Sheepwolves

There’s a concept that’s popular among right-leaning people, [1], and it goes like this:

There are three kinds of people in the world: Sheep (who cannot defend themselves), Wolves (who use violence to prey on the sheep) and Sheepdogs (who use violence against the wolves to protect the sheep).

People will tell you that they like this metaphor because sheepdogs do good work; that the sheepdog’s willingness to meet wolves with wolf-like violence is an expression of its true love for the sheep. To those people, the sheepdog is special because–like wolves–it has claws, fangs, strength, speed, and that it delights in the hunt, and in the kill; yet the sheepdog is on the side of the sheep, and that this is called righteousness.

This belief is how police officers (those conservative heroes) become paramilitary units; how they justify themselves (proclaim their righteousness or excuse their unrighteousness) when they kick down the wrong door; murder pets; slaughter children; abuse and embarrass innocent people. Because the more closely a person believes that what makes sheepdogs special is the sheepdog’s likeness to wolves (possession and desire to use claws, fangs, etc.) the more likely that person is to prefer the sheepdog metaphor.

Cops will tell you that they do what they do–whatever that is–out of love for the people. It’s a deep deception that corrupts the officer because he begins to think he is the source of that love. Then, having made himself the source of love for the people, he begins to think that what he does as cop (particularly the use of violence) is “real love”, as opposed to whatever it is that all those who are not officers do. Whatever that is, it’s not “real love” because “real love” includes the desire to do violence, so non-officer don’t “really love”. Now he’s not only the source of love, but separate from them. He begins to think that whatever he does is born of love, and can justify to himself any action he takes–especially violent–as an act of love. This is called self-righteousness; which is wicked. We recognize it when SWAT teams bust into a house, and shoot a little girl.

It also misses the point of sheepdogs. The more a dog emphasizes its natural dog-ness the more likely that it will start cannibalizing the herd, because the nature of a dog is very much like the nature of a wolf. What is really interesting and useful about sheepdogs is not their dog-ness (their resemblance to wolves) but that–despite their natural resemblance to wolves–they pursue resemblance to shepherds. Sheepdogs, like shepherds, spend the great majority of their time leading, corralling, watching, and instructing the flock; walking, barking, and nipping at the sheep. A good sheepdog does not pursue threats to the herd, but deters them, and–once threats are deterred–returns to the herd, and concerns itself with keeping the herd together.

The cause of this is not love for the sheep–although that often develops–but love for the shepherd. The best sheepdogs seek the shepherd’s approval above all things; receive sustenance from the the shepherd’s hand. They revel in the shepherd’s triumph over the wolves even if it was their own fangs which the shepherd used to do it, because they recognize that it was the shepherd’s investment in them that delivered the wolf into their mouths. They celebrate the shepherd. Another way of saying this is that really good sheepdogs are just extensions of the shepherd; that they are, in fact, little shepherds.

In addition to what I’ve said above: Shepherds have a much longer and greater pedigree than sheepdogs. Why, then, don’t truth-loving, God-fearing, Bible-clinging, gun-toting Americans or other Westerners just pursue the life of a shepherd instead of doing this song-and-dance about sheepdogs? It’s because they believe shepherds are weak, stupid, dirty, and boring. (Sounding like the perception of fathers and husbands yet?) They’d rather be wolf-like “for” the sheep; they want to be Sheepwolves.

Sheepwolves, though, don’t exist. They never have because not only are they not real, they are impossible. They’re just wolves without any sense at all. The senselessness of would-be sheepwolves is apparent because “sheepwolves” (ironically and insanely) are the ones who can’t distinguish between sheep and wolves. It’s just the sort of damned nonsense you’d expect from demons.

You’re going to have to choose: Shepherd, sheep, or wolf.

[1]I don’t remember where I first heard it, but you can find an extended version of it here.

74 thoughts on “Sheepwolves

  1. I had never thought about it in such terms. The analogy involved animals, and I never saw a reason to include not-animals; humans. It makes much more sense this way, and the fact no one ever said such says a great deal about our current cultural emphasis on humans as mere animals rather than God’s creation whom devolve into animals when they’re unable to fulfil the roles God intended for us

  2. Cane: The sheep/sheepdog/wolf illustration originates with this excellent book. http://www.amazon.com/On-Killing-Psychological-Learning-Society/dp/0316040932 In the original version, what makes the sheepdog special is not that he is one of the minority that is psychologically unharmed by violence, but that unlike both the sheep and the wolf he acts in the interests of others rather than himself. Colonel Grossman also wrote “the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed.”

    Under Grossman’s analogy, which animal you are is based on whether you circle up and try to get to the center of the herd, seeking safety at the expense of others (sheep), take advantage of someone else’s vulnerability for your profit (wolf), or sacrifice yourself for the sake of others (sheepdog). It has nothing to do with whether you carry a gun, or have “claws, fangs, strength, speed” but with whose life you value. Police units become special forces groups because they are more concerned with their own safety than the safety of others–the opposite of the sheepdog mentality. On the other hand, Desmond Doss (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmond_Doss) met Col. Grossman’s sheepdog designation, and he refused to even carry a gun!

