Friday, 15 February 2008

Baby Bible Bashers

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Last night's Channel 4 documentary Baby Bible Bashers really didn't make for pleasant viewing. It introduced us to three child evangelists and their despicable parents as they pursued their mission to convert the world's sinners.

First up – and arguably the "star" of the show – was seven-year-old Samuel Boutwell from Mississippi, who is forced by his parents to stand on street corners urging sinners to repent. We first meet him as he preaches outside his local abortion clinic and we follow him on a road trip to New York, where he hopes to convert those urban heathens. As his Baptist minister father observes, "more people means more sinners. Fact". Needless to say the people of New York prove somewhat unreceptive to the sight of a child preaching fire and brimstone, and his father comes in for some abuse from passers-by. Unable to understand why the urban populace refuses to repent, Samuel eventually breaks down crying.

In case there was any doubt where this child acquired his religious zeal, an interview with his father informs us that, when he was three, Samuel asked him if he was going to Hell. Mr Boutwell responded by asking him if he had ever "sinned against God". Samuel didn't know the answer, so his father asked "have you ever disobeyed your mother?". Samuel answered in the affirmative, so he was kindly informed that yes, if he didn't mend his ways he would burn in Hell for eternity.

Next we meet nine-year-old Terry Durham from Florida, who became the world's youngest ever minister when he was ordained at the age of six. His grandmother, and his followers, believe he has the power to heal everything from the common cold to cancer, while his father seemed more interested in ensuring he becomes a millionaire on the back of his son's work.

Finally it was off to Rio de Janeiro to be introduced to 12-year-old Ana Carolina Dias. She's been preaching since the age of three, and her father has ensured that she's become a national sensation. "My father is everything to me", she tells us. So much so that he shares a bed with her every night while her mother sleeps in another room.

The whole experience was grimly fascinating and left you feeling nothing but contempt for the parents. The fact that the children themselves all seemed quite sweet made it all the more difficult to watch them have their childhoods systematically stolen from them.

Just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, I've tracked down a clip of Samuel on YouTube. There are more clips on the Channel 4 website.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for watching that, and reporting on it. I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to cope with it...

Tom Rees said...

The most distressing parts were listening to Samuel being beaten for disobedience, while his father calmly explains that the Bible says you shouldn't spare the rod. And listening to the fear of hell that has been instilled in him - the repeated reference to being eaten by worms. All very sad. The other two seemed happier.

The little black kid was enjoying the adulation and wealth (though I was unnerved to see him 'curing' a women of lung cancer - have these people no sense of decency?). And the brazilian girl seemed relatively well adjusted considering her circumstances (a dad who is clearly disturbed).

Worth pointing out that the reason his dad was verbally attacked in New York is that he was preaching to gays (among others) that homosexuality is a sin that would send them to hell. They understandably got a bit upset...

davorg said...

I couldn't help seeing parallels between this children and the Gaede twins.

Anyway, it's clearly child abuse. All of those children should be removed from their parents.

Paul Sims said...

Indeed Davorg, and also with the children dragged along to Westboro Baptist Church pickets.

Psychodiva said...

I watched this last night and found myself shocked and tearful at the end- I have bloogged about it.

The Mad Patriot said...

"My father is everything to me", she tells us. So much so that he shares a bed with her every night while her mother sleeps in another room.

Of course, we shouldn't worry about this, because as a good godly Christian man the father surely isn't tempted to do anything improper.

Next time someone says Richard Dawkins goes too far in comparing childhood indoctrination to child abuse, these three cases would make good counterpoints.

Anonymous said...

The public schools teaching that being a sex perverted sodomite is acceptable is more evil than anything that these Christians are doing. You seem filled with hatred for Christians. Is that because you love your sin so much you cannot stand someone who points out that you will be judge by God one day for your sins?

Paul Sims said...

Well thanks Anonymous, I was trying to keep that quiet...

The Hogfather said...

I only have three points to say for Anonymous (I'm not surprised he/she wants to remain anonymous given his/her views!)

a) "Sin" is a concept that religion invented anyway-

yes there are good moral people and there are nastier more evil people in the world, but people of both types can come from any religion or from non-religious backgrounds. There is no evidence to pin "evil" on any one religious viewpoint.

b)Public Schools don't teach that "a sex perverted sodomite is acceptable". What public schools do you know who do this????

c)What is the evidence for the existence of the "God who will judge us"!! Utter nonsense if you ask me!!

The Hogfather said...

I have just relaised something I think that the " sex perverted sodomite"- was a reference used to describe gay people!!!

Oh deah, oh dear!!! Do we really need this homophobic nonsense on our New Humanist blogs!

At first I assumed you were talking about Pedophiles-

I was being far to generous in my previous post!!!!

Natalie said...

Thanks for that post. I have to say that this programme was the straw that broke the camel's back in finally pushing me completely into atheism. I've been a fence-sitter for a while now veering more and more towards atheism the more I study religion and philosophy, but it was this programme that finally did it.

Without a doubt this is child abuse, Samuel for example clearly had no idea about what he was really preaching. He has no understanding of the philosophy of religion and it was heartbreaking to see his confusion at the end of the programme when he clearly didn't understand why people weren't listening and didn't want to be saved from an eternity in hell being burned and eaten by worms.

