We Forgot to Warn the Turkey

There are three ways to do it. For my family back on the seventies, it was significantly less-precise than it is today. The first was electric stunning, which was effective, but too expensive and too modern for my father, who preferred to pretend he was living in a time when farmers were actually integral members of society. The second was to take it into the field and use a long blade to cut the Achilles’ tendon, immobilizing the animal (a sitting cow, I suppose). This would render it easy to finish off with a couple semi-accurate blasts from a shotgun. But the easiest and most popular technique in the Midwest was to use an old school cattle gun. Carry a gas tank into the stall, connect a long hose to the tank, place the end of the hose between the eyes, turn on the gas, release the valve, watch the blood drip. Cake. When visiting home over Thanksgiving, Dad asked me at breakfast if I wanted to give it a go, “just for old-time’s sake.” I decided to oblige. I had done it so many times before, what’s one more?

I walked across the yard, watching the birds play in the snow that sat on the tree branches. It had been years since I’d last killed a cow. You may wonder whether such a thing is a common occurrence, or you may wonder whether such a thing should be. In my household, it was and is—mostly so business men in $500 suits have something to chew on as they discussed their affairs. When I was in junior high, I tried to convince myself that prodding was a tolerable, perhaps even enjoyable thing. I was a teenager after all—I was supposed to like spurting blood. All such pretensions were gone by high school. Slasher movies are actually quite different than slaughtering cattle in real life. At least you can take a girl to a horror film and she might hold your hand for a few minutes during the intense parts. If you bring the same girl to a cattle stall and show her how the drill works, she’ll probably realize that rich lawyer’s sons always were her best match.

Anyway, the cow-killing thing got old pretty quickly. If I were to ever lose everything an move back to Iowa and claw out my living by raising (and slaying) cows, I would definitely not require my children to do the dirty deed until they were at least sixteen. Even then, I would make sure they used one of those cool new carbon dioxide emitters. The less blood, the better for everybody, right?

When I reached the barn, the bovine looked at me emptily. I was as if the poor thing knew what was coming. I wondered whether she had been chatting with her buddies before I got there. Perhaps they just sense the change in fate, or perhaps fate’s fulfillment, like a gentle gust of wind. I placed the tank on the ground and twisted it open, listening to the hiss of pressure which ended in a clunck noise, like the sound of a stake being driven into the ground by some high-powered machine. The blank eyes crossed, the legs folded up, and the cow just fell limply to the ground. Like a tree that’s been cut down.

When the family sat around the table that afternoon, Julian saw blood on the cuff of my flannel shirt and asked me what it was from. Dad turned on the Cowboy’s game. Jimmy got a frown from Mom when he started eating the turkey with his fingers. I told Julian about the cow. “Just don’t tell the kids,” I whispered.

*Just in case you’re wondering, this is fiction. I’m not the narrator.


On the Supernatural

I recently read about this new movie that has opened in various cities across the States, Paranormal Activity. If you haven’t seen the trailer, see it (with caution) here.

It’s strange to me that people respond to horror films the way they do. Many (if not most) horror flicks have some element of the supernatural; usually it’s a major theme in the movie. The girl in Paranormal Activity is actively pursued by a demon who wants possession of her soul, according to reviews I’ve read. A guy moves in with her (obviously before he found out about her ‘baggage’) and, being the classic horror movie skeptic, decides to lure the demonic force into the open by buying a Ouija Board and taping the whole thing with a HD video camera. Of course, the spirit comes out does his scary movie horror thing.

Most people love imagining the supernatural, but they’re simultaneously convinced that it doesn’t exist outside a few movies or Stephen King novels. Nothing happens that can’t be explained by science. It tells us that there is a reason (and by this they mean empirical evidence) behind everything we experience.

But experience tells us that life is not a lab experiment. The unpredictable, uncontrollable, unexplainable happens all around us. What we know has replaced what we feel, because we can’t explain or make sense of emotion. No young man can explain why he loves his fiancée, he just loves. Few people want to think of themselves as random DNA mixtures, and even fewer want to think that when they die, they no longer exist. But they define existence biologically, and when biology fails us and our heart stops and our eyes close and we stop breathing, it’s over. Nothing.

But we don’t really think that. We don’t really feel that. When our senses and mind confuse us, we all want to believe that there’s something more than what we see.

Horror movies are interesting windows into our consciousness. They’re built on classic stimulus response theory. People are most scared by what they most fear. And the thought of you or someone you love being haunted by something that can’t be controlled is terrifying. And if you catch us in an unguarded moment, we jump. Or scream. Even the smart ones. And that’s because we believe in something more than what we think.

Also, question: How should Christians respond to horror movies that make light of the supernatural? Demon activity is very real and very scary. Satan actually works like that all over the world. Should we watch movies like this? How should we evaluate them? Perhaps the worst response is to pretend it’s make-believe, because it’s not. Give me your impressions in the comments section.

Reformed Hip Hop

Here’s a recent Mark Dever interview with Reformed Hip Hop artist Shai Linne. Shai discusses the form of rap he calls “lyrical preaching.”

For more on Shai Linne, here’s his blog. I own his CD The Atonement, which is excellent and I would highly recommend it.

If there are other opinions concerning either the message (Reformed theology) or the method (hip hop), I would love to hear them in the comments section.


HT: Justin Taylor