Is All Life Really Sacred?

According to the wisdom of post Enlightenment Western Civilization, all life is sacred. Its ironic, since these same western values did not stop Nazi Germany from murdering six million Jews, countless Gypsies, and God knows how many other Peoples. Western Democracies outlawed Capital punishment as barbaric and draconian. We extend this value to human beings, but not to lower species. We don’t mind animals being killed for our food. I am not a fan of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which uses terrorist tactics to stop the deaths of animals used for human consumption or for pharmaceutical purposes. I don’t want to see animals suffer, but at the same time, I enjoy a juicy steak as much as anyone. I believe in the other PETA, People Eating Tasty Animals. But while some people don’t want animals killed, they often draw the line at insects. I have yet to meet a person who would want to see a hungry mosquito live. We are presently in the midst of a bed bug epidemic. Hotels, office buildings and almost anywhere today, there is a major resurgence of bedbugs around the world. My house became infected with them and I am having the house tented and pumped with poison gas that is guaranteed to kill everything living within the house, including house plants. Having been bitten by these insects, I am fully in favor of exterminating them. At the same time, I am a bit ambivalent about it. On one hand, these little bugs are a terrible nuisance and the idea of killing them all is pleasing to me. On the other hand, 65 years ago, Nazi Germany used poison gas to try to exterminate all Jews as if they were bed bugs. The Germans referred to Jews as vermin to be exterminated. If “all” life is sacred, it could be reckoned that there is no difference between killing humans we don’t approve of and killing insects that we don’t wish to have in our lives.

The difference is this: The Holy Scriptures teach that Man, unlike the rest of living things, was created in the image of God and because of this fact, human life is sacred. It needs to be guarded, protected and preserved. It can only be taken under stringent circumstances where the individual had forfeited his life by committing murder or adultery or Idolatry. To kill another human being is to strike out against the image of God and God has decreed that when this is done, a human forfeits his life. Animals are not created in God’s image. Many are cute and cuddly, more than some humans I know, yet their lives are not equal to human life. This is why killing an animal for food is permitted. This is why using animals for medical experimentation that may benefit human life is acceptable. In another age, we may all be vegetarians. The lion will lie down with the lamb and the lamb won’t be nervous. The lion will eat straw like the ox, but that time is not now. As long as there are rats, mice, roaches, mosquitoes, and bed bugs, people will approvingly seek to kill them. What we need to remember is that in this age, and in the next, human beings, no matter how much we disapprove of them, are beings created in the image of God, and we need to respect God’s image in them. This holds true for all human life, not just the people we like. It even includes Nazis and Arabs. If by their actions, they forfeit their right to live, that is a matter for the judge of all the earth. As a believer in God, I am called upon to trust that the Judge of all the earth will do right. As His follower, I need to seek to do right as well, meaning I have to respect all human life and let God deal with those who forfeit that right. In the meantime, death to bedbugs.


2 thoughts on “Is All Life Really Sacred?

  1. I cannot help but remember an occasion about a year ago. I was at the home of a good friend, who thinks he is Jewish, and goes to great lengths to be observant. It was Erev Shabbat.

    A housefly was buzzing about around his wife, She and severel others at the table began to attempt to swat the fly. My friend called a halt to that, because we are not permitted to kill anything on Shabbat. He believes that all life is sacred, and to kill anything sacred on Shabbat is unthinkable.

    I think this is an example of how far astray one can get with observance for the sake of observance. I don’t really think it has anything at all to do with the sanctity or lack thereof, of various forms of life.

    My Torah says God gave me dominion over all the animals, which I take to include flies. Therefore, I can kill a fly any time I want. In fact, stopping the fly from annoying his wife might actually have been the true obedience, because it would have shown respect for the woman who is made in God’s image, rather than the fly, which is not.

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