    I agree that the shepherd may be a better analogy–at least in the spiritual realm–but as the youth of David (1 Samuel 17:34-36) shows, the shepherd also uses violence in defense of his flock. He must be willing to give up his life for his sheep (John 10:11-12). Sheepdog or shepherd, the point is that your focus is not on your own safety, but on that of others. Your statement that “really good sheepdogs are just extensions of the shepherd” seems an especially apt description of how we are to relate to Christ. God places only one shepherd over his people (Ezekiel 34:23), so rather than trying to usurp his position as shepherds, perhaps we ought to focus on being sheepdogs that function as an extension of the one true shepherd.

  3. @MNM

    Cane: The sheep/sheepdog/wolf illustration originates with this excellent book.

    That book was published in 2009. The article I linked was published in 2007. I am sure the origins are older than either.

    Colonel Grossman also wrote “the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed.”

    Yes, because he’s becoming a wolf.

    It has nothing to do with whether you carry a gun, or have “claws, fangs, strength, speed”

    This post is not about cops, carrying guns, fighting, or killing.

    I agree that the shepherd may be a better analogy–at least in the spiritual realm–but as the youth of David (1 Samuel 17:34-36) shows, the shepherd also uses violence in defense of his flock. He must be willing to give up his life for his sheep (John 10:11). Sheepdog or shepherd, the point is that your focus is not on your own safety, but on that of others. Your statement that “really good sheepdogs are just extensions of the shepherd” seems an especially apt description of how we are to relate to Christ. God places only one shepherd over his people (Ezekiel 34:23), so rather than trying to usurp his position as shepherds, perhaps we ought to focus on being sheepdogs that function as an extension of the one true shepherd.

    I’ve established that worthy sheepdogs are actually little shepherds.

    Colonel Grossman approached this from a psychological perspective; which I think causes the fundamental error. You’re repeating what I wrote in the bolded bit: “There are three kinds of people…”, but then kind of waffling that spiritually, I might be correct, etc., et al., whatever. As if they were separate; as if we have to address the flesh and the spirit distinctly; as if the spirit does not guide the flesh.

    There are three kinds of people: Shepherds, sheep, and wolves.

    Ignore any perceived curtness in my response. My intent is to be clear; not adversarial.

    @Chad

    It makes much more sense this way, and the fact no one ever said such says a great deal about our current cultural emphasis on humans as mere animals rather than God’s creation whom devolve into animals when they’re unable to fulfil the roles God intended for us

    Bingo.

  4. @Cane

    “Ignore any perceived curtness in my response. My intent is to be clear; not adversarial.”

    Understood. I hope you will grant me the same.

    1) On killing was published in 1996 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Killing:_The_Psychological_Cost_of_Learning_to_Kill_in_War_and_Society) The revised edition I linked to on Amazon was published in 2009, but the illustration was present in the original.

    2) “I’ve established that worthy sheepdogs are actually little shepherds.

    Colonel Grossman approached this from a psychological perspective; which I think causes the fundamental error. You’re repeating what I wrote in the bolded bit: “There are three kinds of people…”, but then kind of waffling that spiritually, I might be correct, etc., et al., whatever. As if they were separate; as if we have to address the flesh and the spirit distinctly; as if the spirit does not guide the flesh.

    There are three kinds of people: Shepherds, sheep, and wolves.”

    You established that sheepdogs are “little shepherds” in your own mind, but offer no evidence. In fact, you contradict yourself just earlier in the same statement by claiming that sheepdogs are extensions of the shepherd. Extensions are subordinate to that which they are an extension of. Thus, if sheepdogs are extensions of the shepherd, they cannot also be shepherds.

    I agree that Col Grossman was writing from psychological perspective. In other words, in his illustration, it is false to equate the sheep or the flock with believers, in the way that one would when reading a Scripture illustration. In Grossman’s example, the sheep are simply psychologically normal people–people who will be permanently scarred by violence. These are the people that keep society running on a day to day basis, and are far more important than the two deviant groups, wolves and sheepdogs, who are both psychologically unscathed by violence, but have different priorities. To replace sheepdog with shepherd in this illustration removes the normative status of the sheep, and the deviant (but positive) status of the sheepdog. Thus, introducing a shepherd into this illustration makes it less elucidative about the conditions it is employed to explain.

    However, I believe I see you moving the illustration from its original purpose of explaining psychological responses to violence towards an illustration of how we relate to Christ and others. In that context, I can agree that a shepherd should be part of the illustration–Christ himself claimed that appellation in John 10:11-12. However, we are also told that in the context of Christ-as-shepherd, there can only be one shepherd (Ezekiel 34:23). Thus, I disagree with your claim that in your new illustration re-purposed from an old illustration of something completely different, we ought to strive to be shepherds. That position in the analogy only has room for one, and it is already filled. However, as you pointed out yourself, sheepdogs act as an extension of the shepherd, doing His will and bidding. This is why I argue that in your newly created parable, the position of sheepdog must remain–not to house the useful deviants as in the old parable, but to house those who actively do the will and bidding of the shepherd.

    There are three types of people: sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves. The sheep belong to the shepherd (John 10:12). The sheepdogs belong to the shepherd, and obediently assist Him in his work of caring for the flock. The wolf does not belong to the shepherd, nor does it obey the shepherd, but rather seeks to ravage the shepherds flock.

