Confessions Of A Cat Rescuer #4 - Responding To My Criminal Charges
I Confess: I am a somewhat sensitive soul. I do not like conflict. I certainly do not like criticism, and I surely do not like being charged with a crime. However, a letter I received in response to my last article (Confessions Of A Cat Rescuer #3) managed to accomplish all three. Under normal circumstances, I would just ignore it or respond to it in the comments section of the article itself. But the person who wrote the letter happens to be a dear friend of mine, and I know that he has only good intentions. Plus, I’m sure that other rescuers have experienced the same kind of response to their rescue efforts. So, since I allowed his letter to be published in the comments section of Confessions #3, I want to give a full response to his points here in this article.
For all of you that will read this, I want to ask you to (1) Make no personal attacks on the writer of the letter in your responses - I will not post them; (2) Learn from this experience - if you are a rescuer, this is what you can expect; (3) Learn from this how we should respond to people - you will never bring someone over to your side by trashing them: deal with the issues; and (4) Pray a lot - you will need all the help you can get to keep your tongue and emotions in check. Your battle is not with people anyway, but with “spiritual” forces, namely here, ideas and philosophies that run counter to what you believe. You must work to change these ideals if you are to be a successful rescuer. At least you must try.
So, here is the letter I received. I have smoothed out the language a little to make the reading a bit clearer. You can read the original in the comments section of Confessions Of A Cat Rescuer #3 - I Can Not Turn Back Now. The letter is as follows:
I completely disagree with you on this. Romans chapter 13 states Christians are to obey the government. You know God's law, and by intentionally breaking mans law with your rescue work, you dishonor God. By putting something you can not afford over the concerns of your wife, children, and responsibilities, you have risen to the height of selfishness. You claim you rescue and then subject what you claim to care for to sickness and the threat of death because you can't afford to care for it. I find that to be cruel.
All things in life are based on choices and making them in the balance of God, family, work, then whatever else I can to. Anything you put before God, and the people to whom you have made a promise to God to love honor and cherish, you have made into an idol. You worship the created thing instead of the creator. You have forsaken the promise that you made to care for your family and therefore dishonored God.
I don't support cruelty of any kind, to animals or to people. You must find the right balance. Until then, by your own words you seem very out of balance, worshiping the created over the creator. I can not find any area here that I can come in to agreement with you.
My Response follows below:
I am sorry that you can find a basis for agreement in my article, Confessions Of A Cat Rescuer #3. Perhaps I was not very clear in what I wrote. I offer these points and observations for your consideration.
The purpose of the article, and all of the Confessions series, is to enlighten the readers as to what really goes on in the life and world of an animal rescuer. I use my own life as an example because it is the life I know best. The Confessions are written with all the gory details rescuers deal with on a daily basis. I do not create an image of the noble idealist, who has money to burn, an army of supporters, and never does anything wrong. Such a person only exists in the world of fantasy. I write about the real day-to-day struggles and all the physical, emotional, and mental anguish that comes from being a rescuer.
Real rescuers must daily wade through moral and ethical dilemmas, struggle to find funds and supporters, do what is best for their animals with what little they have, and find time to keep themselves and their commitments to others afloat. It is not an easy life, nor is it often a pretty one. But it is a rewarding life. We save animals, hundreds of thousands of them every year. We make a difference.
One point of contention you have is that I mention in the Confessions article that rescuers often operate just outside the law. While I do not agree with this, nor do I endorse it, I report it because it is so. I am very familiar with Romans 13, which compels Christians to be subject to the governing authorities. But let me point you to Romans 13:4 -
For (the government) is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid, for (the government) does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
Now let me ask you, if I am saving healthy, adoptable animals from being put to death, am I practicing evil? Should I just stand by and do nothing? What is more evil, for me to disregard the law where it would cause an animal to die, or to let the animal be killed?
A case in point: You are walking by a house and see that it is on fire. You hear screams coming from within. As you get ready to rush to the door to save the person inside, you see a sign that clearly reads: NO TRESPASSING! PRIVATE PROPERTY! KEEP OUT! Do you follow the law, or violate the law? If you follow the law, the person inside may die. If you wait for the fire department, which according to the law you should do, by the time they arrive the person could already be dead. What do you do? I would choose to violate the law to order to save the person. Does this make me evil?
Likewise, if I choose to violate the law to save an animal’s life, I do not do evil, as long as I am working in the best interests of society and the animal itself. In truth, most rescuers try their hardest to keep everything legal, but we will not allow the law to become an excuse to let animals die, for we see the government-run shelter systems as the greatest evil - one where life is meaningless and suffering is certain.
