I've been thinking a lot about being offended the last few days. I was speaking at a conference recently and a 20ish young lady came up to me afterwards to tell me she was offended that I had said "50 years ago every woman knew how to cut up a chicken." She considered the remark sexist and demeaning.
Meanwhile, I've become acquainted with the work of Federic Leroy, an engineer anthropologist who lives in Belgium. His doctoral work studied microbial activity in meat curing. But his anthropology interests give a rare insight into the current anti-meat movement. He says the fact that nobody participates in slaughtering any more removes it from any visceral life context. The positive themes surrounding sacrifice and sustenance, without context, have turned into negative themes touting disgust and immorality.
I've come to the conclusion that these two threads--the offended young lady and the disconnected sacrifice--are connected. Animal slaughter is sacred though violent if it's done with the right attitude and spirit. It's desecration if it's done with simply mercenary and selfish motives--just like any activity. The fact that life requires death is foundational to understanding anything. The cheetah versus the lion. The robin versus the earthworm. The pain of childbirth versus the joy of new life.
My thought is that the reason millenials are so quick to cry "offense!" today is because they are completely disconnected from real violence--the kind of violence that happens to put food on the table and balance ecosystems. Sensitivities are like muscles, and when they fail to develop due to lack of exercise, they atrophy. Just like immune systems. Sterility and over-paranoia about sanitation create lethargic immune systems, known medically as the "hygiene hypothesis."
So imagine my enthusiasm today receiving a wonderful newsletter from Gregory the Great Academy in Elmhurst Township, Pennsylvania, whose students last fall raised and slaughtered about 325 chickens and 14 turkeys. This is exactly the kind of experience people need in order to develop sensitivity muscles. Participating in violence--the right kind of violence--is foundational to developing wisdom and a right sense of life.
Violent video games don't substitute because the blood isn't real and the visceral relationship with life and death never happens. Fifty years ago women did know how to cut up chickens. You couldn't buy boneless skinless breasts in the store. That half the women in our culture do not know that a chicken has bones is not an evolution toward common sense; it is a devolution into nonsense. This historical lesson is not sexist; it is a fact. You can like it or not, but to be charged with being offensive by using a historical truth indicates a profound misunderstanding of real offense.
Life is full of offenses. Imagine being a chicken on butcher day. Or a gazelle when a tribe of lions brings you down. Or a grasshopper when a chicken is around. Violence is such a part of the web and warp of nature that to think we can live in a world without it is asinine. The question is what is the end of the violence? What is the final goal? What kind of violence is it?
I think feeding your children Happy Meals is violence to their micro-biome. Violence is highly subjective, and so is offense. Remember, Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper: "This night you will be offended because of me." Was Jesus wrong? No; the disciples didn't know what truth was. They were about to find out.
So I ask, you omnivores, when are you going to take your kiddos to the farm and watch slaughtering happen? Isn't that as important as soccer?