    There is but one shepherd, and that is Christ.

  5. Ezekiel 34 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel

    John 21:17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

    The LORD identified the overseers of the congregations as shepherds. Peter could not be thought of ‘feeding the sheep’ as a sheepdog.

    Strong’s word 4102(faith) occurs 243 times in the NT. Strong’s word 4100(believe) occurs 244 times. Strong’s word 1492(know) occurs 319 times . Knowing is vital to following God, as in; John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

  6. @MNM

    On killing was published in 1996

    Fair enough.

    I agree that Col Grossman was writing from psychological perspective. In other words, in his illustration, it is false to equate the sheep or the flock with believers, in the way that one would when reading a Scripture illustration. [...] However, I believe I see you moving the illustration from its original purpose of explaining psychological responses to violence towards an illustration of how we relate to Christ and others.

    See, this is what I do not do, and I recommend you (or Col Grossman) do it neither. The original lesson of shepherds, sheep, and wolves is from God. It is IN the shepherds, sheep, and wolves. This is pre-Bible stuff; or rather what the Author and authors of the Bible drew upon when they wrote about shepherds, sheep, and wolves.

    Do not make the mistake because some dude somewhere said something about deviant psychological persuasions that he has something new to say, or that he gets to set the rules. The rules are set by watching shepherds, sheep, and wolves.

    Col Grossman is making the same mistake that the right-minded people do: He looked at the occurrence of keeping sheep, and thought there was something remarkable about some canines doing this, and some canines doing that instead of what the canines were pointing to. He mistook their authority for their psychology; that the essence of the goodness of a sheepdog is their dog-ness. That’s wrong. It’s their shepherd-ness that makes them useful and good, and what needs to be studied. Their dog-ness is incidental.

    There are no sheepdogs without shepherds because sheepdogs are dogs that have been Sheepdogs are shepherds. They just are. Shepherding is what sheepdogs do. The best thing we can say about sheepdogs is that they are not as well-equipped as full-fledged shepherds, but even this parsing out of sheepdogs distracts from the metaphor of our relationships to one another. That metaphor is this: There are three kinds of people: Shepherds, sheep, and wolves. There are three ways we have relation to others: leaders, followers, and destroyers.

    That position in the analogy only has room for one, and it is already filled.

    Again, this is a metaphor about how we relate to one another. Christ is The Shepherd; The Shepherd of shepherds. He shepherds pastors as they shepherd their flocks. Fathers shepherd their families. Mothers shepherd their children. Older siblings shepherd the younger. These are all shepherds to the people–sheep–in their charge. Just because there is only one True and Begotten Heir to the throne does not diminish the fact that He makes us heirs with Him; not does our inheritance diminish His. Rather it glorifies it.

    In case I’ve lost you: If you cut off my arm, you have injured me even though you have not cut me off. If you hit my arm, then you have hit me.

    “Whatever you do to the least of these…”

  7. @Bobbye

    “Ezekiel 34 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel”

    Thanks for making my point. God does not have kind words to those who set themselves up as shepherds.

    “John 21:17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

    The LORD identified the overseers of the congregations as shepherds. Peter could not be thought of ‘feeding the sheep’ as a sheepdog.”

    Any analogy breaks down if you take it too literally.

    If you argue that there is more than one shepherd, you argue against the words of Jesus Christ himself: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”–John 10:16

  8. @Cane

    “See, this is what I do not do, and I recommend you (or Col Grossman) do it neither. The original lesson of shepherds, sheep, and wolves is from God. It is IN the shepherds, sheep, and wolves. This is pre-Bible stuff; or rather what the Author and authors of the Bible drew upon when they wrote about shepherds, sheep, and wolves.”

    The value of a parable is using the well understood to explain the less well understood. If you object to using animals to explain psychology, how can you not object to using virgins waiting for a wedding party to illustrate the kingdom of Heaven? Jesus never said that the kingdom of Heaven is exactly like a peal of great price–he used something easy to comprehend to illustrate a larger truth. It is precisely what is IN sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs–the way God made them–that makes them a useful model for understanding psychological responses to violence.

  9. @MNM

    The value of a parable is using the well understood to explain the less well understood. If you object to using animals to explain psychology, how can you not object to using virgins waiting for a wedding party to illustrate the kingdom of Heaven?

    Haha! No, I didn’t mean don’t use metaphors or parables. My prescription was against psychologizing things. I’m sure I could have been clearer.

    It is precisely what is IN sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs

    What is IN sheepdogs that makes us want to refer to them while talking about taking care of sheep IS shepherding. This means we can dispense with talking about sheepdogs altogether because what we really want to talk about is shepherds–one who does shepherding.

    Again: Shepherding is what makes sheepdogs worth talking about.

    I say this is important because talk of sheepdogs leads one to think that what is important is not that they shepherd, but that they happen–incidentally, even–to be dogs, i.e., their resemblance to wolves, their wolfishness.

    I hope I can get you to see what I mean, as I don’t think you’d really disagree if you did.

    “Ezekiel 34 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel”

    Thanks for making my point. God does not have kind words to those who set themselves up as shepherds.

