David BruceI cannot remember a film that so clearly demonstrates that faith and science are not incompatible.  In fact, science and faith need to hold hands with each other.  I highly recommend this film.
Review by David Bruce
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This page was last updated October 8, 2000
Roger Ebert says: It's surprising to find a science fiction film exploring issues like love, death and the existence of God; science fiction as a literary form has of course explored those subjects for years, but sci-fi movies generally tend toward ... actors being attacked by gooey special effects. Most Hollywood movies are too timid for theology.
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Dr. Eleanor Arroway: Jodie Foster, Palmer Joss: Matthew McConaughey, Michael Kitz: James Woods, S.R. Hadden: John Hurt, David Drumlin: Tom Skerritt, Kent Clark: William Fichtner, Ted Arroway: David Morse, Rachel Constantine: Angela Bassett, Richard Rank: Rob Lowe.  Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Written by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg, based on the novel Carl Sagan.
Running time: 150 minutes.
Rated PG (for some intense action, mild language and a scene of sensuality).
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     The film opens with a very loving relationship between a daughter and her father. They share a hobby of picking up distant radio stations on their ham radio outfit. Sadly and suddenly her daddy dies while she is still young. She blames herself for not getting his medicine fast enough and develops an attitude against God. She now begins her search for her father (that is, her heavenly father). There is a tear jerking scene where she attempts to reach her dad in death via the ham radio.  I'll admit to shedding tears. This is a powerful film that strikes at the very core of our deepest human quests.
     She grows up and becomes a radio astronomer, what else. She has dedicated her life to the cosmological field of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). With giant radio telescopes in Puerto Rico she scans the skies for signals that might originate from intelligent beings.
     Some notes on the names. The family's name is Arroway (arrow way, as in pointing the way). She later develops a love interest with a man of faith whose name is Joss, which is short for Joshua, which is Hebrew for Jesus.  
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     She meets a love interest early in the film, Palmer Joss.  They have a tender but brief love affair, which later proves important.  He explains his faith in God to her. As a boy he was lying on the ground, looking at the night sky, and he felt the presence of something bigger than himself, God. The experience went beyond proof. She, however, lets him know that she doesn't believe in God or the supernatural.  Arroway criticizes Joss' beliefs, explaining that Occam's Razor states that all things being equal, the simplest explanation is probably the correct one and insists that there is no God.  "Is there an all-powerful, mysterious God that created the universe, but left us no proof of his existence? Or, is there simply no God, and we created him so we wouldn't feel so alone?"  For her, the latter explanation is the simpler and, therefore, the correct view.
     Joss responds, "Did you love your father?"
     "Yes, very much," she says.
     "Prove it."
     Neither Love nor God can be so easily proved. The Bible says, "God is Love."
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     The tables are turned on her. Later in the film Arroway goes through a wormhole (Einstein-Rosen bridge), which is a tunnel through space and time (not just space). The ends of the tunnel can be at different points in time. When she returns from her journey she cannot prove she went anywhere.  The second of missing time here on earth was actually 18 hours of unproveable time in another dimension where she met her "dad."  Who can believe her?
     "Should we take this all on faith?" she is asked.
     The answer apparent in the film is "Yes."
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"I had an experience I can’t prove, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real. I was part of something wonderful, something that changed me forever; a vision of the Universe that tells us undeniable how tiny, and insignificant, and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and the hope, but... that continues to be my wish."

Side note: This film was made when Warner Brothers bought out Ted Turner's CNN.  There is so much CNN in this film that it gets in the way some what.  I forgive them. It is an excellent film.  A great discussion starter for groups.

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Copyright by Bob West. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
See more cartoons by Bob West at Theophilus' World.

