I’ve been struggling with the idea for this post for the past few days, since a reader made the following comment on the blog entry titled “The Evils of Education:”
“Everyone just seemed to be deciding for them [the members of the FOC] how they should be living out their faith, when other than being wrong, they didn't do anything to bring this level of hate on themselves.”
My first response is that I don’t hate anyone in this group, nor do I encourage others to do so. But, on reflection, I think this person is referring to the comments made by readers on news sites, such as OregonLive, KATU, and other media sources reporting on the Followers’ practices of faith healing. Outsiders are outraged at what they see as the preventable loss of innocent lives.
Before I go any further with my line of thinking, I want to come out and say that I never forget the true fact that it could be me. A few choices in another direction and I could’ve been there. I could’ve married my high school sweetheart (who sadly died long before his time) and I could’ve had children in that church. When I was still entrenched in these ideas, I wouldn’t have considered calling a doctor when someone was sick. Even a child. It wouldn't have crossed my mind.
I have written a chapter in my book about discovering that someone I was close to had gone to a hospital – had chosen to go to the emergency room – rather than die at home with dignity. I was livid. I believed completely that God would heal those whom He chose to heal and call home those He chose. I did not believe that a mere mortal – a doctor – could do any good at all. The stories I grew up with convinced me that seeking medical care would backfire at best, most likely summoning an earlier death than if we’d put our trust in God where it belonged.
But for the grace of God go I. I mourn for the families who absolutely loved the children and young adults who have died and believed they were doing the right thing.
I have been away from that church. And I’ve read the Bible. I no longer believe it is a sin to seek medical care. The Bible doesn’t say that it’s a sin. Saint Luke was a doctor, for heaven’s sake!
I hear from people on the inside. More than you would think, but I will NEVER tell who has contacted me or the details of their struggles. I know things have become distorted. Things are changing. Ideas and beliefs are changing, for better or worse. And, like some astute reader recently pointed out, those who were around when the church was still “alive” are the elderly minority. The adults who are making decisions are living on the second- and third-hand lore. It is watered down and the meaning is no longer clear.
Followers are getting medical care. Well, we always had medical care for our eyes and teeth. Oral surgery, as I mentioned previously. Now, Followers are getting Lasik surgery. Adults are taking medications for chronic diseases. Men who are injured at work go to the ER so they won’t lose their jobs or earning potential. The siblings of those children who died are taken for regular check-ups so that Child Protective Services will not intervene and remove them from their homes.
So, what was it all for?
What makes a Follower a Follower? Now it seems the most important qualifications are blood-line (descendants of those who were baptized by a prophet) and loyalty to the church.
And, what have they done to bring this “level of hate” upon themselves? I do not hate them. Any of them. I do not think I’m smarter or better than any of them. I do not think God loves me more. I do not think I would’ve made better choices had I been in the shoes of the parents who have lost their beloved children.
But for the grace of God go I.
This isn't where I considered going with this. I can't bring myself to write what I've been thinking about because I don't want to hurt those who are already hurting. I may write it later, but not now.