“Authorities have charged a South Carolina woman with felony animal cruelty, saying she hanged her nephew’s pit bull from a tree with an electrical cord and burned its body because the dog chewed on her Bible.

“Animal control officers said Monday that 65-year-old Miriam Smith told them she killed a female dog named Diamond because it was a ‘devil dog’ and she worried it could harm neighborhood children” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/25/miriam-smith-killed-dog-f_n_813583.html?utm_source=Triggermail&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily+Brief&utm_campaign=daily_brief )

Reading the horrific story cited above reminds me of an old rock song by Three Dog Night that wondered “how can people be so cruel?” And, I would add, how can they be so cruel in the name of God?

The dog chewed on Ms. Smith’s Bible, and for that it deserved to be hung and burned? Maybe the woman should have chewed on her Bible herself. What I mean is meditated on and internalized its teaching. The literal Hebrew sense of “meditate” is “chew the cud, ruminate.”

If Ms. Smith had in fact read the Bible and, uh, dog-eared it, instead of just having one, she would have known that Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful.” A farmer in Moultrie, GA , I will always remember, said that such mercy included the way we treat animals. If the pit bull destroyed the woman’s Bible, another could be had for very little from most any bookstore. And if the dog was indeed a danger, she could have called the authorities or at least spoken to her nephew and had him keep the dog controlled.

This whole case reminds me that people will use any excuse to be cruel and heartless, including religion. They hate in the name of God. They exclude those who are different, and quote the Bible as they are doing so. They suspect their neighbors, instead of loving them as Jesus taught.

People may claim to be Christians. They may have a Bible and even read it. But Jesus said “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16).

Chew on that.

© 2011 Tom Cheatham