Critical Analysis Paper
Jesse T. Kobayashi
Azusa Pacific University Film Association

This year, a host of profound films were drowned under the waves created by the blockbuster "Titanic". Of these films, "Contact" proved to be one the most spiritually engaging movies I have seen produced in the Hollywood community. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the mastermind behind "Forest Gump", one of the greatest films produced in the nineties, "Contact" tells the story of a young woman whose dream of finding extraterrestrial life sends the whole nation in a wild, science fiction adventure. Ellie, played by Jodie Foster, is the woman who is so entranced with finding life outside of the known world. However, as detailed throughout the movie and this paper, there is a deeper, underlying motivation for Ellie’s relentless pursuit of the unknown. In the end, her discovery of the indescribable and inexpressible marks her as a radical in some grand, worldwide spectacle.

To begin with, we discover that Ellie lost her mother at a young age and later on, she loses her father tragically while watching a meteor shower. These sudden and deep losses have cut deep within Ellie and cause her to dream of someday reaching them via technology. At an early point in the movie, a flashback sends us to a point where a young Ellie is sitting at her radio-transmitter attempting to reach her father out beyond the reaches of space. Just as believers pray to their father in heaven, so does Ellie in her greatest time of need. As the pain of separation is greatest, her cries into the electronic device are a direct correlation to our prayers to heaven. Ellie’s longing for her father is an example of the dependence we should have toward our Father in heaven. By trusting and relying on God, we not only steer ourselves away from the temptations of greed or vanity, but we give God the chance to accomplish great works of art within our own lives.

After Ellie has been kicked out of her previous satellite locations, she goes on an expedition to acquire funding in order to continue her search for her ethereal father. After being turned down for over a year from various corporations, she ends up at one of the most powerful scientific corporations, Hadden Industries. After giving a brief, but structured, statement about her dreams, she is quickly turned down. Her presentation, although true in detail, is not the sincere intention of what she has in mind. Ellie, instead, is attempting to follow the pattern of an organized presentation of a vision that is difficult to understand unless directly involved within it. On account of this presentation, however, she is denied support simply because her "vision" seems too science fiction. In other words, they don’t believe what she believes in. Her routine attitude and monotone speech is something that the executives have all heard before. There is nothing new or exciting that pulls them to her vision. Just the same, Ellie is finally given her funding when she openly speaks her mind and allows herself to express her deepest wishes and dreams to those who don’t have the same perspective as she does. It’s the passion and the intensity that finally raises the attention of the executives and the chief executive officer himself.

After Ellie goes through the experience of traveling through space, she is returned to earth without a shred of evidence to back up her claims. At a national inquiry, Ellie is forced to answer a series of questions about her experience and on what basis she can defend the validity of her "space-travel". Ellie, a scientist, is an individual who has been raised upon the foundations of factual, technical information. Similar to our own culture beliefs, without substantial proof, a claim is simply a hypothesis. Yet, for the first time in her life, she has experienced something that cannot be defined by terms of science, but rather by terms of faith:

"I had an experience I can’t prove, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real. I was part of something wonderful, something that changed me forever; a vision of the Universe that tells us undeniable how tiny, and insignificant, and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not, that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and the hope, but... that continues to be my wish."

This speech, exclusively, could be the foundation of a Christian’s mission statement. The language that she uses to describe her encounter demonstrates the incredible sense of wonder that Ellie has toward this experience. Even though her scientific background goes against everything she says, there is something inside of her that keeps her from yielding to her scientific restraints. We have all been made in the image of God and we all have incredible stories to tell of God’s amazing love, grace, and mercy.



Aug. 11, 1998. Religious believers are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, a Duke University study shows. The study examined 4,000 people aged 65 and over and found that those who take part in religious practices are 40% less likely to have high blood pressure, the Associated Press said. The study appears in this month's (Aug. 98) International Journal of Psychiatry and Medicine. It shows that the diastolic reading for those who attend church, pray, and read the Bible often is lower than for those who don't. High diastolic pressure is present in heart attack and stroke victims. "We're becoming more aware that religious beliefs or practices is not negative for a person's health," Dr. Harold Koenig said. "In fact, they could be very positive." Other studies indicate that religious people are not as depressed, are more immune to disease, and are more successful at breaking addictions.

