Church of Wells/YMBBA Ministries

You are not logged in. Would you like to login?

8/20/2014 1:40 am  #71

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

By Timothy Swanson   Diary of an Autodidact,
From Defeating the Dragons

As in so many other aspects of the Fundamentalist/Christian Patriarchy worldview, the twisting of the meaning of words comes through a long series of half-truths. An idea that is true to a degree will be taken just beyond that degree. Then the next idea builds on that, and so forth, until the original meaning of a word has travelled so far from its intuitive and normal meaning that it almost cannot be recognized.

Let me explain how this happens for the concept of “love.”

Throughout Christian culture – and even in our culture in general – there is the idea that “love” isn’t just a feeling. It is an active word that must manifest itself in our actions, not just in our emotions.

As I noted above, statements like this are true, to a point. Love, in the deep sense, cannot be merely an infatuated feeling like “puppy love.” If you really love someone, it will come out in actions. Country Music singer-songwriter Clint Black wrote a delightful and mushy song, Something That We Do, which captures the good side of this idea, the intertwining of emotion and action. Our feelings of love and our loving actions feed on each other, support each other, and together make up this messy, complicated thing we call love.

So far, so good.

The next step in the progression gets more interesting, however. Most of us Generation Xers are familiar with the concept of “tough love,” which was a bit of a trend and a buzzword in the 1980s and 90s. In essence, it was a refusal to enable self-destructive behavior. When one truly loved another, one would not contribute to a person’s self-destruction. Thus, it would not be loving to give one’s child money to buy drugs, for example. Or lie to protect a loved one from the legal consequences of committing a crime. The point of “tough love” is that by refusing to protect a person from consequences or contribute to bad behavior, one would be doing the more “loving” thing. The best result would be for the errant person to bottom out, and make a change for the better, rather than stumble along due to the enabling. Again, this idea is largely true, to a point.

Let’s follow the progression. Love is an action, not just an emotion. Enabling self-destructive behavior is not a loving action. Allowing a person to suffer the natural consequences of bad actions is the loving action, because it is more likely to lead to a change in behavior. We parents do this to our kids sometimes. A child might miss an opportunity to play with friends because he or she didn’t finish the schoolwork, for example. This is part of good parenting: teaching children to link actions and consequences, and take responsibility for their choices.

To this point, we haven’t gotten off track, but we have set the groundwork for what follows.The next link is this: love means wanting and seeking “the best” for the beloved. Now this one is a genuine half-truth. Sometimes it is true. If a person also desires the same “best,” then it would be loving to help support that person in seeking that “best.” But what if something that is “the best” isn’t desired by the person? Let’s say I think that the “best” for one of my children would be a degree in medicine. That’s a good thing, surely! Unless the child would prefer a less lucrative career. Would I really be loving by wishing for the “best” rather than the “good enough” that my child wants? This is a dilemma for all of us in a variety of situations.

What comes next? For Fundamentalists, the next step is the definition of “best.” The “best” isn’t some subjective standard. “Best” means God’s best. It means God’s will for a person’s life. It means doing things “God’s way.”

Again, this is a half-truth in practice, if not exactly in theory. In theory, pretty well all Christians would agree that our goal in life is to do God’s will, to follow Christ, and so forth. So far, so good.

But it goes wrong in Fundamentalism because of the next turn. This requires a few assumptions:

      1. We (the fundamentalists) know God’s will on most or all things.
      2. God’s will is the same for everyone (of a certain gender, at least), regardless of situation, personality, or any other consideration.
      3. God’s will can be expressed primarily as a set of detailed rules.

Now the links connect. Love is an action, not a feeling. Love is expressed through refusing to enable bad behavior. Love seeks the best for a person, not something less. The best is God’s will for a person. We know God’s will for a person. God’s will is these rules.

         Love for a person is expressed by telling them to follow the fundamentalist rules.

Or, if that fails to get them to follow the rules, taking other actions to force them to do so. Nagging. Coercion. Expressing disapproval. If possible, forcing them. In some cases, shunning until the rules are followed.

For some surprising reason, the recipient of this “love” usually finds the “love” to not be particularly loving.

Thus, the series of half-truths twists the meaning of “love” as it is commonly understood until it is unrecognizable. I actually had a Reconstructionist friend of a friend make the claim that forcing people to obey God’s law was the same as sharing the Gospel with them. Not “as important as,” not “similar to.” The same as. Because forcing people to follow the rules is now defined as the best way to show love. As the most extreme example, I would wager that Fred Phelps (“God Hates Fags.”) believes he is loving.

