The Yulin Dog Meat Festival, Eating Dog, and the Dog Meat Trade

For almost a decade now, every year in Yulin, China a festival is held. It is held for ten days over the summer solstice and involves the consumption of dog meat. The festival gets a lot of media every year for the horrendous way dogs are treated during the festival. The conversation around the festival raises questions about cultural practices, animal rights, health, and hypocrisy. I am against the festival and many of the practices around it but have found the festival is a small part of a much larger problem. A problem we should not be afraid to challenge or criticize.

In the East dogs have had a different relationship to humans than they have had in the West. In the West dogs have almost always been seen as man’s best friend. Not just companions to keeps us company but partners in survival. Eating dogs in the West is usually the last resort before we start eating each other. While dogs have also served a companion role in the East they have had a more uneven relationship with humans and it has rarely been taboo to consume dog. Dog is seen as a nutritious meat and is believed to provide seasonal health benefits.

Dogs were domesticated in China thousands of years ago. Many breeds had a place in the Imperial Palace and alongside the Emperor. Dogs were prized and cherished. They were also associated with the higher classes of society. This doesn’t mean that dogs were not eaten. They were. But dog meat was a delicacy for the higher classes. Though over time this changed. Dog meat became cheaper and became associated with the lower classes. During the Cultural Revolution the association between pet dogs and high class doomed them. The food shortage at the time exasperated the issue. Tens of thousands of dogs were killed.

Jump to present day we still have a horrendous dog meat trade, which the Yulin Dog Meat Festival is a part of. I was surprised to learn the festival is a recent event. Most sources I looked at stated 2009 or 2010 for the year it started. One source said it started in the 90s and one source defending the festival claimed it is based on a much older tradition. The festival isn’t officially recognized and the government states that it is simply a gathering of likeminded people.

Selling dogs during the festival makes you money. And in an area of China that has economic issues that can mean another day of surviving. Many of the locals who profit from the festival are simply trying to provide for their family. But this doesn’t change the fact that the festival is a small part of the larger meat trade problem in Asia. Many have tried to defend themselves by saying only dogs raised for meat are killed. And that there is a difference between pet dogs and meat dogs. While I was watching the Vice documentary I was struck by how people would say this but then turn around and not live by that maximum. They would treat dogs as if the role between food and pet could change every other minute.

I am not going to argue that dogs cannot be eaten as food. I think that argument is impossible to make, considering all the other animals we eat. And I am not going to argue against eating meat. That argument is beyond the scope of this article and I don’t think I could present a solid enough argument for no meat consumption at the moment. But what I am going to argue is that the Yulin Dog Meat Festival and the larger dog meat trade it is connected to is wrong.

The dog meat trade exists in several Asian countries. In many of the countries, including China there are no bans on consuming dog meat. Though there has been a growing push both within and outside the countries to ban the consumption of dog meat. Worse is the fact that are almost no laws regulating the dog meat trade. No regulations about the treatment or health of the dogs. No quality control. No transparency about where the dogs are coming from.

Because of the lack of regulations there are many health concerns surrounding dog slaughter in the dog meat trade. Slaughters usually take place in unsanitary conditions. Meat can be left out in the open or left on unclean surfaces. There is also no concern for a dog’s health. Many dogs that are slaughtered may have health issues that go on to affect human consumers.

Probably one of the more nefarious aspects of the dog meat trade is despite the claims of those in the dog meat trade there is little to no evidence of large scale farms where dogs are specifically raised for consumption. There are small farms but not enough to cover the majority of dog meat in the trade. The majority of the dogs seem to be kidnapped or strays rounded up. Regardless of where the dogs come from they are treated like shit. They are shoved into confined and unsanitary spaces. Many dogs die of illness during transport. From the moment they are taken they are in an environment of fear. They are often physically neglected and beaten. They can be tortured due to a belief that the adrenaline will make the meat taster better.

I want to underscore the suffering here because the suffering is the problem. It is wrong. One of the biggest push backs whenever criticisms of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival or the dog meat trade comes up is that it’s a different culture and we have no right to judge. My answer is no. The suffering of another creature, human or otherwise, is not up to cultural whims. Causing unnecessary and excessive suffering is wrong.

