Dear Matt, do think Jesus is a “catch-and-release” type of guy? – David Titland (yes, really)
It’s always tricky to know the mind of Jesus, but since I’m His media consultant, I’ll tell you. Yes, Jesus is a catch-and-release guy.
I fully expect to get some push back on that from other fishermen/ bible scholars, so let me explain. Anyone who knows the Scriptures knows that fishing occupies a central place in the New Testament. Of Christ’s twelve disciples, five of their occupations are known, and four of them were fishermen. JC’s two top dogs – Peter and John – both fished for a living.
As David James Duncan wrote in his excellent 1983 fly fishing novel, “The River Why,” “I also like how four of the disciples were just plain old commercial fishermen till they started to follow Jesus around on dry land, and how they didn’t start to do that until he kept asking them to, and after he died they went right back out fishing again, and probably would have kept fishing if Resurrected Jesus hadn’t come for them, and when he did, the first thing he did was show them where to catch the hundred and fifty and three fish they caught.”
Now obviously, if you’re commercial fishing with nets, you’re not cutting fish loose. Which is fine. It’s your job, and people need to eat, and it’s honorable work. We wouldn’t have expected the disciples to release fish, since many people had to fish for keeps back then. You couldn’t exactly run down to your local Food Lion to buy farm-raised tilapia in those days.
But the Lord has revealed to me, His humble servant, that if the disciples went at the Sea of Galilee with fly rods for recreational purposes, their fish would’ve lived to see another day. You notice that Jesus Himself was never pulling the nets – He was just directing traffic to stoke the disciples’ faith and demonstrate his omniscience. You could say He had bigger fish to fry, but I won’t, since that would be an embarrassing thing to say, and as Jesus’s unofficial spokesman, I try not to embarrass Him. Still, His higher edict was to be “fishers of men,” presumably to catch and release them into the Kingdom, which is kind of hard to do when you clock them with a fish bat on the back of the head. So the clear Scriptural inference is Jesus is a catch-and-release man.
Now there are a lot of hell-bound heathen out there, who don’t give a toss about overfishing and depleting stocks. I’ve written elsewhere of my ice chest-filling brethren down at the local fishing hole. My main objection to them, besides their all-around unrighteousness, is that I like to fish a lot, and they are keeping my fun. The more fish they keep, the fewer there are to catch and breed, in order to make more fish. Which is unsporting. As I once wrote in the Weekly Standard, “If we were playing basketball together, I wouldn’t pop the ball at the end of the game. Or……..if we were watching NASCAR together, I wouldn’t put their big-screen TV in my trunk at the end of the Dodge Avenger 500. If they’re that hungry, I like to tell them, then go down to the Waffle House when they’re done fishing.”
Of course, when you say such things to a fishing heathen, they will often look at you sideways, then suggest you’re some of kind of Twinkie for not killing fish. But that’s okay. Because after I punch them in the throat, I remember that many suggested the same of Jesus, who was a non-violent type, for the most part. Of course, they’re in for a rude shock when He strikes them dead and banishes them for eternity to a place where they can keep all the fish they want – in the Lake of Fire.
Also, killing fish doesn’t make you a man. Little girls accidentally kill fish with their Kmart push-button Barbie poles when they don’t pull the trigger fast enough and a bluegill swallows the hook. After all, most fish aren’t very big, and don’t have arms to stop you. If I want to kill something to feel like a man, I’m going to kill something that can kill me back – like another man – preferably one who is standing in my spot on the river, keeping fish.
Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” was published this spring by Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.