This applies in lesser degrees across the fundamentalist spectrum. A fundamentalist can be “loving” by constantly expressing disapproval of a skirt deemed too short. A fundamentalist can be “loving” by keeping his or her children from associating with other children who listen to the wrong kind of music. A fundamentalist can be “loving” by loudly proclaiming that no “true Christian” would vote Democratic. And the list goes on. Calling out women who work outside the home. Complaining about easy-bake ovens marketed to boys. Make your own list! There are plenty of rules to choose from.

Because of this new definition of love, certain things that are generally associated with love can be disregarded. How about communication? Seeing the other side’s point of view? When one already knows God’s position on everything, that is all that is necessary (conveniently, you already know God agrees with you). Empathy? Not so much, obviously. Bearing each other’s burdens? Those burdens are self inflicted in the fundamentalist view. First start following the rules, then we talk.

The result is this: the twisted definition of “love” enables the fundamentalist to believe that he or she is loving while engaging in behavior that is, in reality and common understanding, unloving.


8/21/2014 11:38 pm  #72

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers


9/03/2014 6:47 pm  #73

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

Good stuff.

Long, but well worth the watch.



9/09/2014 12:14 am  #74

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2010 Mar;20(1):1-25.
What more in the name of god? Theologies and theodicies of faith healing.
Campbell CS.


The recent deaths of two children from parental decisions to rely on faith healing rather than medical treatment raises fundamental questions about the extent and limits of religious liberty in a liberal democratic society. This essay seeks to identify and critically examine three central issues internal to the ethics of religious communities that engage in faith healing regarding children: (1) the various forms of religious and nonreligious justification for faith healing; (2) the moral, institutional, or metaphysical wrong of medical practice from the perspectives of faith-healing communities; (3) the explanation or "theodicy" articulated by the religious community when faith healing does not occur and a child dies. The essay finds that the holding in Prince v. Massachusetts that parents with religious convictions cannot enforce martyrdom on their children presents a guiding principle for medicine and public policy.

PMID: 20506692 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
       Subscription required

Click here for PDF file


9/17/2014 8:06 pm  #75

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

Parents, children, faith healing and the law
Part 1 of 2

July 22, 2011
By George J. Bryjak - Guest Commentary Adirondack Daily Enterprise

In the winter of 1989, 4-year-old Alex Morris of Oregon City, Ore., developed a fever and complained of chest pains. His parents, members of the Followers of Christ Church, a religious denomination that practices faith healing and shuns members who seek standard medical help, anointed their son with oil and organized prayer sessions with other members of the congregation. Over the next month, Alex's medical condition deteriorated, and he eventually died of a massive chest infection. Oregon medical examiner Dr. Larry Lewman stated that during the course of his illness, the little boy had suffered greatly.

"It was a horrible thing," Lewman stated. "The kid was getting sicker for days and days. At times the child would have been overwhelmed with fever and pain." Dr. Lewman noted that an ordinary regimen of antibiotics probably would have saved Alex's life.

In his book, "When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law" (2008), Shawn Peters notes that the 1980 case of Natali Joy Mudd, whose parents were members of the Faith Assembly Church, was "especially horrific." The child had a large, rapidly growing and malignant tumor near her right eye that killed her. When Natali's parents reported the child's death to authorities, police officers discovered streaks of blood along the walls where the nearly blind 4-year-old "had dragged her grotesquely disfigured head" as she groped her way through the house. One of the investigators stated, "It's hard to comprehend a little toddler going through all that because of religion, with all the treatments available." Two years later the Mudds' other daughter, Leah, died after an operation to remove a long-untreated, basketball-size stomach tumor.

As there is no national database that tracks the number of children who die annually because their parents deny them medical treatment for religious reasons, our knowledge of these tragic events is incomplete; however, there have been attempts to gain some measure of the frequency of these fatalities. In a 1998 Pediatrics journal article, Seth Asser and Rita Swan reported on their investigative research of 23 faith-healing churches in 34 states. The researchers examined the cases of 172 children who died between 1975 and 1995 in which there was evidence that parents withheld medical treatment because of a reliance on religious rituals, and documentation existed that determined the cause of death.

Asser and Swan concluded that in 140 of these deaths, survival rates with medical care would have exceeded 90 percent. Eighteen more deaths had expected survival rates of more than 50 percent. Seth and Swan found that all but three of the children who died would have experienced some benefit from medical treatment. The researchers concluded, "We suspect many more fatalities have occurred during the study period than the cases reported here. ...We felt that this study was the tip of the iceberg."

In "When Prayer Fails," Shawn Peters reports on the investigative work of Mark Larabee, a reporter for the Oregonian. Along with medical experts, Larabee examined the deaths of 63 children who were buried in the Followers of Christ Church cemetery in Oregon City from 1955 through 1998. The researchers concluded that at least 21 of the children likely could have been successfully treated by medical professionals. In many instances the deceased would have required nothing more than a simple regimen of antibiotics. Approximately half of the children perished before their first birthdays. The investigators also uncovered more than a dozen stillbirths. Based on this investigation, Larabee concluded that the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City had "amassed one of the largest clusters of child deaths recorded among the nation's spiritual-healing churches."