    That text is referring to the legitimate shepherds of Israel who are behaving against their legitimate responsibilities. It’s not saying that they should stop being shepherds, but that because they are misbehaving shepherds they are going to get it.

  10. The map isn’t the territory. The metaphor isn’t the thing described.

    This shouldn’t be so hard for you to grasp.

  11. The sheepdog analogy is still useful in identifying the unrealized potential of one to be either shepherd or wolf. The dog aspect of a sheepdog may not be desirable but it is certainly not incidental. The fallen nature of man is not desirable, but it is very much real. We should not celebrate wolfishness like many warrior-types do, but instead strive to be shepard-like, Christlike, if you will. But the reality is that humans leaders are sheepdogs by default. We can fall and become wolves or we can rise to become mini-shepards. Therefore the sheepdog title should be one of humbleness, recognizing our fallibility, rather than one of pride and self-righteousness.

  12. @Asterix

    Welcome.

    But the reality is that humans leaders are sheepdogs by default. We can fall and become wolves or we can rise to become mini-shepards. Therefore the sheepdog title should be one of humbleness, recognizing our fallibility, rather than one of pride and self-righteousness.

    You’re not a sheepdog. You’re a human.

    If you have a pastor, in that relationship you are a sheep. If you are a husband or father, in that relationship you are the shepherd. In none of these are you a sheepdog except as you decide that you don’t really want to be a shepherd or a sheep.

    This desire of people to presume that it’s important to identify some middling territory of “real and ugly truth” is exactly why the sheepdog metaphor is bad. Under the pretense of creating a unified system to reconcile the meaning of the flesh with the meaning of the spirit, what actually happens when this thinking runs its course is a dissection of the flesh from the spirit.

    Predictably, this confusion gets projected upon what I’ve written even though what I’m trying to communicate is that the spirit must be given priority of thought to guide the flesh.

  13. Since this post is about sheep, sheepdogs and shepherding, I’ll leave this youtube vid here (hope it embeds properly):

    http://www.youtube.com.sg/watch?v=1OE6HgK9NjQ

    “Christ is The Shepherd; The Shepherd of shepherds. He shepherds pastors as they shepherd their flocks. Fathers shepherd their families. Mothers shepherd their children. Older siblings shepherd the younger.”

    So with the anecdotes, comments and stories about marriages, instances of fornication, divorces, sluts and PUAs, shepherding is not just no longer celebrated (or honoured or respected) in our society but also lost its art (or method). There are loads of sheepdogs everywhere which behave (or even act) like wolves. Or at times, sheepdogs are glorified for the sake of it.

    It seems to me that our society is broken and this is very much irreversible.

  14. @chokingonredpills: Society has always been broken. That’s why Jesus. Our society as believers is supposed to be believers, ‘called out and separated’ from the larger society. But the church for a long time has decided that Paul instructed them to be like wolves, that we may win more wolves, be like lions, that we may win more lions, be like whores that we may win more whores, be like politicians that we may win more politicians, be like,be like…The believers, especially the children, are always surrounded by or in the company of wolves and lions and we somehow believe that we will convert them instead of us being devoured.

  15. @Cane

    “Haha! No, I didn’t mean don’t use metaphors or parables. My prescription was against psychologizing things. I’m sure I could have been clearer.”

    I think this is where you originally lost me. I believe the power of the parable is in its ability to describe the hard to understand in a way that makes it easier to understand. Since I am very familiar with Col. Grossman’s book, my original reaction was to point out that by changing the illustration, you change it’s ability to reflect the truth it illustrates. This is why I said that you were creating a new parable using old characters, because it became obvious that the truth you were attempting to illustrate was different than what the illustration was originally designed to illustrate.

    “I hope I can get you to see what I mean, as I don’t think you’d really disagree if you did.”

    As I read back through the comments, and I try to do away completely with the illustration, focusing instead on the what you are trying to illustrate, I think that we agree in substance. When I read what you wrote here:

    “Again, this is a metaphor about how we relate to one another. Christ is The Shepherd; The Shepherd of shepherds. He shepherds pastors as they shepherd their flocks. Fathers shepherd their families. Mothers shepherd their children. Older siblings shepherd the younger. These are all shepherds to the people–sheep–in their charge.”

    I don’t disagree with your statements on how we ought to relate to others. If every instance of shepherd used as a verb above was replaced with “lead” I would agree wholeheartedly. But the one aspect where I find your illustration to not well mirror the overarching truth is the fact that the shepherd is only a leader, and the sheep are exclusively followers. As you pointed out yourself, we are called not only to lead, but also to follow. I like the sheepdog as an illustration because while he leads the sheep (at the shepherd’s command), he also follows the shepherd. He is simultaneously a leader and a follower. So we must simultaneously lead and follow.

    However, unless I am misreading you, we agree that we must both lead and follow. That’s what’s primarily important here, and tweaking the illustration is mainly semantics (although it does have implications, which I why I point it out).

  16. @moosenorseman ” I believe the power of the parable is in its ability to describe the hard to understand in a way that makes it easier to understand.”

    Matthew 13:10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

    11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

    “Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
    14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

    “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
    15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
    Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
    and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]

    Of course the above is only Jesus’ opinion.