Aug. 17, 1998. Charles Duke went to the moon and back, but he says his biggest thrill is finding God. A former astronaut and retired brigadier general, Duke is one of only 12 men to walk on the moon. But that
thrill and subsequent business success wasn't enough to fill his life -- without Jesus Christ -- he says. He spent 72 hours on the moon in 1972 as part of the Apollo 16 mission and trained for the
ill-fated Apollo 13 flight, but caught the measles and was replaced.
...Walking on the moon "was not a spiritual experience for me," Duke said, Knight-Ridder news service reported. "I wasn't searching for God in those days. I had about all of God I thought I needed, and that was one hour every Sunday morning in church ...I really was not a Christian, but a 'churchman.' " Duke gives his testimony worldwide as a highly sought-after lay speaker.

Doubt is can’t believe;
unbelief is won’t believe.
Doubt is honesty;
unbelief is obstinacy.
Doubt is looking for light;
unbelief is content with darkness.

The Definition of Doubt.

All religious truths are doubtable. There is no absolute proof of any one of them. Even that fundamental truth — the existence of a God — no man can prove by reason. The ordinary proof for the existence of God involves an assumption, argument in a circle, or a contradiction. The impression of God is kept up by experience; not by logic. And hence, when the experimental religion of a man, of a community or of a nation wanes, religion wanes. Their idea of God grows indistinct, and that man, community or nation becomes infidel. Bear in mind, then, that all religious truths are doubtable — even those which we hold most strongly.

What does this brief account of the origin of doubt teach us? It teaches us great intellectual humility. It teaches us sympathy and toleration with all men who venture upon the ocean of truth to find out a path through it for themselves. Do you sometimes feel yourself thinking unkind things about your fellow students who have intellectual difficulty? I know how hard it is always to feel sympathy and toleration for them; but we must address ourselves to that most carefully and most religiously. If my brother is shortsighted I must not abuse him or speak against him. I must pity him, and if possible try to improve his sight or to make things which he is to look at so bright that he can not help seeing.

Christ never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness. Loving darkness rather than light — that is what Christ attacked, and attacked unsparingly. But for the intellectual questioning of Thomas, Philip, Nicodemus and the many others who came to Him to have their great problems solved, He was respectful, generous and tolerant.

A Scientist's Idea of God.

When I consider the multitude of associated forces which are diffused through Nature — when I think of that calm balancing of their energies which enables those most powerful in themselves, most destructive to the world’s creatures and economy, to dwell associated together and be made subservient to the wants of creation — I rise from the contemplation more than ever impressed with the wisdom, the beneficence and grandeur, beyond our language to express, of the Great Disposer of us all.

Here is a thought from Francis Willard that is very much like the film.
A Test.

A little girl came to her father and laid her hand upon his knee, looking up wistfully. "Do you want a penny, child?" The sweet face glowed, and the answer came: "No, papa; only you." So it is with the child of God. She does not want the good things of the world one-millionth part so much as she wants to know her Father’s love. This is a true test for each of us, and by it we may know whether we are really in the faith.

Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000
From: Jeff

Hi David... thank you for the honest review of "Contact". I agree, it is a great film about science-faith relations. It is NOT a guide for Christians to live by, certainly not Biblical in many aspects. But the Truth remains, we must be able to relate to those who don't understand who God is...we can't expect Hollywood to produce a Biblically sound, spiritually motivating film...however, we can rejoice that there is a search for Scriptural truth and that true science and faith do indeed "hold hands". Thank you for looking past the topical into the meaningful...which more Christians need to do!

Date: Mon, 09 Oct 2000
From: Adriaan

G'day David, and Thank you for your review. Great to see.

I've had a bit of a look at some of the other responses, and so now I make my own comments.

I find it incredible that in our current western culture so many Christians are writing this movie off as new-age pagan rubbish. I'm not claiming the film is a *Christian* one, but the people who scripted this movie know far more than most of us about what the *Christian thing* ought to look like.

