Christian Couple of the Month: DeeAnn and Rondal F. Hale, Arrested for Horrific, “Animalistic” Abuse of Mentally-Disabled Daughter
Before we get to the stomach-turning story of the day (month? year?), here’s a moral-dilemma question for you: Can a church be held responsible for the actions of its members?
Before you answer, consider this: Let’s say the church in question — a Christian church — is literalist in its beliefs; i.e., it takes every word of the Bible literally: it believes, in the words of its pastors, that “God created the universe, the earth, the animals, and man in six literal, twenty-four hour days”; and “in the literal Heaven of conscious eternal blessing for the believer in our Lord Jesus Christ”; and “in a literal Hell of conscious eternal torment in the lake of fire for those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ.”
And let’s say the church in question “seeks to put Christ at the center of all we say and do.”
Would that, do you think, justify, at least in the minds of those too feeble to think for themselves, any and all means to an end — the “end,” in this case, being “to establish [everyone] in the truths found in God’s world,” even if “God’s world” is a fantasy of six-day creationism and unwavering belief in magic tricks of staffs morphing into snakes, burning bushes, and talking asses?
Consider, also, that the most pliable recruits to any Christian church are those who are the most vulnerable, the ones who are already wallowing in despair, and will cling to the hope of any way out of that black, dark hole from which there seems no other escape. (Read Chris Hedges’s American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, particularly the chapter, “The Culture of Despair,” to understand how the complete loss of all hope leads many to seek “faith” as a substitute for answers.)
And find, if you can (we can’t locate it for a gander) a cartoon by the brilliant Jules Feiffer, which we saw in the 1970s, during the salad days of est and Scientology and all manner of New Age cults, in which a small, despairing figure despaired of the confusion of life… until a voice from the sky assured the figure that all it had to do was “Follow me…”
Then ask: How much attention is really paid to the “physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of hurting people” by institutions which thrive upon — and which would cease to exist without — the most broken, desperate spirits among us? Is it worth it to churches to assist those in true despair to find the best path to true healing if that path takes one away from the church?
Consider all this as you read the rest of this post, and then answer the question again: Can a church be held responsible for the actions of its members?
That said, on to today’s story, which should make your stomach reject everything you’ve eaten all week…
You have to hand it to My Father’s Vineyard of Pensacola, Florida, for honesty in its mission statement: “We are a Christian, pentecostal holy service ministry, meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of hurting people … so that we might proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and bring glory to God.” At least they admit they help people just so they can preach at them.
At first glance, it appears the church failed in its goal “to rescue the lost, restore the fallen, and bring a message of hope to everyone.” At the very least, it appears to have failed to reach the three accused abusers pictured above: DeeAnn Hale, 58, her husband Rondal F. Hale, 59, and their roommate Clinton Michael Carr, 53, all accused of felony aggravated abuse of a disabled adult — DeeAnn Hale’s 21-year-old daughter (and Rondal Hale’s stepdaughter), who was discovered… well, we’ll just let this press release from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office tell the story — we couldn’t find the words if we tried (paragraph breaks and minor spelling corrections ours, for the sake of clarity):
On April 21, deputies responded to the 2800 block of Christine St after receiving calls of a child crying for help in a back yard. Once on scene the deputy heard a child crying and entered the back yard, where he observed a young female handcuffed behind her back, bleeding from the mouth, and wearing a “sandwich” style billboard sign. The victim then cried to the deputy “Please help me.”
The sign was made of two pieces of wet plywood, approximately three foot squared, being held around her neck with two metal chains. Deputies asked the girl to kneel down and were able to remove the signs, which he estimated to weigh 40 lbs. Due to the weight of the signs the chain had slightly embedded into the victim’s neck.
One of the signs read “I am a thief and a liar” [actually, "I am a liar and a theif" (sic) - Ed.] and the other read “I well not”.
Upon speaking to the victim, deputies observed ligature marks on her neck, which she told them came from a rope that had been tied around her neck. Also on scene deputies saw a path worn in the ground around an above ground pool which the victim been walking.
After deputies secured two of the suspects at the scene, they contacted the third, DeeAnn Hale, to return home from church.
While speaking with the victim a four-inch gash was located on the back of the victim’s head in the hairline. When asked about that injury the victim told deputies the suspects had struck her in the head with a bucket two days ago. Deputies found that the suspects had used superglue to attempt to close the wound. The next day the wound was still open so the suspect sewed it closed with a needle and thread.
The victim was transported to a local hospital and will be in the custody of the Department of Child [sic]and Families.
