While any church that ties the words “prayer” and “blast” together might get a second look from the casual observer, the Rutherford County Department of Social Services is right to take such looks a step further and investigate what appears on the surface to be instances of abuse.
Known for its use of “blasting prayer” in which church members stand in a circle around an individual praying loudly in an effort to exercise demonic spirits from the subject, the Spindale-based Word of Faith Fellowship may be engaging in behavior bordering on abuse — especially when individual subjects are juveniles. The church’s further practice of “discipleship” — isolating children and church members from friends and family — is also a practice sure to do more than raise a few eyebrows.
Because this church chooses to practice unorthodox measures that could be harmful to its children, the county DSS has a right and responsibility to question its practices. This is not about religious freedom or tolerance, this is about the safety of our youths.
And because the issue is the safety of children, if such behaviors are truly beneficial, Word of Faith should welcome such investigations, and use them as opportunities to explain their practices and educate non-members.
Instead, church members are giving the appearance of something to hide by attempting to cloister their mission and filing lawsuits against the social service agency claiming harassment.
Appearances may indeed be deceiving, but then again, they may not. Whenever it appears that children are being harmed — no matter how “high” the purpose — it is our duty as parents, adults and citizens to explore the situation and remove them from harm’s way if need be.
Word of Faith members may be acting in good faith and in what they believe to be the teaching of the Bible. This is not for us to judge. But the result such behaviors have on their members is for us to question.
When “turn the other cheek” involves not the act of forgiveness, but an act of violence, it is time for outside agencies to intervene. The Rutherford DSS is right to continue its investigation into the human effect of Word of Faith’s controversial religious practices.