Faith Healing, A Chronic Illness

The blogosphere has been alive and kicking after the terrible news of loss of human life in this country this past week. First, there was the terrible mega-twister that tore through Oklahoma, killing dozens that we know of so far. Shortly thereafter a story surfaced out of Pennsylvania of a child dying under the watch of his faithful parents. Aside from the obvious fact that both stories end with tragic deaths, they have one more important thing in common: the disdain of the Christian Right.

Westboro Baptist Church took the lead with the tornado story, linking the storm to the “evil” of homosexuality, ensuring even more trauma would come out of that disaster. And of course, in the same way that radical Christian groups like this will attribute a presumed lack of spiritual strength to natural disasters, they’ll just as quickly attribute it to totally preventable disasters. The death of Brandon Schaible was, ironically, the result of and to the disdain of one particular religious institution, First Century Gospel Church. The particular family affected, the Schaible’s, reportedly knew that their son was sick and getting sicker, and chose to remedy this in the only way their church recognizes: through prayer. So they prayed and prayed, and he got more and more ill, and so these parents called in the pastor from First Century to come in and pray with them. When the child died, this pastor stated that the child died because the couple was lacking spiritually. Obviously the child had to die because of his parent’s spiritual weakness…or his own sinfulness…or perhaps some evil that none of these people have been able to aptly describe yet are all too eager to blame, right?

Their attorney has decided to argue their case from the persecution angle: the Shaibles are being incarcerated because of their faith (NOT because they let a 7-month old die in their care). But let’s think here: these people are not being incarcerated simply because they are Christians who chose to pray; they are being incarcerated because they chose to do nothing but pray. They are allowing the tenets of their faith to determine the future of children too young to be able to argue otherwise, as if they were “sacrificial lambs.” Their faith in their church is much stronger than their faith in the legal system, considering they have reneged on a promise to a court four years ago, the first time they let one of their own children die, that they would never follow this method of treatment again.

If only they'd had these instructions at the time!

If only they’d had these instructions at the time!

What is it about this First Century Gospel Church that has such a hold on its followers? Not all Christians have faith in these practices, so they must be offering up something very special.

A visit to the institution’s web site offers up valuable insight. There are lots of helpful links and resources to things like scripture references, the latest messages, topical newsletters, and an events section. Front and center on their site, their new bi-weekly brochure! provided a charming must-read entitled: Purchase Insurance or Trust God. I’m holding my breath.

No really. You might want to call a faith healer now before I go completely blue in the face.

Because they hadn’t driven the total-devotion-to-god-and-nothing-else message home hard enough already, it was apparently necessary to publish a 1900 word argument on the matter with very specific examples. Reading over this brochure, it’s almost possible to forgive the Schaible’s their th inking—no, I said almost—as they could barely stand a chance against the irrationalities they’re being spoon fed here. This particular piece, just two pages long, manages to state explicitly the need for total trust in god and only god nine separate times. They go so far as to say that, “No true Christian in the entire Bible ever trusted in anything or anyone but God alone for protection physically, financially, or otherwise. He alone is our Protector” and “…that we maintain our faith in the living God to protect our interests…without any plan, policy, or procedure of the world between us and God.”

This kind of talk should be ringing warnings from the rafters for the prosecutorial staff on this latest case. It’s no wonder that the couple decided actively and with the support of their pastor to let a second child of theirs die to the sound of prayer. And it’s no wonder that we find a radical Christian group at the heart of the ugliest details of the story. I’ll be waiting to see if the Schaibles court date makes it onto the “events” section after all.

Image source: The Buffalo Beast