I submit to you that there is a greater law, a moral law, based on what God wants, and I do not believe for one minute that God endorses the mass slaughter of animals in this country on a daily basis. As a Christian, I have the right to engage in civil disobedience when I feel that the law of man conflicts with the Law of God. I will never accept that marriage is anything other than between a man and a woman, no matter what the government says. I will never accept that abortion is anything less than murder, even though the government has made it legal and says otherwise. Likewise, I will not accept the mass killing of animals as morally right, even though the government has no problem with it. I will do whatever I can, with the limits of sanity and respect for all life and property, to stop the killing.
Your other major point is that I have put my cats before God and my family. I beg to differ. I am rescuing cats because this is the ministry that God has given to me. I do not worship cats. My cats are charges given to me by God, and I am responsible to Him as a steward of His creations. I take this responsibility very seriously. As you know, all ministry requires sacrifice. In fact, ministry without personal cost is not ministry at all. So yes, we do live from day-to-day with our ministry in mind. This does not make me “worship” my cats or turn them into idols. Rather, it helps me to fulfill to the best of my ability the ministry I have been given and I make no apologies for this.
If anyone has seen a recent picture of me and my wife, they would notice that we have not missed any meals. God has shown His approval of our calling by providing for all of our needs. The rent is paid, the lights are on, there is food in the house and we have clothing on our backs. Granted, there is not a lot left over after paying the bills, buying what we need, and caring for the cats. But I know of many people who never rescue who are in the same fix. Many Americans are just getting by.
The fact that we are just getting by does not mean that our cats are more important that God or family. It does mean that we have to depend on God’s provision every day for our daily needs - which happen to also include cat food and litter. And yes, we do ask people to join in our cause and help out by making donations. The more we can get, the more we can do. Our rescue is limited by the funds we have on hand. The primary reasons we ask for help are to help the cats and also to give those who care about cats a way to help out. However, we have learned not to depend on donations. There are very few people out there who care enough to help, and the ones who could are busy with their own rescues or only able to help every once and a while. Our dependence is, and always will be, on God.
I consider animal cruelty to be a serious crime. I have taken cats out of very bad situations before, and I find it offensive to be called cruel in the handling of my cats. As to the condition of my cats, you will find them to be healthy, well-fed, and happy. Do they live in an ideal environment? Of course not. Rescue does not always provide a final home, but rather a half-way house. So yes, the amount of care and support is not overly abundant, but it is sufficient. And yes, the house and shelter need some work. They are not always as clean as we wish, but they are cleaned and repaired to the best of our ability. None of our cats have ever been treated for illnesses related to bad living conditions. Over time, we have learned how to manage and control cat-related illnesses, and our ability to keep the cats healthy has been remarkable considering that we have worked with over 200 cats in the last eight years. We consider each life as precious and do what we can to preserve it. The life and welfare of each cat is foremost in our hearts and minds.
If I even felt that my cats were suffering as a result of our inability to take care of them, I would do something different. As it is, the cats have food, shelter, clean litter boxes, treats, and all the necessities of life, plus a few luxuries. Everything else they need, we provide as we can. Therefore, I do not see how you can say that I am being cruel to them. I challenge you to walk through your local shelter and look at the cats there. Look them in the eye and know that three out of four of them will never come out alive. See their living conditions, and then come back and tell me what is really cruel.
Finally, you say that you do not support cruelty. I applaud you in this, but let me ask you, what are you doing to stop it? Beliefs do not change society, only actions do. I choose to act on my beliefs, to make a difference, understanding that it is going to cost me dearly. Perhaps animal rescue is not your thing, but if not, what is? Many people spend their life doing good things that make a short-term or limited impact. Rescuers do this when they rescue animals. But who is going to carry on when they are gone? Who is going to change the world then? All people, rescuers included, need to make a long-term difference, a difference that changes the course of history. If rescuers change the animal control system, they will be saving animals long after they are dead.
I am in rescue for the long-term change. And as I work for long-term change, I will still do what I can in the short term.
I believe that God wants His people to make long-term changes in society, not just do good works. I therefore believe that I do not dishonor God, because my cause is His cause, and my view is His view, and my dependence is on Him, and all the glory will go to Him. When I die, which thanks to the cancer may be sooner than later, I don’t want the world to say that I was a good man. That would not be true, for there is no such thing. We are all sinners. I would like for them to remember me as a godly man, who stood up for what he believed in, and sacrificed so that others would live, and did it all because I believed in God.
And if they also say of me, “He rescued cats,” that will be OK too.