Anonymous said...

Baby bible bashers was an absaloutely disgusting show. When that poor seven year old poor was "punished" or beaten to be more correct because he didn't want to read the bible and asked his mother not to have her hand on his lap! People like that should have their children taken away and put in jail asap. The sooner these children are taken away from the people who make them the way they are the sooner they can start to lead a normal life

Anonymous said...

Yes I believe that the childrens parents were pushy and i did feel sorry for samuel. But by no means was the show disgusting or disturbing. Why is it that when the topic of religion comes up people are always outraged?! And yeah about the brazillian girl, she slept in the same bed as her father, but the doesnt mean they actually had sex! People are too over dramatic! Fair enough i wouldnt want to sleep in the same bed as my dad, but there's no major problem with them sleeping in the same bed if they want to.

I dont agree with the fact that Terrys father seemed to be more bothere about the merchandise to do with his son though. That did seem unfair.

The children were oushed by their parents and this shouldnt be the case, but whoever said that the parents should have their childrn taken off them is being ridiculous! The children still had loving families and were brought up in a suitable environment.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone read the Bible? I have, and it wasn't well represented by the three families in this show. The Bible doesn't teach that the wicked go to a burning hell. Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 says: "the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." I have found that the Bible's teachings are sound and reasonable, unlike the ideas being promoted by many who claim to live by it.

matt said...

Hey all. I was fascinated by the program as I was brought up in a very charismatic american-influenced church and could see some similarities in the beliefs shown by the three families and my old church.

I am now mid-twenties and my faith is an integral aspect of my life, but I have grown to recognise both the positive, and not so positive, elements of such a church life.

I agree to some extent with the concern over the influence of the parents - in as much as it is VERY difficult not simply to make the child the mouth-piece of the parent. And in all three cases, one of the parents had a VERY significant controlling influence over the kids.

However, if you have a faith in God - and no one can ever force someone else to hold this belief, just as no one can force anyone to relinqish such a belief - you have to allow for God to be greater than ourselves. And if this is so, then there is no absolute reason for why he should not give a very strong annointing to young children. I realise that our personal perspective on religion, and specifically Christianity, will influence our willingness to accept/concede such power, but children ARE particularly aware - both emotionally and spiritually (or whatever you want to call it). As such, I personally believe children can be much more responsive than adults as they are less quick to put our adult inhibitions on such movements. Now I have already conceded that our opinions on this particular point will be pre-determined by our religious stand-point, so please don't simply shout me down because of my position. I am genuinely interested to hear your thoughts and sought this borad intentionally to that end.

What I don't think many of us would disagree on is the extreme danger of treating this spiritual experiences and miracles as some kind of show or performance. Both terms were frequently used - especially in reference to the Durham boy - but I am sure we are all capable of perceiving that the editting MAY have played a part in emphasizing this. However, if adults want to degrade Christianity, and spiritual experience, to some kind of circus act or show, then that completely flies in the face of very ordinary reality of God working in people's lives as I understand him to. That is one aspect of the church I find absolutely abhorent.

I can accept that children may be a very open and powerful conduit for God to reach us, but I take significant objection to the idea of a child 'pastoring' 30,000 as it was mentioned. There is simply no way anyone can take on the mantle of care, responsibility and counselling that pastoring necessitates without first maturing themselves. This is not to say they have no part to play in church - but rather not in the headship of the church.

I hope what I shared will be received in the open, accepting manner it is intended and provokes response from you all as I am intrigued to hear other people's viewpoints.

I should say that I left my church because it shut down - not because I feel out with the principles. I now attend, and in fact do part of my youth work witin, a C-O-E church. Just as before, I do not agree with all aspects, but I appreciate the elements that I do share in common and willing accept the differences.

look forward to the discussion!

Thanks all.

Anonymous said...

i felt sorry for the children, they were clearly being brainwashed by their parents, they should let their children decide for themselves what they want to believe instead of enforcing their extremeist views upon them

Anonymous said...

i completely agree with those of you (very clever) people who are not amused by the
A. Raving small blonde child
B. The girl who shouts at prisoners, when her dad used to be one of the worst crack whores
(oh the hypocrisy)
C. The "miracle" child who can cure everything with a dish cloth
i have always been a proud atheist despite 5 years at a roman catholic primrary school and 3 years at a catholic secondary i have finaly broken free from the enslaving chain of catholism. im now as free as a bird and if when i die i do (by some cruel twist of fat)end up in front of of the judging saint- well then i'll spit in his eye and tell him to send me rite on down to hell- where no doubt i will see these "baby bible basher's" pushy, hippocritical lying parents. looking forward to it

Anonymous said...

It isnt the fact that he would do anything improper if he shares a bed with her
the fact is it is u healthy because, and in all cases for these children, they should learn to have their own identities and lives, and not lead on their parents failed dreams. I think it is sad that they have been forced from such a young age to have no individuality, and are almost like preaching robots who will not listen to anything said against their beliefs to negotiate.
The whole programme represented christianity in a bad light, and it is not as strict as that.
It is, however, very sad for parents like that to take beliefs to extreme and not be accepting to modern society, and lead these onto their children. Very sad.