A 1995 study by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect wanted to know if faith-based medical neglect posed a greater risk to children's health and well being than the much more publicized threat of ritualistic Satanic abuse. By way of surveying thousands of mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers) and interviewing parents who withheld medical treatment from their sons and daughters for religious reasons, the study concluded that "there are more children annually being abused in the name of God than in the name of Satan." (There is no hard evidence that children are systematically abducted and abused in Satanic rituals in the United States.)

After examining all of the available evidence, Shawn Peters argues that since the end of the 19th century, hundreds of children have died "in agony, aided by little more than the ardent bedside prayer of their parents and fellow church members."

As one might expect, practitioners of faith-based child healing in lieu of medical treatment vigorously and vociferously defend their behavior, often citing scripture as the ultimate authority in human affairs. A favorite is Mark 6:13, which describes how the apostles healed the sick as they moved among the people and preached: "They drove out the demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them."Another standby is Mark 5:34, wherein Jesus cures a hemorrhaging girl who was not successfully treated by physicians: "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace! Be cured from your illness."

After 8-year-old Tony Hayes died from what authorities described as a "treatable" form of leukemia, his father Loyd Hayes, a member of the Church of the First Born in Oregon, stated, "Obviously, the Lord didn't spare my son. But he knows what is best. I believe in heaven and a hell. If the Lord had spared him, maybe he wouldn't have walked with God (in heaven)." Regarding Tony's death, a church elder spoke in terms of a less-than-all-powerful God whose healing abilities are still a far cut above those of medical doctors: "People die. God can't cure everyone. But he cures more than they do in hospitals." A female member of the congregation stated that the next time one of her boys was ill, she would call the elders together to pray "just like they did with Tony. We trust in the Lord."

Defiance on the part of faith-healing parents who have lost a child is not uncommon. In 2008, an 11-year-old girl in Wisconsin died from an undiagnosed but treatable form of diabetes. Speaking of her daughter Madeline's death, Leilani Neuman said, "I do not regret trusting the Lord for my daughter's health." Her husband, Dale Neumann stated, "I am guilty of trusting the Lord's wisdom completely. ... Guilty of asking for heavenly intervention. Guilty of following Jesus Christ when the whole world does not understand. Guilty of obeying my God."

Dawn and Roger Winterborne of The Faith Tabernacle Church in Philadelphia lost five children (all under 2 years of age) to cystic fibrosis, a disease that can be treated to prolong life. A sixth child, a four-day-old girl, died of pneumonia. In spite of these deaths, the Winterbornes continued to believe in faith healing.

"We still practice the same thing; we still believe the same way," Dawn Winterborne stated. "There was no medical cure for them. God could have cured them, but that's neither here not there."

For those who believe passionately in faith healing and eschew any manner of medical treatment when dealing with the illness of a child, if the child recovers, this improvement is considered proof of the efficacy and legitimacy of their beliefs and behavior. If the child dies, the death is viewed as God's will, and their belief in the almighty, as well as faith healing, is not diminished.


George Bryjak lives in Bloomingdale, retired after 24 years of teaching sociology as a professor at the University of San Diego. A list of sources will accompany Part 2 of this series in the next issue of the Enterprise. 


9/17/2014 8:15 pm  #76

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

Parents, children, faith healing and the law
Part 2 of 2

July 23, 2011
BY GEORGE J. BRYJAK, Adirondack Daily Enterprise

In a 1944 Supreme Court case (Prince v. Massachusetts), the justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that parental authority is not absolute and can be restricted by the government if doing so is in the best interest of a child's well being. Writing for the majority, Justice Wiley Rutledge stated, "Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves."

One would think this straightforward pronouncement would have settled the issue of the culpability of faith-healing parents whose children die because they are denied standard medical treatment. In a 2001 Time magazine article, "Freedom of Religion or State-Sanctioned Child Abuse?" staff writer Jessica Reaves noted that the 1944 Prince decision, as well as legislation at the state level that would have limited or ended the faith-healing religious exemption from prosecution under child-abuse laws, has been successfully countered by church-based "political action committees." Reaves noted that "the Church of Christ Scientist, whose members are fiercely opposed to medical intervention, is a powerful voice on Capitol Hill as well as in local town halls; the church's lobbying efforts have kept reforms at bay in most states for years."