Many of the dogs are ripped from familiar environments, taken away from their human companions and spend the rest of their days in emotional distress and physical torture before they are brutally killed. It’s not just dog’s lives that are destroyed. Humans lose a companion and if they are in a rural area they also just lost a sense of security. The kidnapping and abuse for the meat trade causes suffering all around.

There is another point I want to address. Every time this issue comes up there is always someone who says, “Well how about the way we treat animals in the West?” Oh the hypocrisy! This sort of comment doesn’t actually achieve anything. I think you would be hard pressed to find among the activists someone who wants to just ignore the way we treat cattle or chickens in the West. The same could be said of those who say we have more human centric issues to worry about. There are a lot of issues in this world. The entirety of the human race doesn’t need to be focused on only one issue at a time. We can fight issues on many fronts. The way we treat other species is a global issue.

The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is a small event. Eating dog meat in China is not common. And some are surprised to learn that some people in their country eat dogs and that there are festivals for the consumption of dog meat. There has been a large push back within the country to fight the dog meat trade. This includes fighting against the Yulin Dog Meat Festival and other festivals that help keep the dog meat trade alive. There is no kindness in the dog meat trade. Only cruelty. There has been a tradition of eating dog but that does not mean we should tolerate a tradition of suffering.

I focused on the dog meat trade because that is what the Yulin Dog Meat Festival is about but there is also a cat meat trade with the same issues as the dog meat trade. If you want to help combat the dog and cat meat trades their are several organizations in different countries working to rescue these abused animals and pushing legislation to ban dog and cat meat. Find one you agree with/find reputable and donate or volunteer if you can.

Works Consulted (Sources Contain Graphic Imagery)


Bloody Mary

You’re young. You’re at a sleepover and the party has moved into the middle of the night. It’s that time of the night when the urge to tell a scary story begins to rise. A story or two is told then someone says, “Have you guys heard about Bloody Mary?” Among the giggles and looks everyone agrees to give it a try. Everyone gathers in the bathroom, huddled together in your pajamas. Starring into the mirror someone turns the lights out. After a moment of hesitation someone starts saying “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.” Nothing happens. But someone twitches. Someone screams they see something. Now everyone is screaming and frantically trying to open the door. It opens, everyone runs out. The screaming stops once everyone is out. In the end everyone laughs it off.

Bloody Mary is an urban legend that has been around for at least forty years. The above narrative is a typical narrative of those that try to act out the Bloody Mary ritual. I was really young when I was exposed to this urban legend. The version I knew said that if you stood in a dark bathroom, in front of the mirror, and said “Bloody Mary” three times her bloodied face would appear in the mirror.

I don’t know where I originally heard it from. I was that odd kid who liked scary stories and spooked out others with them. There were a couple of times the kids at my daycare went into the bathroom and tried it out. When I was a little older I found myself in the bathroom with some friends, we were looking at a glow in the dark puzzle. One of the older ones started saying “Bloody Mary.” I was the one closest to the mirror. They bolted out of the bathroom and held the door shut, leaving me in a panic. I don’t know if I saw anything, I tried my best to not look in the direction of the mirror.

The common elements of the legend are that you stand in front of a mirror in the dark and perform some sort of ritual. Once the ritual is performed the apparition known as Bloody Mary is supposed to appear. There are many variations of these core elements.

In some versions the ritual can only be performed at certain times otherwise she does not appear. You can either do it alone or in a group. The ritual itself is also varied. Sometimes it is performed with candles. There are a varying amount of times you should say “Bloody Mary,” sometimes you say something different such as Mary Worth which is a popular alternative. And what appears and happens also varies. In some versions you will only see a bloodied face in others she is supposed to lunge out of the mirror and try to harm you.

So where did this urban legend come from and who is Mary? In some versions she remains nameless. She has also been linked to historical figures like Queen Mary, Mary Queen of Scots, the Virgin Mary, or Mary Magdalene. She has also been said to have been a burned witch or a child killer. Among the many many versions of the legend that is passed around by teenagers there are many more explanations of who Mary is supposed to be.

