A Twist of Fate

I missed Karen Robidoux's story on Dateline on Sunday--I was at a church meeting, of all things.

Robidoux was a member of a small sect in my hometown called the Body, and several years ago her infant son Samuel starved to death after a member of the group prophesied that God wanted her to stop feeding him. She was charged with murder in his death, but was acquitted of that charge, and was convicted of assault and released for time served after spending several years in jail.

I blogged about this a few months ago as I'd been covering this story for several years. It's still about the most awful things I've ever encountered.

Since then, she's been putting her life back together at a place called Meadowhaven. I don't know how she's doing it--how do you go on when you've done such a god-awful thing.

She's getting help from Rev. Robert Pardon, who runs a center for people leaving "high control groups" like the Body. (The Boston Phoenix and the Boston Herald have done features on him.)

This story's not going away. The sect still exists as do others--like the 12 Tribes, also accused of being a "high control group" by former members, and they push the boundaries of our pluralism. (The 12 Tribes did a long response to a series of Boston Herald articles--accusing the Herald of undertaking the same kind of "holy war" that the 9/11 terrorists did.) How does our culture respond to groups that claim to know the mind of God and require absolute obedience?

I don't have a good answer for that question. And when I think I do, the story of Abraham and Isaac comes to mind, or the stories of missionaries that put their families in danger to fulfill what they see as God's calling. The line between them and the Body is a lot closer than I'm comfortable in admitting.

I'm not saying they are the same. Any group that abuses its members is suspect in my book. It's just not as simple as saying that anyone who claims to hear God's voice and know God's will is a kook, as several people told me while I was reporting on the Body. There's kooks aplenty in the Bible as well.

BTW, the Attleboro Sun Chronicle has done a remarkable job on covering the story of the Body in recent years. They are a pretty small paper, and I don't know if they ought to get a Pulizter for this kind of story, but I know this--I don't see how Dateline could have covered it any better than the Sun Chronicle.


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