(I sent the paragraph above to The First Church of Christ, Scientist's national office, asked if they cared to respond and received the following: "The Christian Science Church continues to support accommodations for the responsible practice of spiritual healing, always giving special attention to the need and circumstances of each State. We've found nationwide that states will accommodate responsible health care practices that are outside the mainstream, such as religious, non-medical care. We've also found that although no system of health care claims a perfect record, people do expect a reasonable measure of success. There's a duty to practice this type of health care reasonably, especially when it comes to children. Protecting children's lives is a standard we should all be held to no matter what means of care we choose.")

As of 2009, 30 states provided some manner of religious exemptions to child abuse or neglect for practitioners of religious healing, including parents. Robert Tuttle, professor of law and religion at George Washington University, notes that these exemptions differ significantly in breadth. In some states (West Virginia and Arkansas, for example) even if a child dies as a result of his/her parent's decision to rely on prayer rather than standard medical treatment, these individuals are generally immune from prosecution. In other states, parents are exempt from prosecution only if the child is not seriously harmed.

In his book "When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law" (2008), Shawn Peters argues that exemption statutes have successfully prevented the criminal justice system from prosecuting many parents who refuse to provide medical attention for their children for faith-based reasons. To begin, prosecutors are often reluctant to bring charges against grieving parents who have lost a child. Perhaps fearing a political backlash, some district attorneys do not want to be perceived as insensitive to the constitutional rights of parents. In addition, when a case appears to be one of religious-based neglect, law enforcement may conduct little more than a cursory examination of the incident, making a successful criminal prosecution difficult to achieve. Finally, prosecutors may decline to file charges believing that even convictions will not deter faith-healing zealots from treating their children's medical problems via spiritual means alone.

Prosecutors have also learned that convictions in faith-based cases often result in minimal punishment. In 2009, a Wisconsin couple was convicted of letting their 11 year-old daughter die from an undiagnosed but treatable form of cancer. Affiliated with the Unleavened Bread Ministries (the couple prayed with church members while their daughter died), they could have received a 25-year prison sentence. Instead they were sentenced to six months in jail, to be served one month a year, and 10 years' probation. Peters argues that deferring to First Amendment freedoms "has typified the overcautiousness by all three branches of government in dealing with crimes related to prayer-based rituals."

Speaking of the faith-based healing exemption from child abuse laws, pediatrician Seth Asser stated, "Kids die from accidental deployment of air bags and you get hearings in Congress. But this goes on, and dozens die and people think there's no problem because the deaths happen one at a time. But the kids who die suffer horribly. This is Jonestown in slow motion."

Over the past decade, the political tide has been slowly turning against faith-based healing parents who withhold medical treatment from their children. In late May of this year, Oregon, a state that had been described as having a "two-track legal system" (one track designed to permit exemptions for faith-based denial of medical intervention), passed legislation eliminating spiritual treatment as a defense to certain crimes wherein the victim is under 18 years of age.

College of William & Mary Law School professor James Dwyer argues there are three fundamental positions regarding parental exemption from the legal responsibility to obtain medical treatment for their sick or injured children:

1) Parents should have an absolute exemption and be allowed to practice faith healing exclusively without fear of punishment from the state.

2) There should be no religious exemption whatsoever, and parents must contact medical professionals whenever their children are sick or injured.

3) Parents should be exempt from having to contact medical health professionals in all but life-threatening situations.

While the third alternative would appear to a be reasonable compromise, the question immediately arises: What is a "life-threatening situation," and who makes that determination? The parents or medical professionals? If the situation is not life threatening, intervention on the part of the state (via medical professionals) could be construed as a violation of religious freedom. If the medical intervention comes too late, the child might suffer needlessly and die.

Laws in a democratic society exist in a delicate balance as one right must be balanced in terms of one or more related rights. For example, individuals on both the political right and left have argued that our fundamental rights to privacy were undermined by the Patriot Act passed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Defenders of the act state that at this moment in our history, national security is paramount and individual privacy rights must be compromised (at least temporarily) to some degree.

What is the proper balance between religious freedom and the protection of children's health and civil rights? Does (should) the First Amendment shield parents from criminal prosecution when the exclusive reliance on prayer results in the illness, injury or death of their children?

Freedom of religion is a fundamental right in a democratic society, and curbing this freedom should not be taken lightly. However, a strong argument can be made that the foremost responsibility of government is the protection of its citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable: the young and the old.

Regarding the issue of parents, children, faith healing and the law, Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the International Religious Freedom Alliance, states, "If a child is involved, unable to make his or her own decision, the case for the government is stronger." For John Witte Jr. of Emory Law School, "in a serious illness, a child's right to life trumps a parent's right to religion. Faith healing should complement, not compete with proper medical care."


George Bryjak lives in Bloomingdale, retired after 24 years of teaching sociology as a professor at the University of San Diego.

