accusation: “It’s about a pathetic excuse for a nun who poses proudly for a carnage photo. Quit posing for photos because there is nothing glorious about killing any living being! Did cavemen pose for photos when they killed their prey?”

Reply: Apparently this critic thinks cavemen exhibited virtue by rejecting a technology that wasn’t invented until the nineteenth century. It’s true, cave dwellers didn’t photograph their prey, but they did depict their hunts through drawings on the walls of their homes. So how different, really, are photos?

Accusation: “Hunters lack empathy and compassion for other living creatures. Otherwise they wouldn’t be hunters.”

Reply: Maybe it’s non-hunters who lack empathy and compassion. Otherwise they would find more ways to support wildlife. One way to do that is to become a hunter. More than anyone, hunters pay the financial cost to create and preserve wildlife habitat – for all wildlife, including turtles, and songbirds, and eagles.

Other people wished Sister John Paul the most dreadful eternal destiny because she hunts, but plenty of Christians who hunt have their sights firmly fixed on the pearly gates. Nothing in the Bible or Christian theology, whether Protestant or Catholic, condemns hunting. Scripture and logic support hunting, and take us to the conclusion that hunting plays an important role in ecological stewardship.

The hate targeted at Sister John Paul prompts me to ask, why do people feel the need to post personal attacks on private citizens in public places? Maybe it’s easy and costs nothing to attack an innocent nun on the Internet. Maybe the Internet makes people feel insulated from the unkind words they use. Maybe it’s a way to feel big and brave, or smart, without risk of being challenged. Maybe the anonymity of the Internet brings out the worst in people. Whatever the reason, the root problem is integrity.

Unlike her critics, Sister John Paul has integrity. Integrity means she is a whole person, undivided. The same in public as she is in private. The same in church as she is on the Internet. She maintains a Christian worldview with far more integrity than critics who called her names, attacked her appearance, or made religious statements that were ridiculous. She knows why she hunts, she knows the benefits of hunting, and she hunts ethically and for all the right reasons.

The fact is, a Christian theology of hunting is not very complicated. Get some insight into the theology of hunting by checking out an article called “Nun Sense” in the November issue of North American Whitetail magazine.

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When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com, and read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.

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Steve Sorensen
Steve Sorensen of Russell, PA is an award-winning outdoor writer whose column, The Everyday Hunter®, offers hunting tips, strategies, and insights on how to think about hunting. His byline has appeared in the nation’s top hunting magazines including Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Deer & Deer Hunting, Pennsylvania Game News, Fur-Fish-Game, North American Whitetail, Bear Hunting Magazine and more. He contributes regular website content to Legendary Whitetails and Havalon Knives and is a field editor for Deer Hunters Online. Steve is also in demand as an event speaker, presenting programs on do-it-yourself Alaska moose hunting, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and eastern coyotes, with new programs coming. E-mail him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com to invite him to speak at your next sportsmen’s dinner (or to tell him where your best hunting spot is).