The following are not really my own created thoughts on the movie: I have *borrowed* them from someone else, but they seem to make a whole lot of sense of Contact.

Let's look at Palmer Joss. Sure, there's that post-sex scene... I don't buy into that idea any more than most of the other reviewers here - but why are we getting so hung-up on it? Take time to notice something about him as a PERSON. There's something immensely attractive about the way he interacts with Ellie: and I think the post-sex scene in some ways builds on it. We all know how it detracts... but did you notice that he's presenting the God-stuff to her in the wider context of a personal relationship / close encounter? Doesn't that remind you of how a certain Galilean (who also happened to be God) shared the gospel with his audience? It's personal encounter stuff.

That burning question: did you love your father? - he knows that ultimately that's speaking the language that will give her meaning and purpose: not the language of scieince. He's concerned about the PERSON... so when she makes snide remarks to him, he doesn't bite back in typical Christian defensiveness. He's actually thoughtful, nice and even funny: how many Christians are like that? Palmer Joss, for all his flaws, knows something about the kind of Christianity that turned the Roman empire upside down: not the kind of sickly westernised consumerised Christianity that is so married to modernism and the Enlightenment project that it has forgotten the language of relationship. This picture of the caring, even Human (!) Christian is just not portrayed in movies today - probably because most of us have become so fascist in our evangelism. Call this blatant generalisation, but then ask yourself why generalisations begin in the first place. Someone who wrote this knows what Christians who REALLY understand the gospel OUGHT to look like. I'm saying this stuff and I'm a 5 point Calvinist!!

The film really has nothing to do with aliens. But it has a lot to do with meaning. Palmer Joss knows something about that. Ellie, the enlightenment woman, thinks that science can speak the language of meaning into her existence. But it can't, because there are some things that the language of science cannot speak to, and these are things that really matter, like relationships and faith. Does science have a place in defending the Christian faith? Sure. But IS science what faith is all about? Let us not be misled.

My closing words for Contact? Don't get hung up on the trees and miss the forest. This is an altar to the unknown God of the pagans - use it to show them what being truly human is all about.

Subject: On Palmer and Ellie...
Date: Fri, 04 Aug 2000
From: Joe Admire

So Palmer and Ellie might have slept together during the course of their love affair. What I have to say to that is, so what? It's between them and God. What matters more is that when Ellie, the woman of science, needed someone the most to stand in her corner and say forthrightly, "I believe her", it was Palmer, the man of faith, who did that for her. Personally, I hope they got back together and stayed together for good this time.
-Joe- (

August 4, 1999. Dear David, Thanks for the great site. I will add it to my favorites list and recommend it to our youth minister as a resource. I hope you can help me with something. I am looking for a resource/index of movie segments that can be used for preaching/ teaching illustrations. For example near the end of the movie "Contact," Jodie Foster's character goes before a senate committee to prove that she had gone to an alien world. She had no evidence only her personal testimony. It is a great illustration for the power of a personal testimony and faith. Is there an index or resource where I could look up movie segments by subject to use as illustrations? If you know of something I would love to hear about it.  Thanks in advance for your reply.  Earnie Burfitt
My response: No there are no such resources.