Sources:Asser, S. and R. Swan (1998) "Child Fatalities from Religious Motivated Medical Neglect," "Pediatrics 101," pp. 525-629
Dywer, J. (2000) "Spiritual Treatment Exemptions To Child Medical Neglect Laws: What We Outsiders Should Think," Notre Dame Law Review, No. 147, pp. 147-196
Larabee, M. (Nov. 28, 1998) "When prayer pre-empts medical care, prosecutors nationwide struggle to respect parents' freedoms while protecting children's lives" The Oregonian,
"Faith Healing and the Law" (Aug. 31, 2009) The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life,
Frey, S (July 18, 2011) Personal correspondence, The Church of Christ Science
Larabee, M. (Jan. 22, 1999) "Bill Aims to Lift Oregon's Religious Shields" The Oregonian,
Moon, R. (June 25, 2011) "Should Faith Healing be Legally Protected?" Christianity Today,
Nielsen, S. (May 15, 2011) "Faith Healing: Finally Oregon Looks and Sees the Emergency,",
"Oregon House Bill 2721" (2011),
Peters, S. (Dec. 13, 2007) "The Lord Taketh Away," The University of Chicago Divinity School,
Peters, S. (2008) "When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law," Oxford University Press: New York
Raferty, I. (May 30, 2011) "Changes in Oregon Law Put Faith-Healing Parents on Trial" New York Times
Reaves, J. (Feb. 21, 2001) "Freedom of Religion or State-Sanctioned Child Abuse?" Time,
Turley, J. (Nov. 15, 2009) "When a Child Dies, Faith Is No Defense" The Washington Post,


9/18/2014 12:41 am  #77

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

Op Ed

By Paul A. Offit
May 10, 2013

The Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State generated a public outcry for stronger laws against child abuse and neglect. Several bills have been introduced that purportedly provide a "complete overhaul" of Pennsylvania's child-protection laws.
For example, Senate Bill 20 makes it clear that any adult who "causes serious bodily injury," either by "kicking, biting, stabbing, cutting, or throwing a child," or "forcefully shakes or slaps a child under one year of age," or "causes serious physical neglect," or "causes a child to be near a methamphetamine lab," or "operates a vehicle in which a child is a passenger while driving under the influence of alcohol," has committed child abuse.

Unfortunately, one group of children has been left behind.

The bill states that "if a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of seriously held religious beliefs of the child's parents ... the child shall not be deemed to be physically or mentally abused." In other words, if parents decide not to give their children antibiotics for meningitis, or insulin for diabetes, or chemotherapy for cancer, or surgery for intestinal blockage, they won't be held accountable. According to the bill, parents are abusive if they slap their 1-year-old child, but not if they withhold lifesaving therapies.

The problem of religious-based medical neglect in Pennsylvania isn't theoretical.

I was a young attending physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 1991 during a massive measles epidemic - one that occurred almost 30 years after the invention of a measles vaccine. The outbreak centered on two fundamentalist churches in the city - Faith Tabernacle and First Century Gospel - which didn't believe in medical care. None of the children of church members was vaccinated. Among members of those two churches, 486 people were infected and six died from measles. The virus also spread to the surrounding community. Among non-church members, 938 people were infected and three died. The nine who died were all children. Church members had made a decision for their own children as well as those with whom their children had come in contact.

The spread of highly contagious diseases hasn't been the only problem.

Philadelphia parents Roger and Dawn Winterborne let five children die of pneumonia without medical care because of their religious beliefs. Only after the fifth death did child protective services become aware of these tragedies and briefly monitor the family. Later, the couple moved to Harrisburg, where a sixth child died of untreated pneumonia.
In 2002, an anonymous caller alerted authorities to the neglect of 9-year-old Benjamin Reinert. Benjamin's father, Paul Reinert, was a member of Faith Tabernacle. Child-protection workers visited twice and instructed the father to seek medical care if the boy's condition worsened. One day later, Benjamin Reinert was dead. An autopsy revealed that the boy had died from a treatable form of leukemia.
In 2009, Herbert and Catherine Schaible chose prayer instead of antibiotics for their 2-year-old son, Kent, who died from bacterial pneumonia. The Schaibles received 10 years' probation. Recently, their 8-month-old son died without medical care. Their other seven children have now been removed from the home.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution states that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Children whose parents hold certain religious beliefs shouldn't be afforded less protection than other children. That the commonwealth has allowed children to die from measles, bacterial pneumonia, or leukemia in the name of religion is inexplicable. That it continues to allow such abuse in the face of recent deaths is unconscionable.

Pennsylvania should repeal its religious exemptions for medical neglect. Otherwise, children will continue to suffer and die needlessly. 

Paul A. Offit, M.D., is chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

     Thread Starter

9/22/2014 11:04 pm  #78

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers


Should Faith Healing be Legally Protected?
Observers weigh in on homicide charges for parents who choose faith healing rather than medical care for their children.