The origins of the Bloody Marry legend are hard to trace. One of the earliest academic recordings of the myth comes from 1976. In this version the name that is chanted is “Mary Worth” which should be chanted forty-seven times. When she appears she is supposed to appear with a wart on her nose and a knife in her hand. When this version was recorded Bloody Mary was already an urban legend being passed among school children. Some of the versions of the Bloody Mary legend do have some overlap with other folklore such as banshees or some versions of the disappearing passenger legend. These overlaps though do not make it any easier to find where what we know of as the Bloody Mary legend started.

It should be noted that the mirror element of the legend has links to divination. Using reflective surfaces such as mirrors or pools of water has long been a method of summoning/communing or foretelling the future in folklore and occult traditions.

Does the Bloody Mary legend mean anything? Is it a reflection of subconscious fears we carry in our youth? Dundes argues that the Bloody Mary myth is a reflection of pre-pubescent girls’ fears about womanhood and menstruation. He basses this conclusion on the blood imagery that often appears in the legend and the fact that the ritual is more often performed by pre-pubescent girls at parties or sleepovers. He also draws upon certain versions of the myth such as one where blood is actually drawn from the participants during the ritual. And another one where instead of looking at the mirror you should look at the water in the toilet or some versions that suggest flushing the toilet as a way of banishing Mary. He suggests this focus on the toilet parallels the flushing away of menstruation.

Norder offers alternative meanings behind the legend. He suggests that the legend might be an attempt to scare children away from occult practices by religious leaders or to warn people away from calling upon the Virgin Mary outside of proper ritual. He also suggests it could be a reaction from Protestant leaders to scare people away from calling on Mary instead of Jesus.

There is another interpretation of the Bloody Mary legend. It could just be a good scary story that kids tell each other. It is a scary story that has the participants act it out, adding to the tension. While it is true that ritual is often performed by pre-pubescent girls it is also sometimes performed by boys or those well into their teens. Given the age of the legend this disproportion can be explained others ways. At the time that this legend started to bud gatherings of boys or girls would have had different expectations.

It would have been normal for girls to have sleep overs and easy access to a bathroom in order to perform the ritual. Coupled with the generalization girls or young women travel to bathroom in herds no one would question the gathering for the ritual. Boys would have had different gatherings such as camping trips where they would have had their own stories to better suite the setting. A gathering of boys for a ritual around the bathroom might have raised some eyebrows.

Another explanation for the ritual being mostly performed by girls is it might have some continuity with another folklore tradition that was performed by young women. A woman was supposed to walk backwards up a flight of stairs while holding a candle in one hand and a mirror in the other. While gazing into the mirror they were supposed to glimpse the face of the future husband. But they could also see a skull which meant they were going to die before getting to marry. If parts of the Bloody Mary legend did grow out of this piece of folklore it might help explain why it exists predominantly among girls and young women.

Scary stories often contain bloody imagery so it is not out of the ordinary. A bloodied face is probably also a close description of what people might actually see as their mind plays tricks on them as they stare into the mirror. There is also another explanation for the toilet elements within some versions of the legend. As I already mentioned, pools of water were also used to commune with spirits. The toilet contains its own pool of water to summon Bloody Mary. Flowing water is also associated with banishing negative or evil spirits. Flushing the toilet in a way creates a source of flowing water in order to banish Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary is not an obscure legend. It continues to be passed to each new generation. It has entered into entertainment. It has inspired several movies, episodes of The X-Files, Supernatural, Charmed, and Ghost Whisperer. It has been mentioned on Warehouse 13 and parodied in an episode of South Park. The legend has even spawned a horror comedy web series called The Bloody Mary show. The urban legend is thriving and its haunting apparition is going nowhere soon. Bloody Mary will be waiting to grab us from our mirrors for generations to come.