  17. @ Cane. I understand what you mean. The gray area labeling leaves too much room for people to rationalize away their errors, as if when they make a mistake they can justify away their sins by saying, ‘oh its just the wolf in me’ (i.e, being led by the flesh rather than the spirit), if not outright glorifying this aspect of themselves.

    This shepard/sheep/wolf divide seems to me to be related to the civilian-military divide in general. It applies to civie gun-nuts with concealed carries as well, but less so than law enforcement and even more less so than people serving. I observe that people who call themselves sheepdogs can come in two flavours: The guilty and the prideful. If the person in question feels guilty, then he is what I call a Rambo. If he is prideful and self-righteous, he is a Patton. Rambos will eventually morph into Pattons.

    http://churchformen.com/discipling-men/why-military-guys-resist-the-gospel/

    Interestingly enough, the purpose of actual sheepdogs (called herding dogs) involves solely, the herding of sheep and nothing more. Most herding dogs are rather diminutive (koolies, for example) and so are unable to defend the herd from wolves and other predators. Ergo sheepdogs are basically….lesser shepherds. The term that the right-wingers probably want to use instead is Livestock Guardian Dog. But these dogs are imprinted with the herd as puppies and bond so strongly with them, that they are basically a part of the herd (thus they never cannibalize their own herd). They blend in with the sheep and their presence is enough to ward off predators. The livestock guardian dog is in his own mind, basically a sheep (or the sheep is a dog. Whatever the fact, the sheep is family). The qualities sought in a LGD is trustworthiness, attentiveness and protectiveness. They seldom kill predators and wolves tend to “know” the LGD and leave their flocks alone. All this from Wikipedia, by the way.

  18. @Asterix

    Excellent comment all-around!

    I observe that people who call themselves sheepdogs can come in two flavours: The guilty and the prideful. If the person in question feels guilty, then he is what I call a Rambo. If he is prideful and self-righteous, he is a Patton. Rambos will eventually morph into Pattons.

    This is it.

    Shepherds differ both in that they are neither guilty nor self-righteous. One might call the former lone wolves (Rambos) and latter wolf pack leaders (Pattons). Another name for wolf pack leaders are alphas, and alphas are not shepherds.

  19. @Bobbye

    The verses you quoted show why Jesus used parables–to make truth obvious to those who while seeing, did not observe, and while hearing did not understand. Parables made the truth easier to digest. Those who heard the parables understood their place in them (Matthew 21:45).

  20. “I observe that people who call themselves sheepdogs can come in two flavours: The guilty and the prideful. If the person in question feels guilty, then he is what I call a Rambo. If he is prideful and self-righteous, he is a Patton. Rambos will eventually morph into Pattons.”

    The world’s bigger (and older*) than that, but I can’t argue that things haven’t been heading that way in recent years.

    It’s the spiritual constipation we all suffer from in a culture that has forgotten the assurance that comes through the gospel’s promise of pardon. That which makes grace amazing.

    *- I’ve known, and know, many older men who would fall in a third category = unquestioned humility. They’re not much for calling themselves at all, but they’re sheepdogs nonetheless. They’ve been systematically run out of dodge.

    In biblical times shepherds fought lions. You’d better believe they, and the wolves they’d spent centuries taming into dogs, still had some wolf in them. The sheep know, and fear that. Much as I maintain a healthy fear of my Shepherd.

    More than conquerors.

  21. Good post, Cane. This synthesized a lot of thoughts I’ve been having of late.

    The thing to keep in mind is that everyone looks up to the pack leader (just ask the dog whisperer) so if the shepherd abdicates his leadership to the dogs, the flock will be in dire straits indeed. There’s no point in being a (nominal) shepherd if you’re just going to cower before the dogs and wolves. And no one is going to aspire to be a shepherd if all the shepherds they see are afraid of their helpers, to say nothing of their enemies. We have not been given over to a spirit of fear…

  22. Cane,
    I’ve always seen the sheepdog analogy expressed as you have here: “…sheepdog is special because [they are] like wolves…”

    I found it disturbing so I simply ignored it. Thank you for destroying it so handily.

    I’m one of those carry-concealed Christians. I never go anywhere without a gun. And, though I drive a late model car, I always have jumper cables in my trunk. I, personally, will probably never have need of either. I simply want to be prepared to help others.

    My grandaddy was a Mennonite, so just think of me as a gun-toting pacifist.

  23. Pingback: Sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs | Moose Norseman

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  25. @deLaune

    Welcome, and thanks.

    I’m one of those carry-concealed Christians. I never go anywhere without a gun. And, though I drive a late model car, I always have jumper cables in my trunk. I, personally, will probably never have need of either. I simply want to be prepared to help others.

    It would please me if every Christian carried a weapon. That’s fundamentally different than the idea that gun-carrying makes one a better Christian, or that improvements in power equate with righteousness.

  26. Pingback: Sheepwolves | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  27. The true purpose of the sheepdog is to keep the sheep healthy – to be stripped for wool until it is sold for the meat pot. It is no more difficult.

