Recently social media lit up with an outpouring of anger and rage over the death of an African Lion named Cecil. It became a tinderbox of an issue touching on topics from international law to wildlife preservation to poaching to the ethics of hunting in general to the privilege of wealth. And in the midst of all of that, I wanted to give my two cents.
But first I want to start off by stating something that should be blatantly obvious: I am not even remotely an expert on poaching. I am, however, a proponent of following the law (unless the law directly contradicts the will of God). Romans 13 has this to say about following the will of governments: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.” 
Now, of course, this must be nuanced and balanced against Paul’s (and Jesus’!) commands to live a moral life. And governments that annihilate there people must be opposed.
But all that to say, I have no idea what happened with Cecil the Lion legally or morally. I know that I am a proponent of hunting and I know that according to the World Wildlife Foundation the African Lion is not endangered. 
I also know that Walter Palmer, the hunter/possible poacher that killed Cecil the Lion, at the very least claims that he believed that what he was doing was legal. However, like I said, I am certainly no expert in poaching.
But quite honestly, I don’t really want to talk about a dead lion beyond mentioning that if any laws were broken, that is certainly a shame and also commenting that Cecil was being studied by scientific researchers and it is unfortunate that his death may hinder their work.
What I do want to talk about is scale. Scale in our responses to tragedy. Even assuming the worst about the killing of Cecil the Lion, even assuming that Palmer and his guides maliciously went out with the intent to poach a majestic animal, for that matter, even assuming things that no one has even claimed and would be truly ridiculous: assuming that Palmer deliberately wanted to foil Oxford University’s research or that he harbors ill will toward all felines, or that he somehow relishes the notion of removing a so-called national treasure, even assuming the absolute worst about this event, our collective response to this has been staggeringly out of balance when compared to other tragedies.
This is particularly marked when you look at the response from the people living in Zimbabwe. The Chronicle which is a state owned (and so therefore admittedly suspect) newspaper in Zimbabwe has this to say on the killing:
It is not an overstatement that almost 99,99 percent of Zimbabweans didn’t know about this animal until Monday. Now we have just learnt, thanks to the British media, that we had Africa’s most famous lion all along, an icon! 
This sentiment is echoed by other, perhaps less biased, news outlets. Reuters actually has perhaps my favorite analysis of the situation:
For most people in the southern African nation, where unemployment tops 80 percent and the economy continues to feel the after-effects of billion percent hyperinflation a decade ago, the uproar had all the hallmarks of a ‘First World Problem’.
“Are you saying that all this noise is about a dead lion? Lions are killed all the time in this country,” said Tryphina Kaseke, a used-clothes hawker on the streets of Harare. “What is so special about this one?” 
Of particular note is how the article ends which finally brings me back to the point that I want to make:
‘Why are the Americans more concerned than us?’ said Joseph Mabuwa, a 33-year-old father-of-two cleaning his car in the center of the capital. ‘We never hear them speak out when villagers are killed by lions and elephants in Hwange.’ 
Mr. Mabuwa has an interesting point. Why are Americans so concerned with this lion? And again, I am not trying to say that we should not be upset about this. If this was poaching, then it was wrong. But it is the scale of things that bothers me. So let me restate my question: Why are Americans so concerned with this lion but not concerned with loss of human life?
And let’s go ahead and start with Zimbabwe. Led by Robert Mugabe, ‘president’ since December 31, 1987, Zimbabwe is one of the most oppressive and corrupt nations in the world “ranking 163rd out of 176 countries on the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.”  Under his rule the country has experienced hyperinflation to the extent that, among other things, the health system has more or less collapsed. 
But, in fairness to our lack of perspective, Zimbabwe has been more or less ‘stable’ for a while now. Stable in poverty and corruption and AIDS, but stable nonetheless and we tend to be more affected by things that are shocking and sudden. Perhaps that is why Cecil the Lion dominates our attention.