Works Consulted

  • Dundes, Alan. “Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety.” Western Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 2/3 (Spring – Summer, 1998), pp. 119-135. – An interesting article that tries to interpret the Bloody Mary legend as being about the anxiety young girls feel about menstruation. I already argued against his conclusion but the article also sidetracks sometimes into berating other folklorists for not reading meaning into urban legends and folklore. He also relies upon Freudian analysis to make some of the connections that forms his conclusion.
  • Norder, Dan. “The Face in the Mirror: Looking at Bloody Mary, Mary Worth and Other Variants of a Modern Legend.” 2003. – A pretty good article that surveys the Bloody Mary legend including its overlap with other folklore. I originally found the article online but the site that it was hosted at no longer seems to be up. I searched but it looks like the article has not been uploaded to a new home. Thankfully I had printed off a copy of the article when I originally stumbled across it. It is unfortunate that it is no longer available as I feel it is an interesting and valuable piece in studying Bloody Mary.
  • Schwartz, Alvin. “A Ghost in the Mirror.” More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. 1984.
  • Tucker, Elizabeth. “Ghosts in Mirrors: Reflections of the Self.” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 118, No. 468, Emerging Legends in Contemporary Society (Spring 2005), pp. 186-203.

Studying History

Personally I feel like everyone should study history. It is one of those topics that is taken for granted. Many people disregard history but don’t realize how much history shapes and defines the world we live. Many conflicts are based on certain interpretations of history and many cultures define their identity on a certain view of history. But what goes into studying history? What difficulties do we face when we construct our historical narratives?

The Sources

Unfortunately we do not have a perfect recording of the past. We have to piece together a picture from what little scraps history has decided to leave us. We have to reconstruct the kind of world our ancestors lived in and we have to grasp at the motivations and thoughts of those long gone.

There are many sources we rely on to reconstruct the past from excavated villages or cities to written works. All sources are up to certain amount of interpretation and several often have to be used in conjunction with each other.

The trouble with certain sources such as written ones is how much scrutiny are we supposed to treat them with? Often we have sources that talk about one period of time but were written much latter. The gospels were written 30-50 years after the estimated death of Jesus. Are certain elements of the gospels reflective of the time of Jesus or the time they were written? The war involving Troy mentioned in the Iliad was thought to be a myth but then archaeological evidence showed that there might be a grain of truth to the story. But how much of the Iliad could actually be trusted as a historical source?

Even if we decide to trust a certain source we have to take into account biases or misinformation present in the source. How much of the descriptions about the Germanic people can we trust from the Romans or from Christian missionaries? Or descriptions of the Native populations from early European colonizers to the Americas?

Archaeological evidence can also be difficult to work with especially if you have no other sources to work with it. Collaboration is important when it comes to reconstructing the past. Using several sources together can help create a clearer picture of a certain moment in the past while helping us to see what biases might exist in certain sources. With the use of several sources we can piece together a picture that is rarely ever completed.

The Many vs The Individual

One question that arises from studying history is the question of whether the social-political currents of a time or the individual is of greater influence. Would have the Reformation still have taken place without Martin Luther? Would the Second World War still have happened without Hitler? Both the Reformation and World War 2 are intimately tied with these individuals but they were riding on social-political currents that had been bubbling to a point for a while.

During Luther’s time the populace was fed up with the Catholic Church and its abuses. Some individuals tried to break away but such movements often failed. There was outcry for reform. Was Luther simply the first one to pop that bubble or was there something about his character or place in society to push for what became the Reformation? Luther’s actions led to the formation of other denominations that were able to survive and reforms within the Catholic Church. Some have argued that if Luther did not start the Reformation others would have simply filled his role; the social-political climate was there it just needed someone, anyone to pop that bubble.

Europe was still tense after the end of the First World War. Germany resented its treatment under the Treaty of Versailles. Economically it was in shambles. And the efforts of those in power to maintain a stable Germany was failing. Some debate has been had on what a Europe without Hitler would have looked like. Some have argued, due to other factors in Europe, war would have broken out. But that this war would have been a vastly different war than what we ended up with. Others have argued that it was Hitler’s charisma and ambition that drove Europe to war, that without him Germany might have still have flexed some military muscle but it would have been on a much smaller scale.

