Saturday, February 5, 2011 Login

Perry Bulwer’s Story

Perry Bulwer, if you do not already know, maintains the Religion and Child Abuse News blog, which is dedicated to archiving stories concerning child abuse and neglect in a religious context. Perry’s blog is also a central part of my News Feed. He should be commended for this effort.

In his latest post, which details the story of a young teenager who died of a ruptured appendix because his family chose faith over medical care. This one, however, hit especially close to home. As a preface to the story, Perry has included his own brush with death under extremely similar circumstances. This you really have to read:

Keeping this archive updated can be down right depressing at times. There is no end to the cruel abuses perpetrated on children by religious believers. Only a small percentage of that abuse ever makes it into a news or magazine article, however, and this blog only archives some of those articles. Nevertheless, in less than a year and a half, I have already accumulated over 1300 articles. Some of them hit closer to home for me than others, such as the article below, which triggered some traumatic memories for me.

You see, I was 17 years old, the same age as the teen in this article, when I came down with appendicitis. Just over a year earlier, in 1972, I had joined the Children of God cult, now known as The Family International. After several intense months of indoctrination, I was sent to the ‘mission field’ of Japan. The cult was just getting rooted there, with only a few scattered communes, so new-comers like me were immediately sent on the road, two by two, to sell literature. While staying in a youth hostel, I began to get severe abdominal pains during the night. As morning dawned I was in obvious agony, so my partner informed the hostel manager who immediately suggested I go the hospital, which was right across the street. I refused to go, however, because I had effectively been indoctrinated by the cult to believe that any sickness or medical problem was a sign of disobedience to God. I was also taught that going to doctors showed a lack of faith — if I was sick it was a test of my faith in God — and that sickness was often a sign of yielding to the devil. I had also seen others in the cult punished, reprimanded or criticized for being sick. In short, the cult believed, and still does, that physical ailments have spiritual origins—either God is testing you or the devil is attacking you.

Doubled over in agony, barely able to walk, I continued to resist going to the hospital for several hours out of fear of displeasing God and my cult leaders. The pain became so unbearable, however, that I eventually gave in and went to the emergency ward. It took a few hours for the test results, during which time I thought I might die, the pain was so bad. Finally, the doctor told me I either had a severe infection or appendicitis and gave me the option of two courses of action. By that time, I was almost delireous with pain, I could hardly think straight, so I told him I just wanted the pain to stop and he should decide for me. He decided to open me up, and after the emergency surgery he told me I had had acute appendicitis and that my appendix could have burst at any time.

I spent several days recuperating, during which time my partner contacted the cult leaders hundreds of miles away in Tokyo. After I was released, I went to the nearest cult commune to recuperate, and the cult leaders came down to speak to me, or I should say, to punish me. That’s exactly what they did. They told me that I had endangered the work of God in Japan, and as punishment I would be sent back to America. To cult members, that was like a death sentence, since this apocalyptic cult believe the deranged teachings of David Berg, who claimed America would soon be destroyed by God for their wickedness.

I nearly suffered the same fate as the teen in the article below, because of religious indoctrination. When I refused medical care, I was not doing so from an informed, rational, uncoerced position, but out of fear instilled in me through indoctrination into Christian fundamentalism. So keep that in mind as you ponder whether the teen in this article was freely exercising his religious rights, or was under undue influence and pressure not to seek medical treatment.

Fortunately, we now have Perry with us to give us this great service. Imagine what may have become of this child and so many others who were not so lucky.

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