Evangelical Christians are often into conspiracy theories and junk science. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic this blog saw an example of this behavior from Wooded Hills Church in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. Nicole Heck was sharing discredited information and others were buying into it or believing that it was taken down by YouTube because of a conspiracy. When Mark Noll published about the scandal of the evangelical mind; the behavior of individuals at Wooded Hills such as Nicole Heck prove that the well known evangelical author is correct. There is no evangelical mind, not at Wooded Hills or elsewhere inside evangelicalism.
“Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes, fools by their own.”
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Ephesians 4:15 NIV
Wooded Hills Church in Colgate, Wisconsin used to be called Wooded Hills Bible Church. It was a place I once called home and to my disgust I can’t believe what a fool I was to be involved in Wooded Hills. This is a church that tried to raise a man from the dead in a hospital. Does that sound familiar? Well Bethel which is led by Bill Johnson in Redding, California tried to raise a baby from the dead. You can read more about that here and here. This was a church that Trish Stern had sent out a high school youth group to fight a demon in an aisle of a convenience store. Wooded Hills falls under the influence of the Kansas City International House of Prayer Movement. When Joe Jenkins was in charge Wooded Hills sent two members to become involved in the International House of Prayer long term. Kansas City IHOP has long been called a cult and even had a situation with murder a few years back. Then there was the Rick Joyner issue. Wooded Hills which is charismatic falls under the influence of Rick Joyner who is considered by some to be a “prophet.” Joyner recently called upon evangelicals to arm themselves, train and form militias and prepare for the next civil war. You can read about that in, “Recalling When Trish Stern Pushed Rick Joyner. Plus Considering Joyner’s New Comments on Militias is Theo Williams’ Wooded Hills Outside Germantown, Wisconsin Preparing for the Next Civil War?” The other day on social media I saw someone from Wooded Hills pose provocatively with what appeared to be a high powered rifle. Is this member of Wooded Hills following Rick Joyner’s teaching and getting ready for the next civil war? Then this morning I noticed another thing that was concerning.
The Issues of Dr. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi and Junk Science
There are two doctors in Kern County, California who have created quite a stir on social media, but especially the far right and alternative news websites. Dr. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi own Urgent Care Accelerated which has a presence in Bakersfield, Fresno and Temucla, California. As doctors they held a press conference and claimed that COVID-19 is no different than the flu and that restrictions should end. They called for an end to social distancing and for kids to return to school and claimed that social distancing was hurting people’s immune systems. The virus was not serious and their findings were based upon their own conclusions. These arguments were latched onto by the far conspiratorial right and some Evangelical Christians. Fox News has given the two doctors platforms.
Many people in the medical community reacted swiftly and condemned their claims. They have pointed out that the doctors are not medically trained in the field that they are speaking about. Epidemiologists responded and criticized the doctors for misinformation. “There is a lot to object to from a scientific point of view,” Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist, told CNN. He said one big problem is that the doctors made estimates based on their clinics’ clients who were tested, not a sampling of the general population. “What these doctors are doing is corrupting the process from the start to make it seem like they are doing an honest policy analysis,” added Noymer, who is an associate professor of population health and disease prevention at the University of California, Irvine.
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) jointly and emphatically condemn the recent opinions released by Dr. Daniel Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi. These reckless and untested musings do not speak for medical societies and are inconsistent with current science and epidemiology regarding COVID-19. As owners of local urgent care clinics, it appears these two individuals are releasing biased, non-peer reviewed data to advance their personal financial interests without regard for the public’s health.
COVID-19 misinformation is widespread and dangerous. Members of ACEP and AAEM are first-hand witnesses to the human toll that COVID-19 is taking on our communities. ACEP and AAEM strongly advise against using any statements of Drs. Erickson and Massihi as a basis for policy and decision making.
The ACEP and the AAEM called for specialists in Immunology, Infectious Disease, and Epidemiology to be making decisions about the virus and the pandemic. YouTube has taken down their press conference saying the video violates their policy of misinformation.
If you want to read more about this you can do so in the following sources.
- The Daily Beast, “The Newest Fox News Doctor Duo Has Been ‘Emphatically’ Condemned by Physician Groups.”
- San Jose Mercury News, “Dubious coronavirus claims by California doctors condemned by health experts.”
- Bakersfield Californian, “Local doctors spark widespread debate over virus’s death rate, when to reopen.”
- Times of San Diego, “2 Bakersfield Doctors Go Viral with Dubious COVID-19 Test Conclusions.”