One of the issues with examining what is more of driving force in history is it always makes us play the what if game. In the end all we have is what have. History played out the way it did. By trying to figure out what might have happened if certain factors were different we toe the line of speculative fiction. What is likely is that some moments are driven more by a con-flux of factors and other times are driven by individuals.

What does history mean to us?

Everyone has their own history. This becomes apparent when history enters public discourse and we see how everyone uses history to craft a part of their identity. In the 1990s the Smithsonian tried to create a display to remember the bombing of Hiroshima. There was a proposed 300 page script that was supposed to go along with this display. Those that crafted it tried to be balanced and unbiased but when it was revealed there was a backlash. Some felt the script sympathized with the Japanese too much and that the valor and courage of U.S. soldiers wasn’t explored enough. Those that crafted the narrative for the display were accused of rewriting history and trying to make it more politically correct. In the end the original exhibit that was envisioned was done away and replaced with a smaller more low key exhibit.

More recently there was debate over changes the Texas State Board of Education wanted to make to its text book standards. There was a lot of argument of what elements of American History should be focused on and how should somethings be presented. Why should country music be talked about but not hip-hop? How do we handle unsavory topics of American History such as the abuse of Native American cultures and slavery? There is a certain interpretation of history that is the correct American view. To interpret it a different way is to rewrite it and to dishonor our heritage.

People tend to think that their view of history is the only correct view before realizing it can be perceived differently by different people. A white man will perceive the history of slavery differently than a black man. Even if the white man understands and is disgusted by that history and views it as an atrocity he will not have to live under its shadow like the black man. The black man has to struggle against the effects that slavery and its attitudes have left behind.

History also tends to age. As we move further away from a certain point in history our concept of that time becomes distorted. People are remembered differently. The founding fathers become idolized versions of what they really were. Golden ages that never existed are remembered. People long for the 1950s that never existed. Wars and battles become myth. The war that involved Troy becomes immortalized in the Iliad.

History can help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. But this rarely is the case. The human race continues to play out its depravity in war, subjugation, political, social and economic abuses. But we should continue to study history in case we are able to avoid those horrors again. We also need it. There is a need in the human spirit to try and understand were we came from and to try to place ourselves in the fabric of human history. But we must be careful to not tie ourselves down too much with one interpretation of history. If we can learn to see history from different perspective we might be able to better understand other people, other cultures better. We can become a more unified people through history and maybe one day avoid the horrors that we continue to repeat over and over again.

Judgment and the Hidden God of Apocalyptic Literature

A common image of God in the West is one of a loving and forgiving God, a caring but stern father. Looking at apocalyptic literature we see a different side of God. God’s darker side is often seen when passing judgment and what greater judgment is there than the judgment of the end times. While this darker side of God is seen more often in the Hebrew Bible, over time this side of God has been pulled out of non-apocalyptic texts and formed into separate evils, such as Satan, Baal, or others (Tremmel 56). But this separation does not appear in apocalyptic literature. The authors have found it necessary to keep the darker side of God present to destroy the evils of the world. To take a look at this vastly different God we need to first take a look at how God commands his followers to judge others. Next we look at God’s actions of judgment. Then we examine the differing characterizations of God between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Finally we look at how apocalyptic texts we have found it necessary to keep the darker side of God in apocalyptic literature for the final judgment.

In the Hebrew Bible, God calls for an immediate judgment when his commandments are broken. When the commandments are broken judgment does not come directly from God, instead the judgment comes from the community of believers. In a roundabout way these judgments are coming from God because he is dictating which judgments should be carried out for breaking certain laws.

One of the more horrible is the judgment of death. Yet God expects the community to carry out the judgment of death against those who his commandments. Examples of crimes that are punishable by death include speaking blasphemy against God (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Lev. 24.16), not keeping the Sabbath, and several others (Ex. 19.13; 21.12; 21.14-17; 21.29; 22.19; Lev. 20.9-16; Num. 1.51; 3.10; 3.38; 25.5; Deut. 13.5). These judgments are not rash though. God demands more than one person’s testimony for conviction. He demands the testimony of at least two or three witness to pass the judgment of death (Num. 35.30; Deut. 17.6). But that does not eliminate the horror of executing someone. The purpose of these judgments is to “purge the evil” from the community (Deut. 22.22). The immediate nature is meant to deal with the physical presence of evil among the community. These evils are something that can be dealt with physically and God commands these evils be purged when detected.

