A man who knew my grandmother back in the 1980s, when the baby ministry was just getting off the ground, contacted me yesterday. My Giggy delivered his son two years before I was born and two years before she wrote her woman-and-child-hating homebirth manifesto. His son needed an emergency cesarean but my grandmother taught that having a c-section (like she did - four times) is in actuality witchcraft and sorcery (as all surgery was to her) and that your baby delivered in this fashion would be "offered unto Caesar" and the devil, not you and the Lord. (Caesar was considered an evil spirit of, essentially, humanism.)
My grandmother and the two other burnt-out nurses who ran the baby ministry in the early days talked on and on at baby meetings they held for pregnant couples, telling them how dangerous hospitals were. My grandmother had a filing cabinet filled with newspaper clippings of medical malpractice. One story I remember vividly is of a man who had the wrong leg amputated at a hospital just a few miles away. Of course, like creationists, psychics, and "prayer warriors", my grandmother focused on the exception rather than the rule. I honestly thought as a child that going to a hospital was akin to a death sentence, so terribly inept were these doctors. In that light, it made perfect sense to trust God (who loved us, promised to heal us and provide for us, and was certainly not incompetent) over doctors (who secretly worshiped demons, when they weren't killing their patients through malpractice). (Yes, I was an early deather.)
For a moment, put yourself in this man's shoes: In a time of struggle, and no real self-confidence, his pastor and this nurse were both telling him the same things - that God would always heal, that birth was natural and "not a medical emergency", that we had been promised provision, and that doctors were evil. Other people were having Gig at their births and she had probably already attended several dozen before his. Home birth and midwifery were on the cultural rise (as they still are - unfortunately) and within the context of his life and beliefs, it wasn't crazy for him to believe what my grandmother said. He blamed an early foundation in Christian fundamentalism for laying the fertile ground for her ideas to take root.
My grandmother didn't take his wife to the hospital; there was no c-section. He son was born gray and pale, and didn't suck to nurse for two days. He's 28 now, just a couple years older than I am, and living in a group home. He'll never be an independent adult - and my grandmother did that to him. I didn't get a chance to ask last night, although I meant to, if he and his wife were the ones who took my grandmother to court for practicing medicine without a license and damaging their child, or if that's yet another life she negatively impacted.
This is why I run this blog, and this is why I'm writing my book. To a religious historian a hundred years from now, the children (and adults) she harmed may be no more than a statistic. To me, each one is a story and a child and a life. Oh, to have a time machine right now. If I could just go back to 1980 and kill her or cure her or stop her - before Baby Number 15 died; before this boy's life and his mother's life were put at risk, and he suffered permanent disability as a result; before Harrison's parents had been brainwashed into believing that prayer was the best possible treatment for his several hundred yellow jacket stings; before Roland Robidoux ever got a copy of one of her books. Before she'd written the books.
Or if I had to go back farther in time to stop her, had to go all the way back so that she was never born, I'd take my own retroactive annihiliation and nonexistence, if it kept messages like hers and like the others she parroted (stole from, shamelessly) away from loving and well-meaning people who would never intentionally put their families at risk. Sadly, I don't have a time machine. All I have is my story and my voice.
As Carol Balizet's granddaughter, as the one-time chief acolyte and head cheerleader of Home in Zion Ministries, at the once-future healer/prophet/leader of the group, I can tell the story of each of these children better. I can bring more focus, and I can get people to start talking about these issues - about cults and cult leaders, and about faith and faith healing. Hopefully, together with your help, I can start a national dialogue on the issue of childrens' rights vs. parents' rights, and we can stop acting like the denomination of your parents should determine what constitutes as abuse or neglect for you. This is our Sharia law - religious exemptions that infringe on the human rights of American citizens. For all my US readers who (like me) are getting really annoyed with UK's Labor party for courting the Muslim vote with Sharia-pandering, here's the "beam" in our own eye. (And here's a petition you can sign to help change that. And here's another.)
I think when people read stories of children who die of medical neglect, they imagine the parents as unfeeling or cruel. I want to write this story because I need to explain how fundamentalism can warp a person, and how people can do the worst actions from the most motives. I want to preach the gospel of critical thinking, so that people can protect themselves from the people like my grandmother - cunning, charming, confident, and crazy - who are out there, waiting to prey on their next victim.
Thank you to everyone who's contacted me, either through a comment or an email or a phone call. It really means a lot to me, and I'm glad of anyway that my blog is helping people to process their own backgrounds. That's kind of what I look at secular humanism as being all about - people helping people be better people. You help me. Thanks.