Compiled by Ruth Moon/ MAY 11, 2011

Discussion starter:

Prompted by the deaths of two children in the last two years whose parents relied on faith healing measures rather than medical intervention, the Oregon House unanimously approved a bill that removes legal protection from homicide charges for parents who choose faith healing rather than medical care for their children. Previously, Oregon parents choosing faith healing were protected from some homicide charges. 

"Laws like this raise the question: Whose authority should be final, and when? Governments are responsible to God to protect citizens, and yet citizens themselves are responsible to God. What happens when a citizen is convinced God will heal, but the government is sure that faith healing will instead cause harm or death? If a child is involved, unable to make his or her own decision, the case for the government to step in is stronger. But there is every reason to be wary, given that our governments are increasingly less respectful of religious freedom—less inclined to respect homeschooling, the nurse who objects to abortions, Bible studies in homes, and adoption agencies that insist on placing children with mother-father families."

Stanley Carlson-Thies, president, International Religious Freedom Alliance

"To some extent or another it is the responsibility of government to watch out for its most defenseless citizens, so there is some way in which the government has to say, 'At this point we have to watch out for this child.' But that's a scary and slippery slope, because you don't know where that ends. What if they say, 'We have to look out for this child and it's wrong to take them to church'? The government is already on slippery ground—confused and conflicted ground within itself—because we have a bizarre paradox: the government says we won't protect the parents believing for the healing of the child when it dies, but we will protect the mother who kills the unborn deliberately."

Mark Rutland, president, Oral Roberts University

"These laws could be used as a club by anti-religious zealots and be open to misinterpretation. Religious people pray for healing often. What if parents prayed for healing and didn't realize the child was seriously ill and needed immediate medical attention? How will delay in medical treatment due to the parents' faith or prayers be interpreted? Will parents be liable? It is wiser to deal with these issues on a case-by-case basis versus a blanket law that could be over-interpreted to the detriment of religious freedom."

David Stevens, MD, CEO, Christian Medical and Dental Association

"As a general matter, political communities should try to avoid imposing burdens on the free exercise of religion—even when the religion in question seems 'out of the mainstream'—and should seek to accommodate faith-based objections to otherwise applicable laws. Part of what it means to respect religious freedom is to avoid imposing such burdens and to make such accommodations. That said, it is the business of the civil law to protect the vulnerable and to promote the common good, and so not all religiously motivated conduct can be tolerated or protected."

Richard W. Garnett, professor, Notre Dame Law School

"A competent adult has the legal right to pursue faith healing rather than medical treatment, but when a child's life or basic health is at stake, parents should not be exempt from all legal sanctions. There is a legitimate debate whether prosecuting parents criminally for failing to seek medical care for the child is the best sanction, and what level of criminal charge is appropriate. It is sad to prosecute parents who have already endured the agony of losing a child, but perhaps the threat of prosecution will cause parents to seek medical care in the first place. Some states require not that parents with a seriously ill child seek medical care directly, but that they notify authorities so that the authorities can intervene."

Thomas C. Berg, professor, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minn.)

"Some people of faith forego standard therapeutic measures and pray for miraculous intervention. This seems comparable, in my mind, to praying for one's crops to flourish without cultivating or watering the seedlings. I defend the right of adults to forego standard therapy for themselves, whether based on their faith or personal values. I am very reluctant, however, to do so when an adult chooses this path for someone else, particularly a child, if the probable result will be death or disability."

Robert Orr, M.D.

"Everyone has the right to faith healing for themselves—as a matter of basic privacy as well as religious freedom. But in a case of serious illness, a child's right to life trumps a parent's right to religion. Faith healing should complement, not compete with, proper medical care."

John Witte, Jr., professor, Emory Law School

"A faith exemption involves lawmakers in saying when a religion is okay and when it's not, and that's the kind of judgment we don't want legislators making. We should stick to classic, common-law definitions of homicide, including defenses, and leave it to juries to decide whether the parents were negligent or not, and then let the parents try to persuade juries that 'we weren't negligent, we were doing our best—we were taking due care,' and let juries assess the parents. It's not perfect, but it's the best we can do; and the law all the time does the best it can."

David Wagner, professor, Regent University School of Law

Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today 


9/25/2014 2:46 am  #79

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

The Evangelical Persecution Complex
The theological and cultural roots of a damaging attitude in the Christian community

AUG 4 2014

Persecution has an allure for many evangelicals. In the Bible, Christians are promised by Saint Paul that they will suffer for Christ, if they love Him (Second Timothy 3:12). But especially in contemporary America, it is not clear what shape that suffering will take. Narratives of political, cultural, and theological oppression are popular in evangelical communities, but these are sometimes fiction or deeply exaggerated non-fiction—and only rarely accurate. This is problematic: If evangelicals want to have a persuasive voice in a pluralist society, a voice that can defend Christians from serious persecution, then we must be able to discern accurately when we are truly victims of oppression—and when this victimization is only imagined.