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  29. I’m here through the excellent WRSA,that linked to this great piece. Thank-you all. I’m glad others think/feel/live as I try to do always,and still come up short.
    Blessings,
    CIII

  30. It is the sheep that cannot tell a sheep dog from a wolf. It is that resemblance that allows the sheep dog to herd the sheep. Since the sheep cannot tell a wolf from a sheep dog they want everyone to give up weapons, not knowing that the wolf will do its deed regardless of whether it is armed or not.

    Any group of sheep dogs that value their own safety above all others is a wolf, regardless. We sheep dogs are the only ones that know who are the sheep and who are the wolves.

    We need to do a better job guarding the sheep.

  31. Welcome, those who came through WRSA.

    @Kerodin

    The difference is made by to whom the sheep belong.

    @bloodyspartan

    Then I guess you were taught wrong. If any man has a legitimate reason to encourage, discipline, or chastise another man, it is because we know he is a man.

    @Chris

    Thanks!

    @Paul b

    It is the sheep that cannot tell a sheep dog from a wolf. It is that resemblance that allows the sheep dog to herd the sheep.

    This is exactly the error a Christian must reject; the self-righteousness I mentioned.

    Shepherds do not resemble wolves, and they are far more useful to sheep in every way, than are sheepdogs.

  32. Cane, in this analogy “Sheep” are people – average, everyday people, yes?

    The statement “The difference is made by to whom the sheep belong…” poses the premise that people (sheep) can be owned by other people.

    Therein lies the problem: Who owns you? Does any man have a moral claim to you or the fruits of your labors? Of course not – that is slavery and/or theft – both of which should be repelled vigorously.

  33. @Kerodin

    Cane, in this analogy “Sheep” are people – average, everyday people, yes?

    No. Sheep are subordinates who need guidance. The analogy describes one’s place within a relationship; not an absolute position in the world. A man is shepherd to one man, and sheep to another.

    Does any man have a moral claim to you or the fruits of your labors?

    Of course! Moral claims aren’t limited to owners. I don’t own my children, but I am steward over them–I am the shepherd to which they have been given. My bosses are my shepherds; though they don’t own me. My pastor is a shepherd over me, though he does not own me. I have friends who sometimes mentor me, and they are shepherds when they do.

    Furthermore: Not only do those above me have claim over me and the fruits of my labor, but also those beneath me. My wife (through her once-and-for-life choice), my children (through no choice at all).

  34. I suppose if you hold to the idea that the natural aspect of a sheep is domesticated servitude to the shepherd then this might all make sense.
    Of course, the natural aspect of a sheep is NOT domesticated servitude but independence defended by the ram(s) with the biggest horns.

    The shepherd is a predator that has merely learned how to build invisible fences around his prey. The sheepdog is an extension of that invisible fence.

    The sheep don’t need the shepherd or the dog. They need to hold to the old ways and grow some horns.

  35. @Wombat

    Welcome.

    I suppose if you hold to the idea that the natural aspect of a sheep is domesticated servitude to the shepherd then this might all make sense.

    We’re humans. We are more than domesticated animals; we are domesticating animals.

    Of course, the natural aspect of a sheep is NOT domesticated servitude but independence defended by the ram(s) with the biggest horns.

    Said The Liberal to the sheep…

    The shepherd is a predator that has merely learned how to build invisible fences around his prey. The sheepdog is an extension of that invisible fence.

    Said The Liberal to the sheep…

    The sheep don’t need the shepherd or the dog. They need to hold to the old ways and grow some horns.

    Said The Liberal to the sheep…

    Who’s The Liberal? “Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name.”

  36. Personally, I’m sick of the overwrought analogy altogether. It appears that it was originally meant to be a simple comparison between a policeman’s or soldier’s defense of the majority of citizens against generic bad guys and a sheepdog’s defense of the herd against predators. I highly doubt that whoever — probably on the spur of the moment — came up with the analogy wrote umpteen articles and a zillion comments to back it up. I doubt he thought he was describing a perfect 1:1 equivalence, as that’s not what analogies typically are.

    Just let this analogy die.

    We could keep coming up with ever more convoluted parables to include every possible variation on animal husbandry and other pastoral professions, predator/pest deterrence, dog breeding, ovine behaviorology, canine dentition, and what the most effective length of a shepherd’s crook is.

    OR, we could speak of police behavior both good & bad, the proper role of the police, natural and Constitutional rights, and law, government, and society in general …. as it applies to and among human fucking beings.

  37. The sheeple are the real enemy. Kill the sheeple. They are the army of the oligarchs.

  38. No sir….the comments. I was reading along thinking about how i was going to make a very nice compliment, so, FWIW, you now have a compliment, and I find that entropy has affected the mind of man like a prion, lays in wait for decades then he starts yammering, the words a color scape like a peacocks tail

  39. @Yaba

    Welcome.

    The sheeple are the real enemy. Kill the sheeple. They are the army of the oligarchs.

    No can do. It goes against my status as a shepherd to kill innocents. And sheep are a valuable commodity. A flock of sheep can clothe and feed a wise shepherd indefinitely. Besides: I like sheep. I like people.

    @Empath

    Ok, good. Because you know what they say: The tedium is the message.

    I had to look up “prion”.

  40. Thank you for the welcome, Cane.

    I didn’t mean for my comment to be as rude and dismissive as it sounds to me upon reading it a day later. I actually liked and agreed with your analysis. But, about halfway through I realized that you, myself, and others have tried to amend this simple analogy so that it would better reflect current reality. The simple fact is that it no longer does.

