Why We Feel Better if We Care About Cecil the Lion

I'm going to start here by saying that I don't feel particularly protective of this particular big game hunting dentist (but I do feel for his wife and kids). There are hunters in my family, bow-hunters even, but they do the hunting themselves, and there's an investment of time, and personal skill, and what they hunt actually gets eaten by their families, and sometimes me.

Maybe this guy was hunting legally, probably he wasn't. I think we can agree that modern trophy-hunting seems a bit, um, off somehow. But that's not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is the near-universal outcry of horror over the death of Cecil the lion.

There has been a deep and very genuine sadness and disgust across this country, (at least the social-media-using part of the country) over the death of one particular lion who happened to have a name. And what it tells me is that we as a society are hungry for a moral absolute. We need to be able to recognize and agree upon something, ANYTHING, as actually wrong.

We've all heard the term "moral relativism." What moral relativism means in practice is that there are no such things as moral absolutes. Something is right or wrong because any one person feels it should be, without recourse to outside standards of morality or natural law.

A huge segment of our population has been struggling ever since they reached the age of reason to reconcile a personal disgust with the idea of abortion, with the loudly trumpeted demands that we all must recognize that it's NONE OF OUR BUSINESS and we'd better just pipe down. Choice. My body. Reproductive freedom. It's not really a baby. All of it has been shouted in the streets until two generations now honestly can't tell right from wrong or good from evil.

The same goes for other evils we're supposed to celebrate as choice: like euthanasia, and free love, and conceiving children in such a way as to necessarily deprive them of one or both of their parents.

Moral relativism denies a fundamental part of our Truth-seeking human natures. As human beings, we crave moral absolutes. We know somewhere deep down that there IS such a thing as wrong, such a thing as evil. And we want so badly to be allowed to point a finger at it, finally, that when poor, not-actually-all-that-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things Cecil the lion comes along, we can barely contain ourselves.

In many cases, we flat out can NOT contain ourselves, and completely lose perspective. And this guy, who seems like he probably deserves to get fined and ridiculed is instead getting death threats and his livelihood revoked.

But it seems reasonable in the throes of our passion in the moment, because here. finally. is evil.

WE can do something about it.

And here's where the true seductiveness of the Cecil the lion phenomenon comes in: it's all so easy. It requires nothing of me. No real sacrifice. No real assistance. In a hundred and forty characters or less I can prove I'm a person who cares about right and wrong. Then I can post a photo of my lunch and move on.

But. If I recognize that abortion is a great evil that harms women and children, if I recognize that divorce, and sex outside of marriage, and pornography have grave consequences . . . then what? I can't solve that on Facebook. That's going to require commitment. It might require me to offer my financial and prayerful and physical assistance to other people. It might require big changes in my own life.

That's scary. Maybe I don't want to think about that.

Ummm . . . Hey, look! A cute lion!