But that doesn’t answer why there is no outcry against other issues in the region that are more sudden. While Jimmy Kimmel is (literally) crying  over the death of Cecil the Lion, I have yet to see anyone so moved to tears over the actions of Boko Haram which is currently destroying Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. 
While the organization has technically been in existence for a while, the worst of it only began in 2014. While numbers are always hard to come by, it appears as though roughly 15,000 people have been killed  (13,000 being civilians ) and roughly 1.5 million people displaced. 
Now, in all fairness, Boko Haram did make national attention in large part due to the efforts of Michelle Obama’s 2014 twitter campaign (#bringbackourgirls) after 276 girls were kidnapped, but I would wonder if the average person that tweeted about them knows whether or not the girls were ever returned (see the footnote for the answer). 
But Boko Haram’s actions have not stopped activists from flooding Walter Palmer, the dentist that killed Cecil the Lion, with hate messages or posting his private information online.  And ‘fortunately’ our collective fingers were not too tired from typing “#bringbackourgirls” to donate $150,000 in less than 24 hours in honor of Cecil the Lion. 
And again, I am not saying that you shouldn’t be upset about Cecil. I’m not even saying you shouldn’t be mad at Walter Palmer. But where is the $150,000 to back up our demand of #bringbackourgirls?  Where’s the collective outrage when 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes?
And it goes without saying that similar things can be said about ISIS, which, as I have mentioned before  crucifies children and has only become more of a problem since I last talked about it. And the same can be said about any number of other things around the world. And of course I recognize that we cannot live in a constant state of righteous outrage,  but I am concerned about a nation that was so quick to jump up in moral indignation over the death of an animal, but not over horrendous human suffering around the world, or for that matter, the roughly 50 million babies legally aborted since 1973 in our own backyard. 
But there is also the constant refrain, “What can we do?” In fairness, it is easy to tweet or put something on Facebook about Cecil. It is considerably harder for an individual to ‘do something’ about Boko Haram or Isis or abortion.
And I get that, I do. But in reality there is always something that can be done. For one thing, as much as I hate to suggest it, we can tweet and Facebook about these issues. I know that I criticized the notion of simply doing that earlier, but there is something to be said about raising awareness.
The danger is that we can easily tweet something or mention something on Facebook and then feel as if we have solved the problem (or accomplished as much as we can accomplish), but even with that caveat, it is still at least something.
But we can do more. As I mentioned in my letter last year about ISIS, we live in a system of government where we can directly tell our leaders what we care about.
If these things concern you as much as they concern me I encourage you to write your congressperson. If you live where I do, that is probably Congressman Bob Goodlatte. You can contact him at http://goodlatte.house.gov/contacts/new. This is a simple process and takes very little time.
The other way that you can get involved is also simple and easy. We are entering into the election season for the President of the United States, arguably the most powerful person on the planet. As a Minister of Word and Sacrament, I cannot endorse a particular individual, nor can I tell you to follow a particular political party.
But I can encourage you to get involved. Start now. Take a look at these individuals running for this high office and look for their views on these issues as well as others. As Christians we are told in no uncertain terms to love our neighbor  and our enemy  and as Americans we have the opportunity to elect individuals to lead our nation. We have a responsibility to choose leaders that will chart a course that follows Christian values.
I started this article out with a reference to Romans 13 which declares that God places governments in authority above us. If we take that seriously, and we live in a democratic system, then in a very real sense choosing our leaders and communicating our desires to those leaders is doing the will of God and is in fact our Christian duty.
And that’s at least something that we can do.
13. The answer is ‘no’. Other than the approximately 50 girls who heroically escaped by their own efforts, the girls have not been seen or heard from by their families since. Boko Haram has issued a statement that the girls have been ‘married off’. Surely that cannot be a good thing.
16. See this article for a stellar condemnation on our collective short attention span: http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/14/opinions/sesay-bring-back-our-girls-one-year-on/17. http://bethelpresbyterianstaunton.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/September-2014-Tower.pdf
18. but see John 2:13-25
20. Mark 12:31
21. Matthew 5:44