    When I first heard the comparison of police and the military to sheepdogs, I thought it was a pretty fair general assessment. But the analogy applies in a different place and time … say, America circa 2005 (or pick your date).

    Things have changed rapidly; or, at least, my awareness & perception of things has. And the analogy to sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs can’t anymore be tweaked to make it apply generally. The wolves are still wolves; but there are more of them and they’ve infiltrated both of the other categories. The sheep are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing, and the sheepdogs are wolves in sheepdog’s clothing (“sheepwolves” as you describe them). So the distinctions between groups have blurred, there are other categories of people/animals, and multiple distinctions within categories. To remain applicable, the formerly simple analogy has to become a cross between “Animal Farm” and “War and Peace”.

    p.s.: I begin to suspect that the shepherd is a commie.

  41. @NastyBrutus

    I didn’t mean for my comment to be as rude and dismissive as it sounds to me upon reading it a day later.

    No sweat.

    I actually liked and agreed with your analysis. But, about halfway through I realized that you, myself, and others have tried to amend this simple analogy so that it would better reflect current reality. The simple fact is that it no longer does.

    When I first heard the comparison of police and the military to sheepdogs, I thought it was a pretty fair general assessment.

    We are in large agreement, and I gathered that from your first comment. The only confusing part was you sounding as if you thought I was wrong, yet correcting me with a summary of my own words. I decided it was best to let it pass.

    So, to return to my post: If we never talk about sheepdogs (because we understand that sheepdogs are a kind of shepherd and so only speak about shepherds, sheep, and wolves) then we can better do what you recommend here:

    OR, we could speak of police behavior both good & bad, the proper role of the police, natural and Constitutional rights, and law, government, and society in general …. as it applies to and among human fucking beings.

    That was a main point of my post. That and how those who like to think of themselves as badasses against the world can end up self-righteously justifying even the most heinous crimes against their fellow humans.

  42. When I saw the title, I went off in the wrong direction. The comments are thought provoking, and I finally decided to toss mine in as well.

    For me, the whole shepard, sheepdog, sheep, and wolf scenario assumes a certain level of civility, or peace, for it to work. Also something that has always bothered me about it, is that at the end of the day the sheepdog needs meat. What do we likely have in abundance? Sheep.

    When dealing with people, I like to stick to using people as examples. The most “sheeply” of people still have the same tools / weapons as even the most “wolfly” of people. Unlike the animals, the only difference in people is the will to use them.

    If people were substituted in the above scenario, the only diferences would be that some are able to confront the reality they are in, and some are not. The actual situation defines the grading curve. Immediately following an SHTF scenario, the grading curve will likely be pretty steep. Most will likely fail. Early on there may not be much capability to take care of those who are unwilling / unable to take care of themselves. It is not very civil, but then again, that IS the problem. Presumably as things stabilize, that will change.

    There are plenty of examples of the upcoming festivities from recent history, as well as the older stuff. I expect it to be very much the same as those examples, and try to plan accordingly. Due to the wear and tear on this old body, I will likely fail as well. My main emphasis is passing on any strengths I might have to my children and grandchildren.

  43. Subdividing the entire human race into three bumper-sticker categories actually works to de-humanize the population and cheapens the understanding of life. It’s a disenfranchisement of the individual. Besides, wolves kill sheep to eat them. People have been killing each other for thousands of years for all kinds of fucked up reasons.

    Only a tiny percentage were cannibals.

  44. From a non-religious point of view:
    The sheep are the regular people. (the 99%)
    The shepherds are the political/media class and banksters.
    The sheepdogs are the cop/thug enforcers.
    The wolves are criminal/thugs who prey on the sheep.

    The wolves are labeled “evil” because they don’t have permission from the shepherd to fleece and consume the herd (that is the shepherd’s prerogative). In fact the shepherd and wolves are more alike than either will admit. Sheepdogs love serving the shepherd because they have been promoted above the common (dirty) sheep (peasants). They know that they will never rise to shepherd status but at least they are better than the herd (ptui).

  45. @oldtcs, Erich, Lachanan & 858×70

    Welcome.

    @858×70

    From a non-religious point of view:

    You nailed it, but then you lost it.

    The problem is the non-religious viewpoint. More specifically: the non-Christian standpoint among Christians. It’s understandable when non-Christians run around thinking and acting as if they were mere animals. In a way the are. They are dead in the flesh. They are wolves…scavengers who prey on the dead, sick, and weak. They are zombies and cannibals (I’m looking at you, Erich), even.

    Christians should recognize the truth that we all live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. God isn’t an outside entity trying to make a place for Himself in this world. He made the world. There’s no such thing as a non-religious point of view; not anymore than there is such a thing as unwet water.

    Following this comprehensive view, though we are individuals, we each have a role towards one another at any given point in time. A captain is shepherd of his crew, but he is sheep to the admiral. Whoever comes along and tries to mess up that order–to bring chaos, steal, or kill–is a wolf. Towards those wolves, it would be good if every sheep became a shepherd of his neighbor.

