You Gotta Have Faith?

28 May

There is an old John Wayne movie called El Dorado that I have seen a million times and contains one of my favorite lines. After telling one of his henchmen to stay out of a fight, Nelse McLeod, the bad guy gunfighter, says, “Faith can move mountains, Milt, but it can’t beat a faster draw.” This line kept running through my mind as I read The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo.

This book had been in my Kindle for a while as I decided if I wanted to read it or not. Now that I have read it, I am not sure if I’m glad I did or not. I think it is supposed to be a chronicle of faith and how it can get people through any hardship. From my point of view, it provides an example of the tragedies that can happen if someone has too much faith.

In short, the writer is the daughter of a preacher and his devout wife and takes us through her childhood experiences. However, they are not the experiences that one would find idyllic. Her father was the pastor at a church in a small, rural community in North Carolina. Like many similar communities, it was tight-knit and leery of outsiders. Being a dynamic preacher, her father was able to break through this outsider status and become a beloved figure in the area.

At least, he was beloved to most. Apparently, there was a local “boss” who did not appreciate the new preacher and his growing power. As time passed, the “boss” did everything possible to run the preacher and his young family out of town. It began with disturbances during services, such as making loud noises and slamming the doors. Through the years, it escalated from childishness to danger. Hired lackies made threatening phone calls, mailed threatening letters, shot up the house and, eventually set off dynamite near their home and the church. For years, the family lived in terror as the attacks increased in ferocity. Everyone knew who was behind it, but authorities could not prove it.

Over time, the preacher and his wife strained under the stress. The children, the writer and her brother, spent nights not sleeping or having nightmares. It was a disaster as this family faced the wrath of a man bent on destroying them. Neighbors rallied, journalists wrote and politicians spoke, but no one could understand the nightly fear that this family faced. It is a story that makes the reader wonder about the depths to which some will resort to get their way.

However, it made me wonder about something else as well. The writer continuously praises the faith that her parents had in God. They refused to move because God would protect them. They refused to confront the terrorist because God would find His way into the man’s heart. They would not give up the small church because God wanted them there. Family begged them to move, but God didn’t want them to move.

Look, if someone has faith in a higher power, then that is their right. If someone has enough faith to place themselves in harm’s way for that higher power, then that is fine by me. I don’t understand it, but it is their life. However, I have a real problem when someone uses faith as an excuse to keep someone else in danger. This couple forced their children, who had no choice, to live a terrible childhood, because that’s what God wanted. THAT IS RIDICULOUS. I heard somewhere that God helps those who help themselves. Placing innocents in a dangerous situation because of faith is criminal. In my mind, it is just as criminal as the people setting the dynamite.

In the end, God didn’t come to the rescue. As the family harbored an abused wife, her husband walked into their home and shot both parents. The mother was killed almost instantly, and the father survived physically. He did not, however, survive mentally. After spending time in various institutions, he died of a blood clot.

The writer finishes by describing the strength of her faith and how it got her through. Various reviewers write about how this is such a great testament to faith. I say that it is a testament to stubbornness – a testament to putting your children through Hell while telling them that is the way to Heaven.

2 Responses to “You Gotta Have Faith?”

  1. amberbh May 29, 2012 at 00:08 #

    As you know, I absolutely believe in God and do rely on my faith in many circumstances. HOWEVER, I also believe when in a rocky storm in a boat, you pray to God, but row for shore. He gave us the brains, the muscles and the oars that we are supposed to use. God doesn’t ask us to be foolish. That type of story drives me crazy. It’s ignorance, not faith.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles May 29, 2012 at 03:28 #

      The entire time I was reading I could only think about the kids.

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