The New Cannibalism: The Donner Party, Planned Parenthood and the Bread of Life

By Joel Hess


In 1846, a group of Americans decided to pursue the American dream. They set out from Missouri and travelled west to California, the so called land of milk and honey. Well, someone suggested a short cut and voila! Some of them ended up eating each other and ate each other in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The Donner party. They were starving, stuck in snow, and scared. They not only ate those who died, but they killed one couple and conspired unsuccessfully to kill other weak ones in order to survive.

When I first learned about this remarkable story at school, I immediately tried to imagine if I could ever be hungry enough to kill someone else and eat them. No way! Yet, as I grew older and learned more from experience and scripture, no one is free from desperation nor depravity.

Sadly the western world has become the Donner party. Perhaps worse. Those poor fools killed and ate each other, perhaps out of delirium. We do it with full consciousness, a glass of wine, and a smile.

No matter how nice your cozy living room is, we live in a desperate world, a wilderness filled with enemies outside and within. What else would cause a woman to kill her own child? Fear, desperation and of course whispers of snakes scaring her, telling her she won’t make it as a single mom. It’s only best, and for added bonus your murdered child will feed an adult!


We are so afraid of death and so desperate to survive that we convince ourselves, like the Donner party did, that the weak won’t survive anyway. Why not kill them so that we can get through this winter!?

Or consider the healthy 75 year old in the UK, who was so scared and delirious that she decided to kill herself. She was afraid of suffering. She was afraid of being a burden. I get that. But the real crime is her family, even society, didn’t try to stop her. Because deep down in their desperate blackened hearts they agreed. It’s best she die…so they could survive.

Amidst all the life-saving technology, creature comforts and grocery stores full of food, we are starving and eating the weak. We are cannibals.

Maybe you have never had an abortion or pushed someone else to do it. Maybe you have never turned your face away when someone talked about killing themselves. But you probably have eaten others to get ahead. You torched someone’s reputation, even a fellow pastor’s, to look better in front of your peers. You turned your face away when someone needed help because you “needed to survive”. I am guilty of cannibalism, too.


We are sinners in a wilderness surrounded by enemies who twist the truth, who devour old ladies and young poor girls, who call killing compassion. We have confused surviving with living. Repent.

It was to a Donner party Jesus spoke one day after feeding 5000 starving souls out of very little. To them, He didn’t say, “Eat the weak. Do what you can to get ahead.” No. He said, “I am the Bread of Life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger. And I will raise him up on the last day.” And again, “I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

God has come in the flesh. In the midst of the Donner party eating one another in the mountains.  And He offered himself to be consumed, instead. To be crushed on the cross in place of cannibals, you and me, the head of Planned Parenthood and the bottom of Folsom Prison.

In the midst of our enemies, that ol’ snake making our neighbor look like a lemon meringue pie, He sets a table.  Take and eat, take and drink. For forgiveness.  For eternal life.  For free.

So spit out what’s in your mouth, you cannibal.  Dinner is served!  Jesus.

And I will raise you up on the last day.