Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Rift" over healing among Followers of Christ?

Television station KATU in Oregon has reported (here) some intriguing developments related to the crminal prosecution of the parents of David Hickman, an infant who died last year after being denied -- on religious grounds -- conventional medical treatment. Hickman's parents are members of the Followers of Christ, a church with a long record of involvement in cases of religion-based medical neglect of children.

The station is reporting that "testimony last week revealed that a doctor prescribed birth control pills and once gave a medical exam to a church elder, Karen White, who also happens to be the deceased child’s grandmother. Karen White is also married to Walter White Jr., grandson of church founder Walter White. Current and former church members told KATU News a major rift in the church is now brewing over the revelation and the issue of medical care."

Having followed the Followers for many years, my surmise is that this "rift" hardly is new. Although they are famously close-knit, the Followers -- like all religious communities -- have some diversity in terms of beliefs and practices; it's inevitable in any kind of community. (One need look no further than the Amish, who are anything but uniform in their ideology and practices.)

It's difficult to predict what these fissures might mean for the Followers and their healing practices. If nothing else, though, they indicate that change is most likely to come from within, rather than simply via state coercion.

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