Rebekah Powers was 11 when members of her religion group, the Individuals of Reward, gathered round as she sat on a chair and laid their arms on her to hope. Powers’ sister had proven a present for talking in tongues, a defining trait of the followers of the small charismatic Christian group, and Rebekah was anticipated to do the identical.
However after what appeared like an eternity, she proved unable to provide a sound.
“I couldn’t get it, and I stayed there an hour and a half earlier than they gave up and eventually stated, ‘You simply have blockage. You should simply work in your sin and be extra open,” she stated.
The 41-year-old had a rebellious spirit and left Individuals of Reward when she turned 18. It has taken a long time of remedy and arduous work to beat the extraordinary emotions of disgrace and concern of damnation that she stated marked her childhood. The Christian religion group, primarily based in South Bend, Indiana, dominated each side of her formative years, she stated.
Subsequent week, Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative appellate courtroom decide who’s a distinguished member of the 1,700-member robust Individuals of Reward, will sit earlier than the Senate judiciary committee to face questions on her judicial philosophy as a part of her controversial affirmation to sit down on the supreme courtroom. A profitable appointment, changing the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will cement a conservative dominance on the highly effective physique.
Democrats have already acknowledged that neither Barrett’s Catholic religion nor her membership within the Individuals of Reward – which has by no means publicly been mentioned or disclosed, however has been examined in press studies – shall be raised of their questioning of the nominee.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority chief who’s looking for to verify Barrett earlier than the tip of October, has nonetheless stated that media studies and a few remarks by senators a couple of newly found public assertion by Barrett in opposition to Roe v Wade, have been “disgusting assaults” on religion. He stated they risked a return to the “tropes of the 1960s”, when it was feared by some anti-Catholic bigots that John F Kennedy would act within the curiosity of the pope as a substitute of the US.
“Our coastal elites are so disconnected from their very own nation that they deal with non secular People like unusual animals in a menagerie,” McConnell stated in an announcement.
However Powers, who’s one in every of a handful of former Individuals of Reward members who contacted the Guardian to explain their troublesome expertise within the group (utilizing her married title), and a few non secular students who’ve studied charismatic Christian communities, say Barrett’s membership on this particular non secular group does elevate professional questions. They wish to study how views which might be integral to the group’s core beliefs – from its remedy of ladies to the separation of church and state – would possibly affect her. They’re additionally distinct from most mainstream Catholic religion.
Within the bi-weekly and hours-long conferences that outlined Powers’ childhood, intense prayer and discussions centered on obedience and driving out sin. Powers, who doesn’t know Barrett, regularly witnessed individuals talking in tongues and frenzied requires evil spirits to be expelled, episodes that often led to exorcisms.
Within the strict hierarchy exercised by the group, Powers’ mother and father have been usually requested to absorb different members into their residence, despite the fact that her family have been utilizing meals stamps to get by. As a baby and teenager, Powers’ father served as her religious “head” and labored a number of jobs, together with being requested to are likely to the lawns of the group’s properties, freed from cost.
Girls who’re married, like Barrett, depend their husbands as their “heads”.
“We have been Catholic, however the Catholicism was on the facet. Our life, all of our buddies, the entire randoms who have been residing in our family, have been the [People of Praise] group. It was God,” she stated. “The brainwashing and the groupthink, the feminine subjugation of being there to serve and hearken to your religious head. It was so devaluing. To me, it instilled such issues.”
Powers’ experiences are consistent with a handbook known as The Spirit and Objective of the Individuals of Reward, which was obtained by the Guardian and confirms that individuals who search to be members of the group are prayed with for the discharge of “charismatic presents” – particularly, talking in tongues and the present of “prophecy”. It additionally states: “Obedience to authority and submission to headship are energetic responses to the presents of God.”
Though Barrett has not mentioned the difficulty, there’s proof that the previous Notre Dame regulation professor served as a trustee for a college affiliated with the group; lived within the residence of a distinguished co-founder when she was in regulation college; and introduced the beginning of her youngsters in Individuals of Reward’s journal, which has eliminated references to Barrett and her household since she joined the federal bench in 2017.
The Washington Publish reported this week that Barrett served as a “handmaid” as late as 2010, a management place for ladies locally, in accordance with a listing.
Barrett’s father, Mike Coney, who has served in a management place within the Individuals of Reward, described his personal resolution to affix the group in a 2018 testimonial at his Catholic church, describing how he had initially unwillingly attended a charismatic seminar as a younger man. “When prayed with for a larger outpouring of the Holy Spirit, nothing occurred. Then later that night time I started to talk in tongues. Extra importantly, I used to be stuffed with an insatiable urge for food for studying scripture and religious books,” he wrote.
Thomas Csordas, an anthropology professor on the College of California San Diego who has studied the problems round communities like Individuals of Reward, stated it was flawed to focus consideration on whether or not the group may very well be a thought of a “cult” within the spirit of Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple. It was far more applicable, he stated, to look at what he known as the “intentional group” of Individuals of Reward and its nature of being “conservative, authoritarian, hierarchical, and patriarchal”.
“I believe they’re doubtlessly extra harmful and far more refined [than a cult],” he stated. “It isn’t the form of group the place submission of ladies to males signifies that they’ve to remain barefoot and pregnant. As a substitute, they must be legal professionals and judges and submissive to males on the similar time. They’ve to have the ability to have a profession and 7 youngsters on the similar time.”
Removed from taking her cues from the Individuals of Reward, Csordas stated, Barrett’s biography confirmed she was not a “senseless devotee” of a cult, however relatively a part of the elite of the intentional charismatic covenant group, reflecting her earlier standing as a handmaiden and trustee of the college, and her father’s management position.
“Opposite to a scenario by which individuals would possibly fear she is perhaps instructed what to assume or instructed by her husband. Being that far into the group means, no, she goes to be instructing different individuals.” She already “is aware of” what to assume due to the patriarchal construction she was raised in, which mirrors conservative Catholic views and the views of her judicial mentor, Antonin Scalia.
Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology at Villanova College, stated that even when senators declined to query Barrett about her religion, the problems deserved to be aired in different boards as a result of teams like Individuals of Reward, he stated, does reject a secular view of separation between church and state.
“I don’t assume we must always put her Catholicism on trial, however the Catholic conservative authorized motion is placing liberalism on trial. They wish to change a sure understanding of the liberal order of particular person rights, and that’s coming from the non secular worldview of Catholic teams,” he stated.
“Perhaps not within the Senate, however within the public sq..”
A spokesman for Individuals of Reward has stated it will be inappropriate to debate Barrett. He has additionally stated the group is an ecumenical group that strives to permit women and men with a “vast number of political and spiritual views” to stay collectively in concord.