Bug off. (M.E.M.O)

By Marty, Martin E. | The Christian Century, June 19, 2002 | Go to article overview

Bug off. (M.E.M.O)


Marty, Martin E., The Christian Century


THE WET SPRING in many parts of the country, including ours, produced mosquito-nurturing ponds. Now the mosquitoes are here. Their presence prompts Bible-believers to see where these annoying insects fit into the cosmic scheme.

Unfortunately, mosquitoes do not get mentioned in the scriptures at all. That seems strange, since the biblical authors do pretty well at locating and describing most creatures that plague humans. Deuteronomy 14:19 comes generically close. In its law we find that "all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten." That command should help us resist the temptation to munch on mosquitoes. We simply have to endure their females' attempts to eat us. We have to turn the other cheek for a second bite.

The laws in Leviticus, laws which condemn almost everything, also come close to being relevant. Chapter 11:20-23 approaches the subject: "All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you." But there is an escape clause: "Among the winged insects that walk on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to leap on the ground." Who wants to get close enough to test their joints? But we do learn, Levitically, that we may eat the locust, the bald locust, the cricket and the grasshopper.

Biblical literalists might revise their menus when they read about the confusing rights and wrongs of insect-eating. Though the Bible calls some four-legged creatures insects, it is silent in respect to rules about the six-legged anthropods of the class Insecta, to which mosquitoes belong.

I bring all this up because of conflicting counsels I received last summer from the Chicago Tribune (August 7, 2001). A way "to avoid going slap-happy is to use a fan outdoors to create a breeze. …

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