“MADISON, WI — Two children and their mother lived for about two months with the decaying body of a 90-year-old woman on the toilet of their home’s only bathroom, on the advice of a religious “superior” who claimed the corpse would come back to life, authorities said Friday.” (http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/national_world&id=6134344)

The two children, ages 15 and 12, were subjected to seeing grandma (Magdeline Middlesworth) decay in their one and only bathroom. Their mother, Tammy Lewis or Sister Mary Bernadett, believed God told her that if she had enough faith and prayed hard enough Middlesworth would come back to life. It is unclear whether God spoke to her directly or through her religious superior – “Bishop” John Peter Bushey. Bushey apparently told them that “demons were trying to make it look as if Middlesworth wouldn’t come back to life”.

While I doubt most religious people would allow grandma to decay in their only bathroom as they pray for her resurrection, this story does show what happens at the extremes of religious belief and faith. But how extreme is it? Doesn’t Jesus say: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14) There is no qualification or exception except having faith in Jesus. How much faith? Apparently not much as Jesus also said: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Luke 17:6) Of course, these blanket literal promises are not true and any sane person knows this. Therefore, evangelical Christianity has made a lot of plausible excuses for why a literal reading of these verses is not really what Jesus meant. (You would think an omnipotent God could get the wording correct and say what He means!)

Yet, some people do believe them and the trauma it can cause is no minor thing. Did Tammy Lewis have enough faith? Pray hard enough? Believe strong enough? Were the demons to strong to overcome? Was there unbelief in their house? Did the children undermine her prayers? Maybe she also needed to fast?

What about her children? What kind of nightmares are they going to have? A decaying corpse not only smells bad, it isn’t a particularly pleasing sight.

Are Lewis and Bushey insane and deluded OR do they just believe a literal interpretation of the bible? Both, but isn’t there a touch of insanity in everyone who believes in counterintuitive worlds governed by supernatural agents”?

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