I was enjoying my usual Tuesday night routine (drooling over Kiefer for an hour before watching Judging Amy with Mom) when I was struck with an image so powerful it sent me into immediate tears. The issue is not something I can change, as a great deal has already been done to ensure it does not happen in the future, but I feel that I should share anything that hits me that strongly.
On the show, the social worker character (Tyne Daly) interrupts a church healing service at which the purpose was to drive the demons from an autistic boy. The scene shows the character walking into a room where adults sit on the floor surrounding a shirtless young boy restrained with rope at wrists and ankles. The minister is attempting to cast out demons by whipping the boy's already very bloody back. Mom and I both let out some kind of noise of horror and I started crying uncontrollably.
So I'm a sap, right? It's just a television show. It's just dramatic effect. That doesn't really happen. Right?
I am a sap, but my horror at this scene was justified by real life. In my daily work with autistic children I have learned of many atrocious acts that have been committed against these individuals in a search for a cure. Most of those things are past tense and have been abated by government relief and new types of therapies (namely, ABA). This one, though? this is real.
Pentacostal churches are known for practicing faith healings. A branch of the Pentacostal denomination, the Apostolic church, was charged with homicide last year after a crime much like the one described on Judging Amy.
The Milwauke Journal Sentinel Reports:
"[The mother] helped hold her 8-year-old son motionless while church elder Ray Hemphill, who admits to having no formal theological training, lay on the child to drive out the evil spirit that wasn't there in the first place. For two sweaty hours, Hemphill ordered demons to leave Terrance. When he was finished, the poor boy had suffocated and was soaked with his own urine from the ordeal, a criminal complaint says."
In further commentary from The Religion News Blog:
"Terrance's father said in a telephone interview that when he saw his son's body in the ambulance Friday night, there were bruises on his arms and he was told there was skin under the boy's fingernails, which he took as signs that Terrance had struggled.
"It's like he was fighting for his life," said Terrance Cottrell Sr."
So here's the deal: this is only one event. This kind of thing doesn't happen all the time, right? Well, probably not. But consider for a second that we only know about this one because the boy died. How many children have faced "healings" without facing death? Perhaps this incident's brief stint in the national news has served to decrease the number of like events, but we are human, we forget, and history always repeats itself.