Feb 9, 1999. I agree with those who found the Rob Lowe character "rank". I am sick and tired of Christians being satirized as hypocrites and political manipulators, or just plain blind idiots. I read the original book "Contact" many years before and if I remember correctly the Joss character was more mature and "fatherly" and less, um, sleazy. Also, as someone interested in science and religion, and specifically the Creation/Evolution controversy, I resent the idea that science represents factual truth, as opposed to religion being nothing more than "feelings". As the science community holds on to the theory (or rather several contradictory theories) of evolution, despite the direct contradiction of the fossil record and other evidences, they more closely resemble someone with blind faith, then the so-called Creationists (of which there are many types)who represent honest inquiry and reasonable doubt into a dogmatic religion called Evolution. I recommend the book that I just finished yesterday, called   'Reason In The Balance" by Phillip E. Johnson. Oh yes, the movie review. It made me think, which is always good for you, and it was well done. I don't agree with every little thing in it, but I recognize it as a good attempt to reconcile two groups that often seem in conflict. It bogged down in the middle, but overall, quite good. -JOHNNY
My response: Maybe its just the circle I am in, but none of my scientist friends are hostile toward faith. None! Some of my fundamentalist friends who believe the universe is 10,000 years old, despite evidence to the contrary, speak of the science community with hostility. I chose friendship over hostility any day. I truly believe this is the point of the film. It is easier to win friends to your point of view than to win enemies.

Jan 15 1999, I saw the movie once and noticed that this was an anti-Christian movie. First of all the "seminary" guy fornicated without repentance. Second, when Jodie Foster meets her dad the dad states that in the end all we have is each other (not the Lord). There was no mention of God, only when we die we will all be together, alone.
My response: I am worse than Joss -who did state his weakness, by the way. "All have sinned." Have you read the story of King David, Solomon, Peter, Thomas, or even "the less than least of all God's people" Paul? I pastor a church full of sinners. The film is not about purity of faith and repentance, it's about respect and friendship in dialogue between faith and reason. Her dad in the end was not her dad, rather other galactic seekers in search of answers too. Anti-Christian? Really! What would make it Christian? If Joss was pure and Eleanor ran into Jesus at the end?

I was appalled by the movie Contact. Where we watching the same movie. I am writing this 2 years after seeing the movie, but I still use my observations when discussing the contempt the movie industry has toward Christians. Arroway and Joss don't have a brief love affair, they engaged in premarital intercourse. Joss is a universalistic, God is a mountain, searcher for subjective truth, sage of New Age goobly- gook. I am offended at your liberal categorizing of this man as a "Christian" The Christian I most resemble is the one portrayed as a provincial, bigoted, anti-technological, scripture misquoting idiot played by Rob Lowe-- wonder if that casting choice was a coincidence? Also, since you seem so enamored by telling us the deeper meaning of names remind your readers what Lowe's characters name was--Richard Rank, AKA, smelly (another name for the male private parts). Beautiful, your recommending to your fans they subject themselves to a movie that will glorify the priest who can't remain celibate and the Christian character whose very name reveals the hatred the writers of this movie have toward orthodox Christianity. Who exactly are you again? -Phil
My Response:  Who am I? I am like Joss, defective, yet I have faith. You seem to identify with the self righteous Rank. He does not represent orthodox Christianity, rather its 'rank' extreme. By your own criteria you should avoid reading the Bible as Moses and St. Paul,  are both murderers, King David slept around, Peter denied Christ fact, all the biblical heroes of faith are defective. Rank represents faith that is divorced from science. Arroway represents science divorced from faith. The film is about the necessity of faith and science coming together. The film makes a powerful statement, and especially when you consider its connection to writer Carl Sagan. Powerful!
Reply to My Response: What you apparently overlooked in your viewing of Contact is that it reeks of New Age philosophy. I hope and pray your faith is nothing like that of Joss, because if it is it is at the very least exceptionally misguided and at the worse dangerously absent. You missed my point entirely when you respond to the Rob Lowe character. Of course he is an anti-technological, provincial, bigoted idiot, because this is the way orthodox Christianity is perceived in mainstream culture. And the writers of this movie name him something people call their most hated enemy. Also, attempt to deal with arguments made, rather than generalizing for effect. It is bad technique and tends to reveal flawed rational or lack of confidence in one's ability to make a substantive point.
My Response: Yes, yes Josh is a little "New Age." Point remains, Joss = faith, Arroway = scientific extreme, Rank = religious extreme, Kitz = self seeking status quo. And, again, the astonishing aspect of the film is that it was based on a novel by Carl Sagan. The film was not written by Christian theologians. Nor was it written as an endorsement of any particular religious faith, new age or otherwise. Rather, it was written by those seeking a friendly middle ground between extremes where dialogue can taking place between faith and science. Not a bad idea. We should seek friendly dialogue, not hostile alienation.

