Why Members of the First Century Gospel Church Don’t Believe in Seatbelts or Eyeglasses

old church

“In the 20 years Nelson Clark has been First Century Gospel’s head pastor, the church’s message has also changed very little, especially in its core beliefs. Pastor Clark later sums these up in an email: how ‘the divine power of God … is able to heal our body without drugs or medicine; supply our needs without laid-up cash for the future; protect our family without firearms or anti-theft devices; bring about justice without legal action or attorneys; and to save our soul by a believing faith that endures to the end of our life.’

“As to what may seem idiosyncratic or even absurd, such as not wearing seatbelts or correcting bad eyesight with glasses, the explanations get interesting. The problem with seatbelts, Pastor Clark says, is that ‘anyplace we are told to do something in case something happens is a breach of faith or denying of faith in God to protect you.’ This same idea of trust applies to vision. ‘If God made eyes, obviously He can heal vision problems to see normally. We don’t use mechanical devices to make it better—it’s a matter of trusting God for normal vision.’”

-Robert Huber visits members of the First Century Gospel Church, who believe in the power of prayer over medicine, to get a sense of why a couple let two of their children die of illnesses that could have been treated by doctors. Read more religion stories.

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Photo: Lydur Skulason

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Mike Dang
Mike is the managing editor at Longreads, and the editor of The Billfold. He has written for Bloomberg Businessweek, Pacific Standard, and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications.