I just read an article from the AP with an Oregon City, OR. dateline. It’s a story we’ve heard before; it focuses on religious zealotry and refusing medical care for a dying patient. These “Christians” believe that their faith in the Almighty is all that’s needed; faith as a panacea.
Here’s the paraphrased story:
A judge who sentenced an Oregon couple to prison yesterday for the death of their son says members of their church must quit relying on faith healing when their children’s lives are at stake.
According to Judge Steven Maurer, “Too many children have died unnecessarily – a graveyard full. This has to stop.”
Maurer determined that Jeffrey and Marci Beagley each should serve 16 months in prison. Members of the Followers of Christ church who packed the courtroom sobbed.
The Beagleys were earlier convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the June 2008 death of their 16-year-old son, Neil, of complications from a congenital urinary tract blockage, a condition that normally, is treated quite easily.
Members of their church avoid most medical care and instead rely on rituals such as anointing sick people with oil and laying hands on them.
In ordering prison terms, Maurer reflected changes made in Oregon law a decade ago stipulating that freedom of religious practices is not an excuse to shun medical treatment for a dangerously ill child. The changes were a result of the deaths of children in Followers of Christ families.
The church’s small cemetery near the end of the Oregon Trail includes row after row of headstones marking the graves of children who died as a result of faith healing that went awry.
Maurer said the community is tolerant of the church, and he emphasized the sentences were not an indictment of it.
“We must keep in mind that this crime was one in which a child died,” Maurer said. “This was a situation where the community was counting on his parents to understand the boundaries of their faith.”
The Beagleys’ attorneys said they would appeal.
Neil Beagley was described as a bright, confident boy who loved his church and fixing cars. He became ill as the blockage trapped toxic waste in his body.
His parents testified they thought he had a cold or the flu. Medical experts say the boy’s kidneys were destroyed and his organs shut down.
Just months earlier, the Beagleys’ granddaughter, 15-month-old Ava Worthington, died from pneumonia and a blood infection that also could have been treated. Her parents, Raylene and Carl Brent Worthington, were acquitted of manslaughter. Carl Brent Worthington served two months in jail for criminal mistreatment.
Defense attorneys sought probation for the Beagleys. Mackeson called on Courtney S. Campbell, a professor of philosophy who specializes in bioethics at Oregon State University, who recommended probation, education and counseling rather than prison.
“There needs to be respect for religious freedom, accompanied by personal accountability and responsibility,” Campbell said.
Maurer said the Beagleys and the congregation knew about medical care but refused it.
“These two cases illustrate a crime that was a product of an unwillingness to respect the boundaries on freedom of religious expression,” Maurer said. “They’ve continued to use spiritual treatment practices in exclusion of medical treatment, even when their children were in extreme harm’s way.”
The defense attorneys asked that the couple remain free pending appeals. Maurer refused.
And well he should.
Scream at me all you want , but I really don’t care how devout these people are; they refused to seek help for their child who died–literally–at their hands. They knew he needed medical attention and they felt that God would come through their fingertips.
Instead, he would’ve come through a doctor’s fingertips had they stopped for one minute and thought about God in the bigger picture. I could get technical here and in a way, I’d be right–if God is the creator of all things, then God made physicians and allowed all those incredible technological advances in medicine–this includes a plethora of drugs, one of which would have easily saved young Neil’s life.
I was raised Catholic and at this stage of my life, I’m barely hanging on to that, but even so, I understand faith and its psychological ramifications. It is so very closely engrained in and with hope and without that, we’re lost as humans.
This story–adults refusing medical care for their children in lieu of faith healing, makes about as much sense as the Puritans in colonial Salem who submerged women and men they suspected of practicing witchcraft, in the river. If they survived, that confirmed their allegiance to Old Scratch himself. That meant they were guilty as sin. Their drowning though, proved their innocence and that meant ye olde judges who had God on their side, killed a lot of innocent people back then.
It also reminds me of the hardcore Christian couple who find themselves barren and go to a fertility clinic increase their chances at conceiving. They go through all the processes and a few weeks later find themselves “with children”… plural. They eventually learn that of the five fetuses, two are terribly deformed, yet they refuse to abort them because that’s murder. Only God can take a life. We have no right to play God.
Well, what right did they have to play God in order to GET pregnant? Yes, I know there’s a difference between creating life and causing death, but didn’t they delve into Divine territory in order TO get pregnant??? That’s precisely my point.
The Chinese restaurant approach to ecclesiastical belief amuses me. It’s this, “I’ll take this “No Dancing” from Column A……and uh….I think I’ll have “No Eating Pork or Shell Fish” with a side order of “Chastity–Unless Married and Even Then, In Moderation” from Column B”.
We have the right to believe or not believe in what we want. That’s one of our fundamental freedoms. Now, I have my own belief system that manifested itself in part from my early Catholic beginnings and mostly from what I learned since then. There is or should be, in my opinion anyway, a very profound common sense approach to faith and religiosity. If I jump off a cliff that’s 400 feet above a flat surface, I’m going to die when I hit the ground below. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Natural laws tell me that I will die. Gravity, momentum…all those factors indicate that I’m NOT going to live to tell anyone about my groovy free fall experience. Common sense. Yes, sometimes when the conditions are right, ‘miracles’ happen, but beyond that, I believe in my God’s infinite power, but I also believe in my own power, and I’m responsible for understanding that and the limits that come with it. It isn’t listed in any of the Good Books–esepcially not verbatim, but let’s face it–“shit happens” –and often without any explanation whatsoever.
Ever major religion of which I’m aware understands and advocates free will. Sorry Calvinists, but while there might be some semblance of a Divine Plan and Universal Order, we pick and choose our own way through life. It’s our call; it’s our Free Will. I don’t know what this sect, what the “Followers of Christ” believe, but if they’re like any of the other (of what I call) Strip Center Religions and the often charismatic power and money mongers who establish them, then I would presume they believe that God is like some blanket life insurance policy that offers full coverage. He isn’t. They buy into the utter infallibility of the Bible. It isn’t infallible–it is God’s word, if that’s what you choose to believe, but it is fact that it was written by man; errant, flawed man. And invariably, everyone must pay the Piper in order to dance.
Regardless. I would ask the devout Beagleys if the phrase “Thou Shalt Not Kill” sound familiar to them.? Then I would ask them to define neglifence. Then, I would ask if in the midst of their pain and grief , does faith healing still define that which they believe? I’d be interested in hearing their answer.
There is cause and effect to everything we do, think and feel. And in this case, the Beagley’s negligence and ignorance killed their son. God didn’t fail them; their shortsightedness did.
Yes, of course I mourn the loss of this young boy, but I also mourn their lack of common sense, their extremely skewed faith and the lack of faith they had in themelves.
This is life. And this is death…it’s cause and effect in the ultimate sense . The Beagleys have already started their 16-month prison sentence.
It’s their price for dancing.