There are some understandable reasons for this exaggerated sense of persecution. Globally, Christians face incredible discrimination. In North Korea and many Muslim-governed countries, Christians risk imprisonment and death for their faith. The Christian community in Mosul, Iraq, was exiled, and many Christians are still persecuted by the ISIS, a jihadist group. Christians with a global perspective on their faith rightly identify themselves as part of a persecuted people in the 21st century.

In the United States, evangelical values have often been in tension with public policy and cultural mores, especially in the last several years; this includes recent debates over contraceptives coverage, abortion rights, and the rise of same-sex marriage. Some Christians anticipate major restrictions to religious liberty in the future as a result of these tensions, a concern that is not unfounded. But in anticipating such restrictions, it is easy to imagine, wrongly, that they are already here.

Evangelical sub-culture plays a huge role in this perception. The “Jesus Freak” movement of the mid-1990s, started by the popular musical group DC Talk, made martyrdom and exclusion hip—these were signs that someone was a “true” Christian. Teens were encouraged by youth-group leaders to read historical accounts of Christian martyrs and reflect on how they could be Jesus Freaks, too. Being a “loser” in the world’s eyes for the sake of Jesus was, paradoxically, cool. But the emphasis, perhaps unintentionally, was on being a “freak,” rather than following Christ and accepting the consequences.

The wildly successful Left Behind books tell a similar narrative of persecution. Published between 1995 and 2007, the epic novels tell the story of the biblical end times through the lens of certain Christian traditions: the rapture, the church’s persecution at the hands of the anti-Christ, and its ultimate triumph upon Christ’s return. Like the “Jesus Freak” movement, these books seemed to glorify persecution—the kind that Christians in other parts of the world have long experienced, but is unheard of in the U.S.

Even in the last year, two films have been released which depict brave Christians standing up against a hostile, violent, and corrupt world. God’s Not Dead tells the story of a Christian college student who is forced to sign a paper declaring that God is dead or debate his arrogant, atheist philosophy professor, played by Kevin Sorbo. The student accepts the challenge and debates the professor for three classes, eventually forcing him to admit that he really hates God because of his mother’s death. The rest of the students then stand up and declare that “God’s not dead,” driving the atheist professor from the room. This film made $62 million at the box office.

Even more explicit is the recently released Persecution, a thriller about a pastor who is framed by the government for murder because he tries to stop the passage of a federal bill to restrict religious freedom.

The Christian church itself has a long history of telling stories of martyrdom and persecution. The stories of saints’ lives often center on their sufferings for Christ. For example, Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a popular and classic text recounting notable martyrdoms throughout church history. The purpose of these stories is to inspire and strengthen Christians, particularly those who will later face persecution. But they were not designed to function as aspirational fantasy. And that is the real problem with many persecution narratives in Christian culture: They fetishize suffering.

These narratives appeal to broader audiences, too. Several major conservative political pundits and organizations have made a name for themselves by selectively highlighting cases of alleged persecution of Christians. The most well-known example is the so-called “war on Christmas,” which is predicated on the claim that the holiday has been secularized by retailers’ marketing choices. FOX News has a reputation for running these sensationalized stories of suspected or alleged discrimination.

For example, Todd Starnes, a popular commenter on the network, recently published God Less America, purporting to expose the “Attack on Traditional Values.” Starnes has built a career almost exclusively based on reporting alleged incidences of Christian and conservative persecution. But his work almost always offers a skewed vision of religious liberty in the U.S.—he often exaggerates or omits facts. Earlier in his career, he was fired from the Baptist Press for reporting “factual and contextual errors.” Yet, his continues to be enormously influential—as I wrote last year, “Starnes sells us what we want to hear. We want to believe that we are the underdog. And Starnes sells us that story, wrapped in language of patriotism and faith.”

A number of other news organizations and Christian groups are also guilty of this. Take a recent story covered by CitizenLink, the “public policy partner of Focus on the Family,” a highly influential, socially conservative advocacy group and ministry. The story is about a small Texas church that acquired an old community center in a residential area and turned it into a church and school, which violated local zoning laws. After unsuccessful attempts at changing the zoning laws, the church sued the town on claims of religious discrimination—a community center and Girl Scout camp were allowed in that area, but not a church, they said. When CitizenLink reported on the lawsuit, it framed this as a fight against “anti-religious discrimination.” But the minutes from a local town council show that residents opposed rezoning because they were concerned about the noise and traffic the church and school would bring to their quiet neighborhood.

