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Short Stories: I Killed the Kittens With a Hammer, Says a Local Evangelical Farmer

feral cats in barn-008
Barn cats at my Son and Daughter-in-law’s Farm

As Polly and I wrapped up our twenty-five-year tour of duty pastoring churches, we began looking for a new church home. I had pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio from 1997 to 2002, and after leaving the church, we attended — for a short time — an Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA) church in Butler, Indiana. The congregation itself was not much to write home about, but we dearly loved the pastor, Jim Glasscock, and his family. After attending for a few months, we decided that we would join the church, only to find out that we couldn’t do so because we weren’t Dispensational and Premillennial. That’s right, we couldn’t join because of our amillennial, posttribulational, non-dispensational eschatology. Such is the fracturing nature of Christian Fundamentalism. We soon left, looking for friendlier confines. The pastor and his wife — by now friends — were, as we were, disappointed. We felt, at the time, that we couldn’t in good conscience attend a church that wouldn’t accept us as members. The church later closed its doors and the pastor and his family moved on to a new ministry.

While I could tell many stories about our time at this church (good, bad, and funny), one stands out above all others. One Sunday morning we were sitting around a table in the fellowship hall swapping stories. Somehow, the subject of cats came up. Now, I am a cat lover. We have always had at least one cat, and have had as many as three. Currently, we have a fat, lazy yellow sixteen-year-old cat named Joe Meower and a year-and-a-half-old stray we took in named Socks. We regularly feed the neighborhood’s feral cats, hopefully providing them a bit of respite from the cruelty inflicted upon them by thoughtless humans.

As we talked about cats, an aged farmer decided to share a story about his barn cats. One of his cats had recently given birth to a litter of kittens. I thought, how nice, this man is going to take care of these feral cats and their offspring. I quickly learned, however, this man was anything but nice. Not that he was peculiar. Lots of Jesus-loving, God-fearing locals are quite cruel to animals. Some of the most cruel people I know are local Amish farmers. I asked the man how the kittens were doing. Oh, he chuckled, I killed them. I got a hammer out and smacked each one of them in the head! I quickly felt my face becoming flush as rage filled my mind. I thought, you could have given the kittens away, or better yet, you could have had your female barn cats spayed. Instead, your cruel hands picked up a hammer and beat them to death.

I quickly exited the fellowship hall, fearing that I was going to have a “Bruce moment.” My rage passed, but I have not forgotten that people who speak of the love of God can often be cruel and violent; that God commanding them to have dominion over the earth means that they can indiscriminately kill. In an anthropocentric world, man rules the roost. All other life only has the value given to it by its overlords. This is why this farmer could, as if he was telling a story about his grandchildren, share his murderous rampage with his fellow church members.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    dale m.

    What goes around. Comes around. He better hope we don’t contact any extraterrestrials. They just might take a hammer to our kids instead. Although that would be pretty primitive. They would just eat us.

    You should have laughed … “Christians !! Always killing things !!”

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    This makes me absolutely sick. Yet the farmer had as his role model the Old Testament God who was constantly killing or ordering his followers to kill.

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      Yulya Sevelova

      Oh yeah, I remember that story about a battle of wills between Dobson, and his dog Siggie. Hitting him repeatedly until he went into his dog bed and stayed there ! Yes that was one crazy incident. And possibly illegal too ? This goes s the same Dobson who’s mother beat him with her girdle,of all things. She wore the pants in that family. He must be a survivor of Stockholm Syndrome of some kind, justifying her treatment of him. As for this farmer who killed kittens with a hammer, no doubt he’s done this sort of thing before. Frequently too. I’d love to know who this mo/ fo is,if he’s still alive ! I’d be only too happy to turn him in to the animal control dept. I didn’t know the Amish people are cruel to animals- this had to be a best- kept secret ! What have they done ? I had no idea ! How can I find out more, so maybe people can do something about this ?

