Northern Spotted Owls and Religious People

Posted by Bishop Bill Atwood on 08/18/2015

Northern Spotted Owls and Religious People

In the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, there are lush stands of trees that are known as “virgin forest.” In most places in North America, trees have been cut, and the ones that are standing are ones that have grown to replace the original trees. The old growth forest has developed as Mother Nature has orchestrated. 

Logging of the old hardwood trees is very lucrative, and much of the timber has already been harvested. Only about 10% of the old forest remains untouched, and all of that is on Federal land. Environmentalists mounted a huge campaign to stop the logging, noting that the forest was the principal home of the Northern Spotted Owl. The logging efforts had been financially lucrative but hard on the Spotted Owl. Its population had dwindled to about 2,000. Northern Spotted Owl

It is difficult to say what the impact would be if the logging continues to the point that the Spotted Owl disappears. The “Law of Unintended Consequences” kicks in, and we may wind up having the only predator of some horrific thingy being eliminated, causing thingy multiplication that leads to the end of civilization. 

Because of the dwindling Spotted Owl populations, environmentalists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared it to be an endangered species. Regardless of whether one is an environmentalist or a development capitalist, the point of this is that all the stops were pulled out to save the Northern Spotted Owl. There is great disagreement about how the matter was handled, but there was little disagreement that a species of owl was disappearing. As a result, there was tremendous public pressure. People cared about the Spotted Owl and rallied to save it. 

Northern Iraq

In northern Iraq, there is a flat-topped mountain about forty-five miles west of Mosul, Iraq, called Mount Sinjar. Whereas much of the countryside around it has change, life on the flat mountain has not changed much for many decades. The principle inhabitants are the Yazidis. They are a monotheistic culture that draws on Bible stories and “native religion” that provides a structure for their society. Technically, it is what is called a syncretistic religion because it draws on positions of a number of other religious perspectives. Of course, a Yazidi would say that they draw on those strains that are correct. 

For 2,000 years, the Yazidis have lived on Mount Sinjar, holding to their beliefs and bothering no one. That was until the ISIS fighters came to the area from Syria pressing their violent agenda of purging everything religious except their brand of Islam, with their understanding of Caliphate that imposes a very strict interpretation of Sharia Islamic Law that delights in violent corporal punishment and death for almost everything imaginable. 

ISIS fighters surrounded Mount SinJar and began fighting their way up the mountain. In addition to the Yazidi were some ethnic Kurds who are well equipped with small arms (principally AK-47 automatic weapons). The ISIS fighters are amazingly well armed, having more than a million dollars a day of oil revenue from captured oil fields, and probably having amassed more than a billion dollars of  assets from plundering banks. In addition, Iraqi troops, equipped with a treasure trove of equipment, arms, and ammunition, simply abandoned their gear when ISIS drew near. All that gear has been confiscated and is being used by ISIS as well. They now have powerful artillery weapons and armored personnel carriers. Any news broadcast shows vast fleets of brand new identical Toyota pick-up trucks, mounted with machine guns on top of the cab and waving black ISIS banners. 

Despite being overwhelmingly outgunned, the Kurdish citizen-soldiers (called Peshmerga), have done an incredible job holding off ISIS. Finally, when annihilation was imminent, the US Air Force was given the go-ahead to provide airstrikes against ISIS at the base of the mountain. 

About half of the 10,000 to 20,000 Yazidi who were on Mt. Sinjar managed to escape through a break in the encircling ISIS troops and headed to the east toward Dahouk, leaving 5,000 to 10,000 Yazidi on the mountain.

The ones who are left are the very young, the very old, and the infirm, who were not able to escape. The danger is not over. It is ever present. 

Why on earth, would I be writing about the Northern Spotted Owl and the Yazidi of Iraq? 

It is because a nation that can marshal the energy to support an endangered owl has the means to support a group of people as well. Ethically, the people should be supported even more so. Greatness of a people should not be measured merely by the standard of some notable achievements; rather, it is perhaps more poignantly described by its meekness—its ability to care for those who cannot care for themselves. 

This became a great issue when representatives of the United States government made it clear that they were denying the Yazidi’s claims for asylum. They said that they did not find grounds for granting asylum. That means that the President of the United States has decided that the Yazidi don’t count. He, or one of his staff that he has not overturned, has made the ridiculous decision that being hacked to death by 30,000 ISIS terrorists moving toward the Yazidi does not pose a significant enough threat to warrant asylum. If he is trying to live into his Nobel Peace Prize and keep from engaging militarily, he could still allow for asylum. The current position is senseless. It is cruel, and it is wrong. 

Without question, the President’s position on other environmental issues makes it clear that he is on the side of the Spotted Owl. He is just not on the side of the Yazidis. Or the Syrian Christians. Or the Iraqi Christians. Come to think of it, on the side of pretty much any Christians anywhere. 

At this point, you may be thinking that the crazy bishop is just going political, so let me draw things back to realms ecclesiastical. The reason this kind of horrific situation is happening, the reason we still have abortion on demand, the reason that more than forty percent of children in America are born out of wedlock, the reason seventy percent of children born are African Americans, the reason that one in five minority men are in prison, and so many other things have a screw loose is that Pastors in America have not preached the whole counsel of God to their people and have failed to engage the culture with incarnational ministry, demonstrating the love of Christ and lovingly sharing the ways God says to live in order to find abundance in eternal values.

Pastors, stand up! Speak out!

If you do not speak for the Yazidis and the Kurds, the Syrian Christians, the unborn and the others under fire, then Northern Spotted Owls will be the only ones prospering. 

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