Bethel – The Damage Done When a Child Dies

Bethel – The Damage Done When a Child Dies December 18, 2019

Hemant Mehta over at Patheo’s The Friendly Atheist has picked up on a sad story unfolding right now in Bethel. Bethel of Redding, California, a Quiverfull church that teaches healing and the resurrection of the dead as they should be routine things in the life of a believer. That we can boldly go before the throne of God and ask for new organs, miraculous healings and that even our  beloved dead will be brought back to life as was Lazarus.

What has happened at Bethel is that one the families involved in worship there has lost a 2 year old daughter, Olive Heiligenthal. A tragedy of the deepest kind, when parents lose an innocent child to death. Very sad.

What is bizarre about this story isn’t the death of a beloved child, or the grief of the parents and the entire church community. It’s the response of that same community and parents. They are praying and believing for a miraculous complete resurrection to life of Olive.

Far be it for me to tell someone else how to grieve. We all pick the form of mourning that works for us, comforts us, fills us with peace. But I absolutely hate seeing this child’s death used, and exploited to promote their theology, which is troubling at best.

The old QF church I was part of was part of the Bethel network. We believed in all of those things too, without much evidence of either manifesting. I understand fully what it is that Bethel is preaching and the all too human pain and consequences when you believe in something that just does not happen.

One of the things that makes me sad about all of this is what happens at Bethel and their associated churches when people aren’t raised from the dead, when after much healing prayer that healing just does not come. You’ll hear a piously stated series of messages, involving a lack of belief, an attack of Satan or some supernatural mumbo-jumbo about how whatever it is you’ve been praying for has been manifested in the supernatural, and we’re just not seeing it in the natural. So many excuses, so many wrapped in human failings and fear that aren’t even close to being the reality of the situation.

Which is what is coming for the Heiligenthal family when their precious baby does not awaken. A heaping, helping of blaming, shaming and guilt that I would not ever wish on my worst enemy. It will be bad, it will be painful and so unnecessary. I weep for these parents and the coming storm.

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About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 33 years. You can read more about the author here.
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