The investigation revealed that suspect Rondal F. Hale, 59 and DeeAnn Hale, 58 are married and live together with the victim in the 2800 block of Christine St. The third suspect, Clinton Michael Carr, 53, is friend of the other two suspects and was visiting them from Lillian, AL. The victim is a 21-year-old female, who is mentally handicapped.
All three suspects were arrested and charged with Aggravated Abuse of Disabled Adult, a first degree felony and may be facing more charges at a later time.
At this time no further information is expected to be released other the weekend, all reports involving this incident will be released on Monday April 23, 2012.
Source: Escambia County Sheriff’s Office
With that, did My Father’s Vineyard actually fail to reach the Hales and Carr — or did the Hales and Carr take to heart the church’s message, far beyond the pastors’ wildest dreams?
Consider again this, from the church website’s page titled “Core Values”: “We are a Christian organization that … seeks to put Christ at the center of all we say and do.”
So, what’s this “active,” “regular churchgoer” business about? This — and while the Pensacola News Journal isn’t the only source to note the suspected perps’ churchiness, reporter Troy Moon has done the best job so far of driving home the savagery of this poor woman’s mistreatment:
The adoptive mother of the 21-year-old, mentally handicapped woman helped sew costumes for church productions.
The mother’s husband was part of the church prison ministry team. …
“What I’ve seen and read in the news has just broken my heart,” said the Rev. Wesley Alvarez, 40, pastor of My Father’s Vineyard, where the Hales were active members. “But we had no idea. None.” …
Quick to absolve the church of any responsibility, isn’t he? But then, that seems to be rote for religious organizations — absolving your organization of something before it’s been accused of it.
“Two church members are arrested,” he said. “I don’t want to hear people talking about it in a form of gossip. That’s not a Christian thing to do.”
Just where do Rev. Alvarez’s priorities lie? Talk amongst parishioners about the biggest scandal to ever hit a heretofore little-known literalist church is “gossip”? We think such talk would be, oh, say, normal, as the parishioners try to work through such a calamity.
After the service, Alvarez said Rondal Hale joined the church in 2008. He met and married DeeAnn Hale about two years ago. Alvarez said the whole family — including the young woman and DeeAnn Hale’s grandsons — regularly attended. …
“Rondal was on our prison ministry team. DeeAnn was involved in our productions — she was our costume maker,” Alvarez said after the service.
Rethink that, Wes. It sounds to us like the DeeAnn’s daughter was your costume maker.
“This has come as a very great shock to us.”
Why should it, Wes, when your message, repeated over and over, is, in shorthand, that any means justifies the end — that is, the glory of God? Why are you so “shocked” to learn that three members of your congregation may have taken your literalism literally?
Alvarez said Carr had attended a few services.
“He’s been around for about a month or two,” he said. “But he hasn’t joined the church.” …
And that makes a difference because — what? You have an out because he didn’t get dunked yet? Are you saying he couldn’t have absorbed so much of your literalist message in one or two months? That he couldn’t have been led to believe that any means justifies the end? In that case, you must not be getting your message across very well, Wes. Or maybe you are getting your message across too well. In any case, Wes, it sounds like you’re trying to soothe your own conscience, by any means.
The woman told the deputy she was being punished for taking candy from a collection that her mother had set aside to give to the homeless. …
“seeks to put Christ at the center of all we say and do”
Neighbors said the woman had been mistreated on previous occasions. They also told deputies that they saw her beaten and sprayed with a hose on Saturday.
Don’t even get us started on these neighbors. Some “neighbors.”
So, now, what do you think? Can a church be held responsible for the actions of its members?
Of course, everyone is responsible for his or her own actions. But is there is also such a thing as yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre.
And if the theatre patrons are (oh, forget political correctness for a moment) crazy, and if you know, deep down inside, that it takes crazy to get them to come to the theatre, then who is more responsible when they stampede?
Rhetorical questions, all. The real issue here — and it is not an issue, but a human being — is the (to use the word of one deputy) animalistic treatment of a vulnerable, 21-year-old woman.
No, strike “animalistic” — no thinking, feeling human would ever treat an animal that way.
Unless, of course, one had been convinced such treatment were a means to an end; “the end” being the eternal glorification of God… by any means.
Disclaimer: We do not know if the Hales and/or Carr, or the Hales’ neighbors, are guilty or innocent of anything. We do not believe that Rev. Wesley Alvarez directed the Hales and/or Carr to do anything, or to refrain from doing anything. We only know what we read, and our opinions are only our opinions, informed solely by what we read. If any facts come to light to change our opinion, we’ll let you know.
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