Hunters and farmers embracing? What in the world? Educational psychologist Thorn Hartmann has done some controversial work on "attention deficit disorder," or ADD. Instead of viewing this mental learning mode as a deficit or disorder, he views it as simply being a different learning pattern. He compares ADD and "normal" learning patterns to the underlying way in which a hunter approaches life and learning, versus the way a farmer does.1
Briefly, and with our purposes in mind, this analogy says that any population can be divided between those who approach life and learning as hunters on a hunt and those who approach it as farmers on a farm.
Slanting Hartmann's metaphor even more to our purposes, the farmer protects, processes, and produces from within the bounds of a given acreage. He becomes thoroughly conversant and efficient with everything inside the borders of the farm.
The hunter, on the other hand, is restless. He's not content within defined boundaries. To him, bounds are bonds. Therefore, he is constantly jumping the fence, eager to see what more is out there. The itch to explore drives him. It's almost a compulsion for him to scout, delve, and inquire.
The hunter's behavior worries the farmer, who fears the hunter will return from one of his excursions contaminated with microbes that will disease the sheep or tarnish the crop he is so painstakingly tending. When, in turn, the hunter encounters the farmer's hesitancies and suspicions, it disturbs him. He feels he knows the merit and value of what he sees out there. He believes that if his discoveries could be embraced and adapted to the farming enterprise, they would improve life and productivity on the farm and elsewhere.
Of the many biblical examples of these two mentalities, two spring to mind immediately: Esau as hunter and Jacob as farmer, are actually defined that way (Gen. 25:27). It's hard to ignore the fact that these twin brothers were uneasy with each other from the moment of birth (verse 26).
The second biblical example is the proverbial angst that perpetually simmers between the biblical prophet. . .comparable to our hunter, and the priest . . . our farmer. The disquiet between these two callings as they struggle to relate, runs like a turbulent stream through the heart of sacred story. Perhaps the best example of this is seen in the mortal contention between Jeremiah the prophet and his priestly brethren.
The prophet, though consistently compassionate, constructive, and responsible, fulfilled God's call to con front what was wrongly established in Israel, and to challenge the nation with her misdeeds. The priest, on the other hand, was more pastoral, had more of an institutional bearing, and adopted the role of keeping the nation on an even keel. In the ensuing tension, the prophet frequently bore the wrath and reprisal of the priest.
The point of all this, of course, is that the hunter/farmer tension is still present among us. Some of us are more priestly, and some more prophetic. And that, I'd contend, is how it should be, as long as we can genuinely validate one another.
The hunter/farmer analogy can be taken one more step: In the early pioneering period of any movement of faith, it is logical that the prophetic (hunter) voice is more vocal and respected, while the farmer's priestly voice is less so. As the movement matures, the priestly voice rightfully ascends in its influence. Ultimately, however, it can take on a dominance that may all but mute the prophetic voice. The more powerful and established the organization becomes, the less it feels the need for a prophetic voice. This is not as it should be.
Actually, one of the reasons for the decline of a movement is that the hunter's prophetic voice becomes progressively hushed and devalued in the organization. This state of affairs may advance to the point where, when the prophet does speak, he or she is considered eccentric, intrusive, and even destructive to the enterprise. This scenario often becomes full blown right at the time when such a voice is most needed.
In Jesus, however, the hunter and the farmer that is, the prophet and the priest are perfectly blended. Thus, in Him the ideal minister and the ideal ministry are flawlessly expressed. Much of what makes Jesus so surpassingly impressive, so superb and sublime, is this seminal blending.
This is a time when it is just this blending the Church and our communities need. May the prophet find his or her voice, and so may the priest. May hunter and farmer embrace!
1 Thorn Hartmann, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception (Grass Valley, Calif.: Underwood Books, 1997), xxiii-xxxvii.