The New Testament God, in stark contrast with the God of the Hebrew Bible, does not expect humans to be his instruments of justice. There is an emphasis on not passing judgment on others (Mt. 7.1; Lk. 6.37). Evil is not dealt with in the same way as it is in the Hebrew Bible (Matthew 5.39-41; 44-45). It is not something human beings can accomplish. There are two reasons why humans cannot carry out a judgment to get rid of evil. One is that evil comes from within humans (Mk. 7.21) and two everyone one is guilty of something (Matthew 7.1-5; John 8.7). Because of these flaws human beings are not good candidates to act as judges when it comes to God’s commandments. God wants people to forgive each other instead of judge one another (Mt. 18.21-22). Compared to the Hebrew Bible there are no instructions for physically dealing with evil in the community. Instead there is a call for forgiveness between fellow human beings (Mt. 6.15; 18.21-22; Mk. 11.25; Lk. 17.3; Jn. 20.23). Humans are not meant to be judges in spiritual matters.

The God of the Hebrew Bible is a much more active God than the God of the New Testament. The belief was that “God protected and punished immediately” (Tremmel 44). As long as the people of Israel followed his commandments and worshiped him God would provide his protection. But if they did not keep his commandments his protection would be withdrawn (Tremmel 44). In the Hebrew Bible God was much more proactive, he interacted with the physical world. The earliest example of God’s judgment can be found in Genesis. Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden of Eden for defying God (Gen. 3.8-24). The next major judgment is the flood (Gen. 6.11-13). God causes the flood because he judges the world to be corrupt. God is swift with his judgment. When he sees corruption he deals with it. One of the greatest examples of God’s judgment in the Hebrew Bible is the plagues of Egypt (Ex. 7.8-12.50). God brings his judgment against those who oppress his people. Anyone who defies him or his commandments are dealt with quickly (Num. 16.27-35; 21.4-6), even his own people (2 Kings 17.14-20). God is more involved with history in the Hebrew Bible and his judgments are swift when he sees corruption.

In the New Testament God does not act immediately. Jesus performs miracles through the power of God but these are not acts of judgment. In fact one of the major teachings of the New Testament is to not judge others (Mt. 7.1; Lk. 6.37). This is not a lasting command for God himself though. God reserves his judgment for the “end of this age. ” At that time there will be a separation of the good and the bad (Mt. 13.49). Those that are found to be worthy are ushered into the glory of Heaven, the unworthy are left out in the cold (Mt. 8.11-12; 13.41-42; Lk. 13.28). While the judgments of God are not a part of the physical present in the New Testament there is the promise that he will carry out his final judgment.

In the Hebrew Bible “good” and “evil” are not defined or separated. God caused both the bad and good things in the world. If one obeyed God and his commands one was rewarded but disobedience brought judgment (Tremmel 18). God gives and takes. As long as the people of Israel follow the laws of God they will be protected but if they turn away from him God gives power to their enemies and allows them to conquer Israel (2 Kings 17.14-20). This idea of God in the Hebrew Bible causing both the good and the bad in the world would be a problem in the future for those who believe in a loving God who protects his people.

By the time of the New Testament, God is no longer responsible for the evils of the world. Instead Satan is responsible. The dark side of God we glimpsed in earlier texts is now weeded out and personified as a separate being. He is the enemy of God (Tremmel 69). He was an angel who was thrown out of Heaven for his pride and disobedience (Tremmel 71-72). Satan is responsible for inflicting pain onto people and for tempting people to do bad things (Tremmel 70). He is ruler of this world (Tremmel 72-73) and the one who introduced sin into it (Tremmel 70). God is no longer responsible for the negative things, Satan is.