Without digging deeply into CitizenLink’s story, readers will be left to believe that this small Texas town is intentionally targeting Christians for persecution. As the public-policy arm of one of the most powerful evangelical organizations in the U.S., CitizenLink’s influence is considerable. If an evangelical Christian reader chooses to get her news from CitizenLink and similar sources every day, it’s easy to see why she would believe that there really is a war on Christians in this country.

All of these cultural factors are framed in a deep theological conception of persecution. Traditionally, Christians have had a very broad view of what it means to suffer for Christ—broad enough to include everything from genuine martyrdom to mild ridicule by nonbelievers. Behind this is an essential part of the faith, which says that every Christian will be persecuted by the world: True believers will lose jobs, face exile, and suffer from violence.

The problem is that for most of U.S. history, Christians haven’t been persecuted—at least not in comparison to early believers or even what Christians in places like Iraq face today. So, the question for American Christians is what to make of the Bible’s warning that we will be persecuted. For many evangelicals, the lack of very public and dramatic persecution could be interpreted as a sign that they just aren’t faithful enough: If they were persecuted, they could be confident they are saved. This creates an incentive to interpret personal experiences and news events as signs of oppression, which are ostensibly validations of our commitment to Christ. The danger of this view is that believers can come to see victimhood as an essential part of their identity.

Other Christians would argue that these biblical warnings are not intended to mean that victimhood is a sign of salvation. Instead, they are meant to assure believers that suffering in life is not a sign that God has abandoned the faithful, or that the Gospel is not the truth. This is a radical thing about Christ, and, coincidentally, the reason why Nietzsche called Christianity a “slave morality”: Christ’s suffering on the cross is an inversion of worldly conceptions of success and power. His model is of sacrifice and selflessness—persecution is a constituent part of his divinity, not a sign that he was defeated.

That’s not to say there aren’t very real incidents of discrimination and even hatred toward Christianity in the United States. But as members of the largest faith group in America, Christians are relatively well-protected and more often accommodated than actively harmed.

As evangelical morality increasingly comes into conflict with dominant cultural mores, evangelicals need to be even more careful about the debates we chose to engage in, the rights we chose to assert, and the hills we choose to die on. Too much is at stake for evangelicals to waste our resources and credibility on frivolous and occasionally self-provoked “injustices.” Imagined offenses drummed up by sensationalists and fear-mongers should be exposed and denied. At times, even legitimate offenses should be overlooked, when they are petty. By focusing attention on real and substantial incidences of persecution, evangelicals will be much more effective at educating their neighbors and fighting for truly important matters of religious liberty.

And this has implications for those outside of evangelicalism, as well. It’s a challenge of tolerance: Just because some claims of persecution are contrived doesn’t mean actual persecution doesn’t exist here and elsewhere. And even though the traditionally powerful influence of evangelicals in America is waning, that doesn’t mean it is just to infringe upon our rights.

Tensions between Christians and non-Christians are likely to grow in the coming years as cultural mores shift, and out of this tension will come negotiations, dialogue, lawsuits, ignorance, and conflict. For evangelicals, preparation for this must begin in our own house, as we learn to better discern good theologies of suffering, edifying stories of persecution, and distorted reports of discrimination.

This article available online at:
Copyright © 2014 by The Atlantic Monthly Group.
Members of the First Assembly of God Church in Waco, Texas, reenact the crucifixion of Jesus. (Jason Reed/Reuters)


9/25/2014 9:43 am  #80

Re: Food for thought - articles and papers

Selected Chapters

• "Best Practices for Nurturing the Best Love of and by Children: A Protestant Theological Perspective"
• "Christian Reflections on the Best Love of the Child"
• "Collective Responsibility for Children in an Age of Orphans"
• "Does Best Love of the Child Mean Parents Should Facilitate a Love of the Sacred?"
• "Original Sin and Christian Parenting: A Constructive Proposal"
• "The Right to Life and Its Application to the Welfare of Children in the Canon Law and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church: 1878 to the Present"

Timothy P. Jackson. 2011, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

     Thread Starter

Board footera


Powered by Boardhost. Create a Free Forum

©2012-2018 all rights reserved.

This is a conversation, an open dialogue, in the tradition of Free Speech. The purpose is to promote independent investigation, public debate and dialogue on cult and mind control issues critical to our social and individual well-being. Statements made reflect the writer's opinion. This forum acts to provide a space for electronic medium of information transfer, with the explicit understanding that each user will independently evaluate it and carefully make up his or her own mind as to its factual accuracy and usefulness. Independent individuals, organizations, authors, researchers, academicians and contributors may be exercising constitutional rights of petition, free speech, participation in government, or freedom of religion in researching, evaluating and freely discussing any matter. These discussions or statements may be constitutionally-protected opinions, speculation, allegations, satire, fiction, or religious beliefs or religious opinions of independent individuals, organizations or authors and as such, may or may not be factual.