Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do People Hate the Followers?

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.


  1. I grew up in OC in the late 60's - early 70's and went to high school with Followers (kissers we called them) although I never knew any personally - they were too reclusive and clique-ish. I for one never objected to what I felt was their complete faith in God, even to giving up their lives. In fact, I had a certain respect for it. I didn't really see it as any different than people who chose to live in places where medical help wasn't available and taking their children with them (like missionaries or moving to the wilds of Alaska, etc.). Weren't they putting themselves and their children at risk too for a belief or a lifestyle? Then I moved away and didn't think about the FOC for years.

    Then the arrests and trials started. Maybe the FOC changed and became more worldly over the years and that's when authorities began to take note. When the trials began I was surprised to see how much they looked like eveyone else and how the women wore fashionable clothes and hairstyles and make-up. In high school they dressed differently, acted differently, and lived differently, and people left them alone. I can't recall a single time anyone bullied them at school. But as I learned more about the FOC through the trials I began to feel their beliefs were hypocritical and the rejection of medical help was just an oddity of their faith, not a result of a complete trust in God that infused every aspect of their lives as I had once believed.

    I, along with many others wondered why they had glasses - I don't think any did in high school. I found out they visited dentists and used birth control and I was shocked. If God could heal a life-threatening illness why couldn't he be trusted to fix poor eyesight or cavities if that was his will? I wondered why they didn't extend their faith in God to the courtroom and hired lawyers instead of defending themselves and their faith. I was put off by their defense strategies that centered on not knowing the seriousness of a child's condition instead of their religious belief. I thought it was dishonest and hypocritical.

    Did the FOC change, or were they like this all along - having complete faith in God in only a very narrow aspect of their life?
    Was it even faith in God or just a cult-belief no one questioned?
    Did people leave them alone in years past as long as it seemed they lived an authentic God-centered life?
    Did society change their view of the church or did the FOC change the way they lived and drew attention to a certain hypocrisy in their beliefs?
    Lot's of unanswered questions.

  2. First you need to recognize that followers are like any other group, of any kind, anywhere. To say that they think this,or that, isn't really fair. One of the largest criticisms of them is that they don't think for themselves, their wemen are brainless and only follow their husbands. Every person has a brain, opinions, and free will when it comes down to it. The mere fact that they are deciding to obey the law, in some cases, means that they are evolving. Whether it's from legal woes,or outside pressure, they're changing for the better. Hopefully the argument is being made that it's senseless to be thrown in jail for refusing to take your child to someone that you have zero confidence in. If your faith is in God, keep it there. When you've done everything humanly possible for your child, the Doctor will tell you when to start praying, if you werent already.

    1. "Hopefully the argument is being made that it's senseless to be thrown in jail for refusing to take your child to someone that you have zero confidence in."

      I would argue that's willful ignorance or denial of what doctors are capable of. A lack of confidence doesn't mean the feelings are realistic or valid and have to be honored by law. I can say I have zero confidence that 2+2=4 but it doesn't change reality.

  3. First off, thanks for your blog! It is really good to have a chance to hear from someone who spent so much time in a group that most of us know little about.
    But I do have a question:
    The Churches I've attended have always emphasized each individuals responsibility to read the Bible and "rightly divide the word" for other words, come to a clear understanding of what the Bible says on our own rather than only relying on the word of any individual it was always perfectly fine to question or even debate with one another about what specific scriptures say about this or that including our pastor.
    Disagreement was never seen as a bad thing.
    My question is this; In the FOC were people allowed to disagree over questions of doctrine that the church taught or was it considered "taboo" to raise questions about the churches teachings?
    Thanks for your answer.

    1. Good question and it really depends on the question and who you ask. I was often told, "that is against your religion" and "you don't believe in that" or "you believe in this" by people in authority - to say that I didn't have a choice in how I believed, just blindly accept it. A friend told me that his sister was kicked out for asking too many questions about religion (I remember her being kicked out, but that wasn't the official story, so I'm being careful to say this is what I was told and not something I know first hand). There are some big differences in opinions - really crucial ones, such as the need for a new preacher. That issue is still being debated and still divisive among the Followers.

    2. You speak of your family often, do you have siblings other than your sister? Has your family found another church to attend?

    3. Yes, I also have three older brothers (and three sisters-in-law and a ton of nieces and nephews). Two of my brothers took their families from OC and joined the FOC in Idaho for a while, but later migrated back to Washington and Oregon, respectively. My siblings and I have all found new churches (we do not live close enough to each other to attend the same church).

    4. I might add that what you said in your response was right in line with what someone else told me about their own experience:
      I worked with a woman who had recently come out of the FOC..she said that the actual reason was that she had been ostracized for asking for a divorce from her husband...anyhow, this was about ten years ago.
      I asked her a lot of questions about what the Church taught and where people in the church got the basis for their beliefs;
      She essentially said that few people in the FOC have any real understanding of most of what they say they believe in or why they even believe it in the first place since they were discouraged from ever challenging the 'status quo'...she said that even the older members who one might go to with questions in the first place didn't seem to have any real answers anyhow.
      It sounds to me, based on your reply, that what she told me was accurate.
      I might also add that while the little bits and pieces of what I've heard about the FOC sounded pretty loopy the small handful of individuals I've known from that group were very nice.

  4. Cults in general seem to control people by fear. What consequences, if any, do they face for challenging the accepted philosophy. The Bible tells us to hold fast to traditions, do they keep the same ones that were around when they had a preacher, or are they making up new ones to go along with their changing circumstances. I don't see how they can keep with tradition without a minister.

  5. That was precisely my point. If you were told that you would be thrown in prison for ten years, unless you allowed a voodoo witch doctor to cast a spell on you, I'd say go for it. I don't subscribe to it, so I have no spiritual fear of it. Something is only scary, or dangerous if you do believe in it right? For all of the drama about not wanting to seek medical assistance, the farce is that they don't believe in doctors, and their faith is in God. The truth is that if they didn't have so much faith in doctors they would have no aversion to going along with the law of the land.

  6. I thought you had a older sister also.

    1. Yes, I do have an older sister, Karin. She wrote a guest blog back in October.

  7. The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.



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