- KQED, “Though Widely Discredited, Bakersfield Doctors’ COVID-19 Test Conclusions Spread Like Wildfire.”
- ABC 30, “Bakersfield doctors push to lift shelter-in-place order, Bay Area health experts disagree.”
- Cal Matters, “Cue the debunking: Two Bakersfield doctors go viral with dubious COVID test conclusions.”
Nicole Heck and Embracing Junk Science at Wooded Hills
Earlier today on social media I saw a conversation started by Nicole Heck. I used to know Nicole Heck and her husband Sheldon. If I recall at one point I think I showed up at a Bible study they ran in Hartford, Wisconsin. Nicole and a couple of other people tied to Wooded Hills including the wife of my former pastor Joe Jenkins have embraced the bad science and are buying into the conspiracy theories hook, line and sinker. See the screen shots below and the discussion.
Concluding Thoughts and Laziness of Evangelicals
Splitting from a number of people at Wooded Hills was painful. In some ways this is how cults operate especially when people function in a bubble and they can’t process adjusting of changing facts. A number of the painful separations actually came from people I know at Wooded Hills who initiated the behavior. Up above you can see the wife of my former pastor Joe Jenkins. Ruth’s son Josiah screamed at me through Facebook to fuck off in November of 2016. That was the only time in my life someone that I knew related to a pastor, minister or para-church leader screamed such an obscenity. It shocked me at the time. Today nothing from evangelicals really shocks me.When you consider evangelical theology maybe Joe Jenkins should not have been a pastor to begin with as his family was out of control and had issues. The Bible even speaks of elders or leaders who have issues in their family. Right after I got involved in Wooded Hills when I was new to Wisconsin I heard alleged rumors about Josiah’s drinking and sex habits in high school that hung over the Jenkins family. Today I am of the belief that I really don’t care what a person drinks or who they fuck. But when you consider the later behavior by Josiah in 2016 maybe some of that was an indicator of a toxic church because the pastor’s family had issues. Regardless you can read more about how some of the relationships fractured in, “Recalling My Formative Years Inside Evangelicalism in Wisconsin. Plus Deeply Embarrassing and Troubling Newspaper Articles About Dairy State Evangelical Christians Worshiping Donald Trump Over Jesus.”
The behavior of Nicole Heck and some others in that conversation highlight about how Mark Noll is correct about the scandal of the evangelical mind. The fact of the matter is that many evangelicals can’t think critically and process information. Its why they fall victim of scams, shady preachers, and can’t discern or think for themselves. Wooded Hills as a church was deeply toxic. But in addition many evangelicals also reject science. So in a dangerous pandemic they can’t discern or think through an issue. Heck (pardon the pun) in this case Nicole Heck can’t take a couple of minutes to look up the questionable doctors credentials and see that they are not trained or qualified in the area of which they are speaking. If someone in the Heck family comes down with cancer are they going to turn to a local gardener for treatment? (Remember he has to be Christian!!!) But there are other implications since evangelicals reject science. I have a loved one that struggled with schizophrenia for years. In a church environment skeptical of science and mental health issues especially since they have a high view of spiritual warfare and demonic activity; I am grateful that person never got involved in a place like Wooded Hills. Because the brutal reality is that they could very well be dead today. They would have been counseled not to take their medicine. Be told that Jesus is the answer and their lack of faith is showing in that they are still mentally ill. Plus they would also have told the person not to seek treatment from a psychiatrist or psychologist as that would be sinful.
Up above you see evangelicalism on display. Its raw, ugly and all about me, me, me while attacking the facts. Jesus says that he wants people to worship him in spirit and in truth. How can you worship in truth when you are in the quagmire of fake news, junk science and conspiracy theories? And in addition to that there is no concern by Nicole Heck, Ruth Jenkins, or Laurie Lonski on thinking about those who are vulnerable and at higher risk in this pandemic. In this case those who have respiratory illness, immune diseases, or those who had chemotherapy treatment. In this situation I am grateful that I am not at Wooded Hills for my physical health. With what I am seeing up above, as a life long asthmatic on medicine to control asthma and ordered to shelter in place by my asthma doctor; if I was involved in Wooded Hills in my naivety I could very well be dead. Infected with the corornavirus and have asthma problems by someone at Wooded Hills who buy into junk science and is not following shelter in place rules who can become an asymptomatic carrier. As I continue to analyze this situation Wooded Hills is a church that is a cult and one that is dangerous.