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Research Notes

from the Research Notes column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 5, 1989.

The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.

Bernie Siegel, Healing, and Miracles

Bernie Siegel, author of the 1986 best seller, Love, Medicine & Miracles, has just published a new book entitled Peace, Love & Healing (Harper & Row) in which he continues his exploration into the links between body and mind, feelings and healing. Siegel argues in both books that the course of an illness may be altered by a change in one's state of mind. He thus suggests that conventional treatments of disease be supplemented with mind-altering techniques like visualization, meditation, and hypnosis.

The May/June 1989 issue of New Age Journal contains a feature interview with Siegel. In the interview, it becomes quite clear why Siegel's writings are so popular in New Age circles. Siegel said: "The nicest compliment I get is people coming up and saying, 'Just what religion are you?' I was brought up in the Jewish religion. Last night [when I spoke to a group] the minister thought I was Catholic, and I said, 'Thank you, that's a wonderful compliment.' Because, if they can't tell [my religion, it supports] the point I am making: Spirituality is universal. Religions are a problem, but spirituality and love are not."

In the course of the interview, Siegel shows a definite openness to Eastern religious concepts: "If you say to me, do I believe we live on in some other kind of energy after the body dies, yes. I mean, there are just too many interesting things I see happening in terms of communication to me from people who have died. So I am intrigued. But whether it goes to heaven or just goes back to the original source of energy that created the universe, if you want to call it God -- I mean, you are just playing games with words -- what's the difference? And can that energy pick out a new body? I don't know. I mean, what difference does it make?"

It makes a great deal of difference. The fact that Siegel even asks this question is perhaps the best reason orthodox Christians should avoid reading his books, best sellers though they are.

Three Lawsuits Against Seattle Area Community Chapel Settled Out Of Court

The controversial Community Chapel group near Seattle, already badly stung by a church split, is continuing to unravel in the wake of four lawsuits filed against the church and/or its leaders, including pastor Donald Lee Barnett.

Since 1986 the Chapel has attracted national attention due to the drowning death of a 5-year-old girl and several suicides of members. All the deaths were partially blamed on Barnett's teachings by critics. In the drowning of Brittany Cole in a motel bathtub, the mother, Janet Cole, did it for fear her daughter was possessed by a "demon of hyperactivity." By killing her daughter, the mother thought she could release the demon and the child would automatically go to heaven. She was later convicted of murder.

Critics say the suicides and subsequent divorces of about 80 church couples were related to a practice Barnett called "spiritual connections." It started in 1983 when Barnett, now 60, claimed he caught a new move of the Lord and began teaching the congregation to dance solo in the aisles of the church sanctuary. In 1985 he went further and said the dancing could involve couples. Eventually members were encouraged to dance with the spouses of others and develop intimate relationships -- "spiritual connections" -- with them. The dancing developed into some couples spending hours dancing, staring into each other's eyes, hugging and kissing.

The suicides occurred after some developed romantic relationships with their "spiritual connections" who were not their spouses. In one case a woman shot herself after her husband's "spiritual connection" -- another woman -- grew so close to him that she stayed at their home to care for him during his illness. When the woman became depressed over this she was told she had a "demon of jealousy." She killed herself when she couldn't rid herself of the "demon."

In March 1987 church elders disfellowshipped Barnett after they heard testimony of adulterous affairs he was having with women in the church. In March 1988, however, Barnett won the right to return to the pulpit when a King County Superior Court judge granted a request from the preacher to prevent the elders from removing him.

Responding to the judge's ruling, attorney James Leach, representing the Chapel elders, argued that Barnett had breached his responsibility as a board member at the church and exposed the Chapel to liability through litigation. Barnett eventually lost the case when a King County court ordered him to turn in his keys and leave.

The first suit filed against the Chapel -- in July 1986 by three women [Kathy L. Butler, Sandi L. Brown, and Christine Hall] -- alleged that Barnett and other church leaders sexually assaulted them under the guise of ministerial counseling. That suit was joined by a similar one filed by several families [Sandy Ehrlich et al v. Ralph Alskog et al] that added that Barnett's "spiritual connections" had resulted in sexual advances of adults against children. The third case filed by Maureen Jorgensen, a paraplegic, was a cash recovery case. She lent the church money from an insurance settlement for the 1970 car accident that crippled her. From March 30 to May 15, these three suits were not-so-quietly settled out of court. Details of the agreements were to be kept secret but the attorneys for the plaintiffs said their clients were pleased with the settlements. The fourth case [Carl Petersen v. Wayne Snoey] involves the former head of security of the church. That case is still pending.

End of document, CRN0011A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"Research Notes"
release A, February 7, 1994
R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.

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