    People can follow the logic up to this point, but right here they want to start talking about how they are “good” and even “better” at being a shepherd than the other people who fulfill these dual roles; that this makes them special because they like violence, or they like beating wolves. They notice that some do not like to do this, and those who like violence and killing wolves decide that this preference means they are not really sheep to this man, and shepherd to another, but something different–a sheepdog, who must be better, right? They believe they’re just as “good” as the sheep, but with a little something extra.

    Next thing you know: These “sheepdogs” have justified their right to eat the occasional sheep because it’s just their nature; the “way of the world”.

    Nah. They’ve just turned into the things that bring chaos, theft, and death. They’re wolves.

  46. People can follow the logic up to this point, but right here they want to start talking about how they are “good” and even “better” at being a shepherd than the other people who fulfill these dual roles; that this makes them special because they like violence, or they like beating wolves. They notice that some do not like to do this, and those who like violence and killing wolves decide that this preference means they are not really sheep to this man, and shepherd to another, but something different–a sheepdog, who must be better, right? They believe they’re just as “good” as the sheep, but with a little something extra.

    I could take this into my new cave where Ive been grumbling and grunting over the same precious ring for a few days now and make it work for me too.

  47. @disturbeddeputy

    Thanks for the reblog.

    It’s wild that y’all showed up. In real life, I spend some time with (very low-grade) prepping; under my real life name I am subscribed to the OathKeeper’s YouTube channel; I’m a big fan of an armed citizenry; etc.

    This post is actually about Christians who think that tough, cool, good-looking, or other similar characteristics make one a better Christian. I talked about it in the context of police deluded by self-righteousness because it’s such a clear parallel, and (in my mind) less controversial. It’s obvious that we live in a police state already. America just happens to be very soft on speech…but less so all the time.

  48. This post is actually about Christians who think that tough, cool, good-looking, or other similar characteristics make one a better Christian.

    There are Christians who think that?

  49. @Cane – not dismissing or ignoring your broader argument for the sake of being contrarian. At all. I reject the anthropomorphism as popularized by Grossman’s books. Rational, sentient homo sapiens struggle to understand the minds of animals the same way we struggle to understand the minds of murderers and psychopaths. Even within a sample audience of “normal” folks, you’ll see people with thoughts and motivations that span the whole gamut. Anyway, I liked it that you stepped outside the box and looked at something the way you wanted to see it. I followed the blog because I always learn something new from folks who have their own thoughts. Keep it coming.

  50. @Elspeth

    There are Christians who think [tough, cool, good-looking, or other similar characteristics make one a better Christian.]?

    Oh yeah. It’s true of most people who call themselves Christian.

    I’m surprised this surprises you.

  51. Indeed it does, Mr. Caldo.

    I understand that most Christians think that being tough, cool, good-looking, prosperous, etc. are advantageous to living a more successful life, but even a cursory reading of Scripture makes it perfectly clear that these things have absolutely nothing to do with being a better Christian. In fact they just might hider one from being an effective Christian (see the rich young ruler).

    So yes, it surprises me.

  52. @Elspeth

    So yes, it surprises me.

    You’re saying you’re surprised that many Christians praise Pastor Cool’s charisma as godliness?

    You’re saying they don’t say things like, “God has really grown our church!”, when the truth is that Pastor Cool’s charm is simply popular?

    You’re saying that Christians don’t ascribe the growth of “youth groups” to God’s will, but instead admit that it’s the activities, pizza, and members of the opposite sex that attract them on an almost strictly carnal basis?

    You’re saying that old fuddy-duddy hymns don’t dissuade people from an otherwise honorable and serving church?

    You’re saying there aren’t whole movements, programs, and rebrandings of churches to make them seem relevant, and that those who do these things don’t think their churches are better?

  53. Pingback: Willow Creek Pick-Up | Things that We have Heard and Known

  54. I dunno. Useful social constructs are always open to misappropriation. Kind of like “social contract.” There is not a single narrowminded and malicious selfish exploitation of their fellow man that cannot be justified under a “social contract.” In fact many people invoke “social contract” whenever they want someone to do something for them. Instead of being a general descriptor for the little rules that dictate our interactions with each other and the sociocultural behaviors that make normal interaction possible, its a justification for taking often by force. There are indeed “sheepwolves,” there are also jerks who rationalize terrible behaviors towards others using the term and thought pattern.

  55. I have heard and read of many Christian fads, but I have never heard or read of sheepwolves….

  56. “You’re saying you’re surprised that many Christians praise Pastor Cool’s charisma as godliness?”

    That is the same reason we equate emotionalism with spirituality. Far easier to look on outward signs than to dig into the spiritual. (And the latter can be impossible in some ways.)

    The charismatic will always do better, at least for the short term. Look at all the “leaders” in the game area.

  57. The first place I saw the sheep/wolf/sheepdog analogy proposed was Bill Whittle’s blog.

    Since Whittle is the epitome of the unthinking right-liberal, I rather expect that was the actual origin.

  58. @Rollory

    Welcome.

    I imagine the comparisons have been made since sheepdogs have existed. It’s just human to overlook the irreducible complexity that sheepdogs are shepherds.

    As MNM says above, I think Grossman was responsible for (re-) popularizing it in this generation’s conversations.

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