June 09, 2008

Demon Out, Lawsuit In

WELL, ISN'T THIS SPECIAL? A Tennessee man who collapsed upon receiving the Holy Spirit at a church service, and as a result struck his head, has sued the church over the injuries he sustained in the incident. Matthew Lincoln has charged the Knoxville-based Lakewind Church failed to have seconds at the ready to catch him, and as such is responsible for what Mr Lincoln contends are severe and permanent injuries. The lawsuit, which Mr Lincoln's attorneys filed in the Circuit Court of Knox County, Tenn., can be seen in full here.

I must say that Mr Lincoln, who is asking for $2.5 million in damages, is a very gutsy man. After all, it takes a certain bit of gumption to sue one's own church. It especially takes gumption when the proximate cause of one's lawsuit is none other than One Person of the Triune God. After all, if the Holy Spirit had not entered Mr Lincoln, Mr Lincoln would not have collapsed, and as such would not be in the situation he finds himself now.

Now, I realize some of my readers -- actually, most of my readers -- are looking at their monitors with confused looks on their faces. Surely, you are thinking to yourselves, Kepple does not actually believe in all this speaking in tongues and collapsing in agony bit. Well, here's my take on all that.

I fully believe there are usually other reasons -- with perfectly logical and scientific explanations -- which underlie these reported experiences of speaking in tongues and collapsing and what not. However, at the same time, I can't rule out the possibility -- no matter how odd it seems -- that the Holy Spirit may very well enter at least a few of these people and cause these effects. The Roman Catholic Church, in its great wisdom and intellectual majesty, apparently doesn't rule it out either, and I looked through the Catechism pretty thoroughly. I would particularly note Part Two, Section Two, Chapter Two, Article Five ("The Anointing of the Sick"), and in particular Paragraph 1508, which reads as follows:

The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church."

I take this as meaning that if He wants to give you a surprise, He can and will.

Now, I must say I do feel badly for Mr Lincoln, as the injuries his attorneys describe in the lawsuit do sound rather severe. However, part of me thinks Mr Lincoln might be better served through going to the library and picking up a copy of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, or a similar work which looks at the theological issues surrounding human suffering. For this case does bring along with it a whole host of serious theological and legal questions, such as:

-- What exactly would God think about one of the faithful suing his house of worship over an incident that He indirectly caused? Furthermore, if the parishioner won his case, how would God react?

-- Would God be upset if the church's insurer paid the damages? After all, that $2.5 million would have to come from somewhere and I doubt the church has $2.5 million. If the insurer did, this would consequently mean higher insurance rates for the church in future, leaving less money for charitable works, keeping the parsonage kept up and all that. What would He think of this? True, if one trusts in the LORD, the LORD shall provide; but still, that is $2.5 million.

-- If the Holy Spirit did in fact enter Mr Lincoln, wouldn't that mean the Holy Spirit is a natural defendant in this case? Surely He would share some of the liability for Mr Lincoln's situation. But how do you parse that out? Although Tennessee allows joint and several liability, thus allowing all the claims to get passed to the church, shouldn't jurors consider whether the Holy Spirit is at least partially liable for Mr Lincoln's injuries? I mean, not only did the Holy Spirit contribute to them, He knew full well He would do so, as He is omniscient and exists outside of time as we know it.

-- Since no one has deposed God since Pontius Pilate, how do you address these concerns? Could one use the Defendant's past statements in lieu of a deposition?

-- If the Holy Spirit did not actually enter Mr Lincoln, would that not mean Mr Lincoln was partially or totally liable for his injuries, and knew or should have known he was in a situation where the potential for injury would have occurred? And even if the Holy Spirit did enter Mr Lincoln, did he not have a responsibility to make sure he knew everything was safe and ready prior to the laying on of hands?

-- How much of a mess will voir dire be on this one?