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    My mom’s dad loved his cats. He had around 40 cats living in his barn. Mom had cats, too, until she had to move onto a nursing home. My daughters all have multiple cats except for my second daughter and she’s getting a cat after they get back from the Adirondacks in August. My tortie, Daisy, is napping on the wing chair as I type. We love cats around here and would never drown or otherwise murder kittens.

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    Years ago, my SIL was offered a puppy. When she dithered on whether she wanted a dog or not (at the time she was a single woman with a rather demanding career) the person making the offer said if she didn’t take the animal he would just drown it. She took the puppy. It got 15 years of love and pampering.

    I understand the hard reality that results in the millions of animals being put down in shelters and pounds, or suffering animals getting euthanized to stop their pain. It’s tragic, but the veterinarians I know try their best to do a horrible job as humanely as they can. Modern societies have laws about the right way to kill food animals and hunters have required training (at least in my state) that includes the humane treatment of game animals. Holding a puppy in a bucket of water until it finally stops struggling or whacking kittens in the head with a hammer is not humane. That is intentionally causing pain, suffering and terror when much better alternatives are available. I don’t accept the argument that “we do things differently out the country” either. Most shelters and pounds will take animals in for free.

    I just assume that someone that callous with the lives of animals has a similar disregard for human life. At least their behavior gives warning not to trust them.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    JW–Your last two sentences echo my thoughts. I have had cats for most of my adult life, and love all other animals–well, except maybe for ferrets, but there are things I would never do even to them!

    Christianity (and the other Abrahamic religions) teaches people that anyone–human or otherwise–who is not a member of their tribe is not worthy of their esteem and is therefore exploitable.

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    This story is sad, but it reminds me of a story from my childhood. The church I grew up in had a beautiful garden with a fountain. The church had bbq’s and breakfasts in it. Since it was quiet most of the time, wildlife took to living there. At one gathering, some boys were pulling the tails off of lizards (the tails grow back.) Our youth group leader gave a loud scolding to all the kids, telling them that there would be no harming God’s creatures on her watch! Her husband said if he caught any of us hurting wildlife, we would be banned from the garden. The pastor agreed with him. I have seen good Christians being cruel to animals. I’m so glad I went to a church that didn’t tolerate cruelty.

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      Merle – That article is well-worth the read. I am ashamed to admit that I once considered FOTF a legitimate resource for child-rearing advice. Now I’m thankful I never read The Strong-Willed Child.

      That aside, the Jim Dobson wiener dog anecdote cited in the two essays does show me how completely I have yielded control of my home and my life to the animals. The 12 yo arthritic beagle has enslaved me to such a degree that I actually lift her onto my bed at night – since she can no longer make the jump on her own – where she saps the very warmth of my body, all night long, for her selfish comfort. The terrier dominates me so completely that I’m nothing more than another pillow on the couch for her to rest her head on, commanding me to stroke it as she holds me captive, unable to get up until she releases me.

      I know the above paragraph must shock many readers, but it gets worse. These dogs lead me around on a tether and confiscate my hard earned wages for their own food, vanity, and pleasure while contributing nothing to the household income. They are godless socialist dictators to the core. Dear God, they have even trained me to clean up their waste!! Both animals show such contempt for my authority that they mock my weakness by exposing their bellies to me. They know I’m so cowed into submission that they can openly flaunt their most vulnerable parts and demand I pet and caress them….and I do! I admit it, I do! What’s become of me!! Readers, be warned. This could happen you. Save yourselves. It’s too late for me now.

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    JW, my parents owned an Australian terrier named Cricket. In her old age, Cricket went blind and could no longer jump on the bed. My mom or dad would put her on the bed and tuck her in where she’d spend the night between them.

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      Carolk – That mental image warms my heart. I don’t intentionally place my old dog between my wife and I, but somehow she seems to wind up there. Many a night we are woken up by this smallish dog stretched full length between us, taking up more than an average-sized human’s portion of the bed, on her back with paws twitching in the air, snoring like a sawmill. I will miss her dearly when she is gone, the same as your parents must have felt for Cricket.

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Bruce Gerencser