But why the transition? Why did the idea of God as the sole actor in history change to God and Satan as the movers of history? In his judgments we saw a darker side of God. In the Hebrew Bible God is more active so we see this side of him more often. This creates a problem. Believers in a loving God did not want to think about him being responsible for the bad in the world (Capetz 18). To help deny this dark side of God authors removed things which showed us that side of him. But sooner or later someone would have to deal with the evils of the world. Humans are inadequate in this respect. Only God can deal with it but the only way to destroy evil is to “fight fire with fire. “

One of the most defining characteristics of apocalyptic literature is the final judgment. But the entire process is usually drawn out. Apocalyptic texts describe the suffering of believers then move on to describe the evils of God’s enemies. Finally there is a battle between good and evil. Those who are evil lose and are punished while those who are good win and are rewarded. The darker side of God we saw in non-apocalyptic texts of the Hebrew Bible is now thrown full force into our faces to deal with the evils of the world.

In early apocalyptic literature those who are punished are not truly evil, at least not in the way we would think of evil. It is about wiping out those who are different and oppressing the followers of God. Early Jewish apocalyptic literature views almost all gentiles as unworthy and that they should be punished by God (Capetz 15). Because they do not worship the God of Israel they should be wiped out. In Daniel the people of Israel should hold fast to the Lord while they wait for him to come punish their enemies (Dan. 12.1-13). The War Scroll from the collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls depicts the community of believers as the only righteous while everyone else is unworthy (1QM1). There is no personified evil force acting in the world. God’s judgment comes down on those who oppress his people (Tremmel 44-46). The final judgment of God is a bloody battle which ultimately leads to the defeat of God’s enemies. God wins through war. In the final judgment the ends always justifies the means. The enemies of God must be eradicated.

The main apocalyptic text of the New Testament is the Apocalypse of John also known as Revelation. By this time the idea of a personified evil has formed, Satan. This personified evil is responsible for all the woes in the world not God but God still allows them to happen (Tremmel 67-76). Some compare the horrific imagery displayed in Revelation grotesque horror movies such as Psycho or the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Pippin 83). The actions of God in Revelation are ethically lacking (Hedley 66). For God anything goes. He is responsible for several natural disasters that shake the world (Rev. 8.5-12). In the end the unworthy are thrown into a lake of fire and left out in the darkness, separated from the rest of existence (Rev. 20.10; 20.14-15). We clearly see God’s darker side in this text and his willingness to do anything to destroy his enemies.

The major problem with a monotheistic faith is how much is God responsible for? If you believe that God is the ultimate mover of history and you are one of his followers what conclusion do you come to when nothing but bad happens to you? There are two possibilities. Either God is causing your misfortune or there is a separate force acting in the universe. There may have not been a clear definition of good and evil in the Hebrew Bible early on but there certainly was a sense of it. God acted as the bringer of both good and evil. Though at times he did seem like a loving and protecting God, when it came to his judgments he would commit atrocities that were required to wipe out the evils of the world. This did not change with the God of the New Testament. His judgments may not be quick but instead he bottles up the horrors for the final judgment. The ultimate judgment presented in apocalyptic literature is a compilation of the horrors of the darker side of God. It is impossible to eliminate evil without turning unsavory methods. As long as it is for the greater good it is okay (Reichenbach 7). The God of apocalyptic literature is our divine Mr. Hyde. We see glimpses of him outside of apocalyptic literature but nowhere else is this side of him needed more than in apocalyptic literature to rid the world of its evil.

Works Cited

  • Capetz, Paul E. God: A Brief History. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003. Print.
  • George, Hedley P. “Apocalyptic: Wrong and Right.” Journal of the National Association of Biblical Instructors, 2.2 (1934) 66-68. Print. Pippin, Tina. Apocalyptic Bodies. New York: Routledge, 1999. Print.
  • Reichenbach, Bruce. Evil and a Good God. New York: Fordham University Press, 1982. Print.
  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible: With the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, New Revised Standard Version. Michael D. Coogan, editor. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
  • Tremmel, William C. Dark Side: The Satan Story. St. Louis: CBP Press, 1987. Print.