I really enjoyed Contact and saw it twice as well as encouraged others to see it. As in your comments on the film, I also believe that a true and Biblical faith in Christ is not incompatible with honest knowledge, be it scientific or other. It is sad that so many, Christians as well as Non-believers, see such a gap between "Believing in God" and using our given intellect. God has given us the wonderful ability to reason and analyze and understand. The book of Romans points out that the physical universe speaks out clearly of God's glory as the Creator and the obvious worship He deserves as such. I enjoyed Contact because I feel it also helped point the way to this understanding. We live in a wonderful and complex and mysterious universe and God the Father has created it for US to enjoy and in turn to give HIM credit and glory for. Thank you, please excuse the length of my comments.
Robert Crouse RJC2001@AOL.COM

I thought that Contact was an excellent film. I was surprised at its message though, conscidering the original novel by Carl Sagan. Unfortunately, Sagan decided that God didn't exist, and that science and religion were incompatable, but the movie was a superb testament to the fact that they are not. When I first saw this movie, I was still a student in high school. As a participant in the International Baccalaureate program (it's small, but it's growing) I was required to take a Theory of Knowledge class. This was a class that dug directly into the root of what we believe and what we know; whether or not we can even prove the existance of other human beings, let alone the existance of God. It forced me to deeply consider and truly evaluate my faith and just how strong it was. Truthfully there was a period when I was quite uncertain. All things conscidered though, it was an important experience for me, and I feel that it has actually strenghthened my faith by making me face all of my doubts and reevaluate everything from the beginning. Even in spite of all of the uncertainty which I found, in the end my conclusion was the same as the one that I came in with: there is a God. But now I could say why I believed it. To make this story relevant, towards the end of the year, we all watched Contact just before the Theory of Knowledge retreat held each year. The theme chosen for that year was the simple, but profound question: "On what basis would you choose a representative of the human race" Needless to say, we analyzed the movie to an extreme in order to answer it. The conclusion that we, including a significant number of atheists, came to, was that science and religion are not mutually exclusive, and that at the root of all things, lies faith. In the movie, one of the most insightful parallels I have ever seen is when Palmer tells Dr. Arroway about his beliefs and how he has no proof, but that he knows they are true and that God is real in spite of any lack of proof. In the end, Dr. Arroway faces the exact same dillema. She is asked, "Then why don't you simply withdraw your testimony and conscede that this journey to the center of the galaxy, in fact, never took place" And she answers, "Because I can't....I...had an experience....I can't prove it, I can't even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am, tells me that it was real" Our faith is like that. We know that God is real not in some cold and empircal way, but in the same way that you know you love your father or that you know that someone you trust is telling you the truth. People ask me all the time why it is that if there is some supreme being who created the universe, why didn't he leave some kind of evidence to proove his existance? But to tell them the truth, as a person who does believe in God, I would be extremely surprised if He did. God gave us the free will to choose what we would believe and what we would do because what good would it be if we all believed in Him and did what He said because we had no choice but to believe? No, if you want direct scientific proof of God, you're going to have to look just a little bit further than just what you can see in a telescope or a microscope or in the changing electromagnetic fields of a particle accelerator. You have to put two and two together with a little bit of faith. Many a great scientist has said that when they see the mathematical perfection of the universe and the certainty to which we can predict certain events, they know without a doubt that God doesn't exist, and that mathematics and science can explain everything's existence. But when I see the astounding amount of complexity and detail and the stunning image of things that are unimaginably large or unimaginably small, I know beyond a doubt that there must be a God. Such an incredible place could not have just happened on its own. The laws of physics may very well be real laws that are set in stone, but maybe we should stop trying to figure out exactly what those laws are just long enough to ask whose laws they are. I have no complaints about science itself. Indeed, how could I have any complaints about any of God's creations. This world is certainly an amazing place with many untold and uncountable wonders left to find, but the thing that makes me appreciate it the most is that somebody put it all together and gave it as a gift to all of us. I hope and I pray that we can learn to share that gift and the vision that our universe with all of its glory is just a pale shadow of the glory of its Creator.

