mill run: lamb of god

He had a five-foot cross set up before the altar. He then gave a sermon entitled ‘Watching Christ Die,’ after which a lamb was wired to the cross and its throat slit. The congregation was then asked to line up, file by the slaughtered animal, and rededicate themselves to the Christian life…”


by moritz thomsen



Mr. Delfino, a big rancher from the southern part of the state, who has been leasing freighters to bring live New Zealand sheep into this country, predicted last month that within five years, because of such imports, the sheep industry would no longer exist in America. I’m afraid Mr. Delfino is going to have to change his prediction when he reads the February 22 [1960] issue of Time magazine. A tremendous new market for lambs just possibly might develop in the very near future.

According to the Time article a Reverend Pike in Lebanon, Tennessee hit on the idea of holding a special service in his Baptist church; membership was apparently falling off and needed a good dramatic jab. He had a five-foot cross set up before the altar. He then gave a sermon entitled “Watching Christ Die,” after which a lamb was wired to the cross and its throat slit. The congregation was then asked to line up, file by the slaughtered animal, and rededicate themselves to the Christian life.

While some of Reverend Pike’s congregation was outraged, the majority found it to be a moving experience. You can’t please everyone, can you? Enough enthusiasm was generated so that the Reverend is planning a repeat performance, and he has invited everyone to attend—not just his regular group of grubby little sadists, but the general public as well.

One should reconsider one’s first reactions of rage and nausea; there is a first impulse to push the episode violently out of one’s mind, to call it hillbilly ignorance. But this is not ignorance, it is the ultimate in sophistication—a Baptist minister who practically comes out and admits that man is not made in the image of God but is first cousin to the carnivorous apes barely out of the jungle swamps. The Reverend knows what Hitler knew, that you can use a cross or a swastika to mask any obscenity and that is it easier to draw a crowd by appealing to the evil in man than to his impulse toward good.

Anyway, here we have it, the first animal sacrifice since the Mithriastic cult was suppressed by Constantine in 394 A.D. and I hope the wool growers association doesn’t just sit on its fat dummy and let this golden opportunity go by. A little pressure here and there, a few donations to churches with drooping memberships, a skillful and reverent publicity campaign in the newspapers and magazines and the impetus would be self-sustaining. No longer would people have to stop along the highways wherever two cars have crashed together in their insatiable search for death, blood, and suffering. They can get their kicks at either the morning or the evening service.

Assuming a sheep population of 53,000,000 and the number of churches at 250,000, and further assuming both a morning and an evening service, it would be possible to consume half of the lamb crop in sacrificial ceremonies each year. As the older breeding stock died off the price of wool and lamb chops would necessarily skyrocket. Within a year or two as the churches began cutting into the supply of cattle and hogs all phases of the livestock industry would begin to perk up.

I have only a couple of little suggestions to make before I throw the whole thing into the laps of the various livestock associations. One practical difficulty presents itself. I discovered, when I was fooling around with one of the little bummer lambs that Carroll Owens gave me, that their legs simply won’t spread out far enough to fit on a cross. This is an insignificant problem, really, and I’m almost ashamed to bring it up. The preacher can, while kneeling before the altar with his back to the congregation and pretending to pray, pull the legs apart until they break at the shoulders. They should then fit on the cross very nicely.

My other suggestion is that on special religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, something a little more dramatic and titillating might be sacrificed to bring home the true meaning of the day. Instead of livestock I’d like to suggest human beings, preferably ministers like the Reverend Pike. There’s one service you couldn’t keep me away from.


Originally published:
Issue Eighteen
March 2002


After his discharge from the Eighth Air Force after World War II and before joining the Peace Corps in 1964, Moritz Thomsen spent 20 years as a farmer in Los Molinos, California, a small agricultural town near Chico and Red Bluff, in Tehama County. His first book, “Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle” was not published until 1969, but in 1959 and 1960 he wrote a column for his local weekly, the Los Molinos Sun. The paper was short-lived, but Thomsen saved clippings of his “Mill Run” column, as well as the notebook he used to write out his columns each week in longhand. The clippings and notebook, now in the possession of his niece, Rashani Rea, provide a fascinating glimpse into the life and thoughts of Moritz Thomsen, eleven years after his death in Ecuador in 1991.  Smokebox has been granted permission by Rashani Rea to reprint selected “Mill Run” columns, seen here for the first time since they were published some 41 years ago. For more on Thomsen you can read Marc Covert’s excellent analysis of his published output in the 3 part Smokebox feature Howls From A Hungry Place.

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