Actually, that voir dire process should prove pretty important in this case. You'd have to question jurors on their theological views pretty closely, I think. Do they believe in free will and predetermination? Do they believe in charismatic practices such as the laying on of hands? What do they think of the Book of Job, which deals with issues like this? If it gets to that point, it will be interesting -- but I doubt it will. God knows, as the old saw has it, that a bad settlement is preferable to a good trial.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 9, 2008 01:34 AM | TrackBack

I'm Matt Lincoln and after reading over 300 comments on some of these blogs I felt that I had to say a few things. First, the report that I was on the floor laughing that night is false. On several previous occasions I had laughed with the joy of the Lord. Sometimes I would weep under the power of the Lord. Sometimes I would lie quietly. But on this night in question I laid on the floor unable to move for over 20 minutes. Next, this case was never intended to be a lawsuit. When I found out from the Neurosurgeon the approximate costs, I made a claim on the church's insurance for $200,000, the minimum amount of the surgeries. To date the cost for the first two has exceeded $175,000. The claim I entered was only for the medical costs. I wanted no extra money nor did I ask for any. But the insurance company refused to award me anything so I retained an attorney to negotiate with the insurance company on my behalf, which he did and they refused him also. He told me that we would have to sue to get the money. I agreed and he wrote up the papers and called me when they were ready to sign. We never discussed the amount, nor did we ask that my wife be included. These matters he decided. When I went to his office to sign the papers I was surprised at the figure and also that it included my wife. But being that we were 35 hours from the one-year deadline to file suit, I agreed to the terms that he had drawn up. There was no time to change everything; I just agreed. Now that I have read so many condemning, negative and hateful comments I have dropped the lawsuit. I told my attorney that out of over 300 comments there was only one that agreed with me and the rest of the comments claimed that I was everything from a liar, a charlatan, a thief, under the influence of Satan, was going to go to Hell, needed to repent, didn't have faith, got what I asked for, and on and on. I have never experienced such hatred towards me, and my wife. And such judgment. I have been tried and convicted in so many people's minds. So I told my attorney that I didn't see how he could find an impartial jury because 99.7% of the comments I read were against me, and from people who don't even know me. They judged me by a semi-correct account of the incident that started on The Smoking Gun. My attorney agreed that it was a complicated case and there were obstacles to overcome. So I dropped it. By the way, the surgeries that I've had so far are one on my left wrist for the carpal tunnel syndrome that started after the injury. That was minor and ineffective. The major surgery was putting two titanium steel rods, their holders, a "cage", and bolting it all to my tailbone and to the next several vertebrae. The injury caused by my fall was a fractured vertebra at my waist (not my neck), and this vertebra was also knocked out of the spinal column, and 4 discs were ruined. I am now in constant, intense, horrible pain and can't work much at all. After an hour or two of any activity, even just sitting, I close down in pain spasms. Where I used to be a very active person, now my favorite activity is lying on a heating pad. My life, as well as my family's life, has been completely ruined. And now, because of all of these horrible comments on the Internet, my reputation is all but ruined. Anybody who knows me personally knows that I am truthful, generous, and willing to help anybody in my business. I would go the extra mile for anybody who needed me to. I'm nothing like what these comments have portrayed me as. And as for those "Christians" who have judged me and told me to repent of my sin, read Matthew 7:1. As for those who told me that if I had "ought against a brother take it up with the saints of the church", well, I did. I called the Pastor several times. What he offered me was to buy me an order of groceries since I was hurt and out of work. This is a Pastor to whose church my wife and I had tithed and offered almost $60,000 in the 12+ years we were members. My wife taught at their school for a year for no pay whatsoever. Not even gas money. I taught their Bible College part-time for a year with no compensation. I also went to band rehearsals 1&1/2 hours early every Sunday AM and again on Sunday PM for 10 years. We helped out on many events and occasions. We truly volunteered our lives to serve God through this church. And when I talked to the "saint" about my injuries, he offered me a bag of groceries. Didn't even offer to pay one bill, or even to give me one dollar. So that's what happened when I "took it up with the saints". Also, on one blog I read where the preacher that prayed for me that night denied it and called me a liar. There are several people who go to that church who gave statements to the insurance investigator that they did see him pray for me and did see me fall. The insurance investigator told me that. There are witnesses to the entire event. But it's over now. I've dropped the lawsuit. All I ever wanted was for the medical bills to be paid. But that's something that I have to do alone. I'm also unable to afford the other two surgeries, one for the right wrist and one for the neck for a bulging disc caused by the fall. This is the injury that aggravated a "pre-existing injury", which was a neck fusion done in 1994. The injury to my lower back is the worst kind of pain and I think that's why my attorney asked for such a large amount in the lawsuit. He knew that I would never be well again. But the mental pain is almost as bad. Now, thousands of people hate me, hate my wife, and the church "family" I had for so many years never even visited me once, either before the lawsuit was filed or since. I just wanted to state the facts and attempt to clear my reputation. Thank you for reading this.

Posted by: Matt Lincoln at February 13, 2009 03:16 PM
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