The film makes the point that science can not disregard faith.  The opposite is true as well. Faith can not divorce itself from science.  Consider the following.

A Child Dies from Cancer

Deborah Elizabeth Shepherd, 1974-1983.
A Remembrance, by "her family."

Dad and Mom were the products of the turbulent sixties. They met each other in Fresno, California, after Dad's hospitalization for drug use and emotional overload. Turning to God and faith, they found security in a tight-knit sect of Christian believers, who encouraged strict loyalty, trust in God's healing power, and suspicion of "worldly" outsiders. The family grew till there were finally eleven children in all born to Mom and Dad. All the children were born at home, without doctors or drugs. The family ultimately moved to rural northern California, where the church had now headquartered. The kids attended home schools, studied the Bible, and the family relied on the "prayer closet" as its channel of deliverance from evil of all kind.

In 1982, Debbie developed a tumor on her side. It was treated by the pastor with prayer and intercession. When Debbie's condition continued to worsen, Dad and Mom were faced with a dilemma. Following the vehement urging of Dad's brother Al, who was aloof from the church and critical of its separatist tendencies, they took Debbie to the child welfare authorities. They explained that they knew she was dying, but because they belonged to a church that chose to trust in God and in the power of prayer, rather than doctors, they felt stymied. They asked about their legal options. The authorities explained their office would be compelled to intervene for Debbie's sake. A hearing was held in short order, and medical intervention was initiated. The doctors said Debbie had a Wilms' Tumor. Over the next year they did all they could to save Debbie. But on November 5, 1983, the cancer claimed her.

Debbie was a beautiful, intelligent and precocious child. She loved poetry and art, horses and music. We were, as a family, stunned. This was not supposed to happen, we thought. For many months we were in something like shock. Were we falling apart or drawing together? We had quit going to church, had begun to question the very foundations of our faith. What good was all our "godly" zeal and intensity? It was hard to comprehend that "outsiders" and unbelievers, Samaritans, "lukewarm" believers and "worldly" doctors could have been right, while our own righteous zeal had stood in the way of help. We found ourselves throwing out a lot of rules and enthusiasm, and turning to a much more basic and ordinary outlook. We came to see that God was bigger than the narrow and exclusive sect we had formerly felt certain He had anointed as His special and select ones. When we were hurting and desperate, people of all kinds were trying to help, and it meant so much to us.

We learned other things, too. Like how important it is to be gentle, to "try a little kindness," as Joey Bishop used to say. That God can meet you in many forms, and that he can use MANY agents and channels for his blessing. No longer are we impressed with the logic of distrusting all doctors and all government. Indeed, even if there is truth in the scriptures which say we must not trust in man, we know God does use human intermediaries. God does use science for good. He does use doctors for good. He does use government for good. And he will even use your neighbors, too.

This insight was Debbie's gift to us.

Thank you, Debbie. We love you.

Editor's note:
When I asked for permission to post the tribute the family sent this additional information:

Hi David.

Yes, it was a hard lesson for us, because we tried so hard to deserve God's love and blessings. We tried so hard to make sure our faith was great enough, yet we lost Debbie anyway. That was a hard thing for us.

But faith and science are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the Bible says "my people perish for lack of knowledge."

Doctors are only able to be the blessing that they are because they (and medical-biological science for the past couple hundred years) have NOT rejected knowledge, but has sought it, pursued it, applied it.

Ask, and it shall be given thee.
Seek, and ye shall find.
Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Closed minds and ignorance suited past ages perhaps, but they should not suit us today.


If you would like to communicate with the family, just click this e-mail address.