The Tragedy of Bethel
The daughter of worship leader Kalley Heiligenthal passed away this weekend and she and the church are praying that God will raise the child from the dead.
She posted this on Instagram the day after her child passed;
“We’re asking for prayer,” she said. “We believe in a Jesus who died and conclusively defeated every grave, holding the keys to resurrection power. We need it for our little Olive Alayne, who stopped breathing yesterday and has been pronounced dead by doctors. We are asking for bold, unified prayers from the global church to stand with us in belief that He will raise this little girl back to life. Her time here is not done, and it is our time to believe boldly, and with confidence wield what King Jesus paid for. It’s time for her to come to life.”
Videos of the mother leading ecstatic worship and prayer on behalf of the child are all over social media.
Bethel actually has a team that specializes in raising the dead, though so far no successes have been noted.
The church teaches that everything that Jesus did in His ministry is possible for those today who have the right formulae and enough faith.
One church in solidarity with Bethel gave Mark 5: 34-42 as the text to read to spark faith;
“While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly.And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.”And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.” (Mark 5:35–43 ESV)
We know how this is going to end…with a funeral.
Let me say first that if this were my child the searing insanity of unspeakable grief might move me to do as this mother is doing now.
I cannot judge someone enduring this kind of pain.
I will speak to the pastoral work being done.
It’s pastoral and spiritual malpractice on a cosmic scale.
It is, in my opinion, wicked.
When the funeral (or the celebration of life) is over and all the tweeting and Facebook posts have stopped you will have a couple who have to wrestle with questions that they should not have to bear with the burden they already carry.
If your theology teaches that God will do miracles if you just have enough faith, then your child is still dead because you lacked faith.
How do you survive that verdict…on top of such a terrible tragedy?
The job of the pastor in these situations is to act as an extension of the Incarnation…to weep with those who weep as Jesus did at the tomb of Lazarus while promising the hope of a resurrection when Christ returns, not today.
It is the pastors task to provide a meaningful and dignified funeral that acknowledges both the grief and our eschatological hope in Christ.
It is the pastors task to walk through the grieving process with the family, acknowledging that there are no answers to our “why” questions.
Those answers are veiled in mystery now, but someday the veil will be lifted.
There is a part of me that feels great anger toward those who have taught these twisted doctrines.
There is also a part of me that wishes very fervently that they were true…
Come quickly, Lord Jesus…