Justice was served.
It was good to read today that some fundamentalist Christians got what they deserved from an Oregon jury: a second degree manslaughter conviction for letting their newborn son die without seeking medical attention because they believed in faith-healing.
Previously I wrote about how the church midwife in attendance at the birth considered that the baby's death was "God's will." Today's newspaper story told more about the parents' theological belief system.
The church witnesses exhibited "a fatalistic attitude all the way," Fleming said.
Prosecutors said David Hickman's fate was sealed when he took his first breath. The boy -- a great-great grandson of church founder Walter White -- would never have received medical treatment, regardless of his condition. They said he was born into a family bound to the belief that life-and-death decisions were a test of faith. God, not doctors, would determine who survives and who succumbs -- even when an illness is treatable by medicine or a minor medical procedure.
...Shannon Hickman said even if she had wanted to call 9-1-1 she was powerless to act because her church calls for wives to submit to their husband's decisions -- to do otherwise is a sin.
Regardless of her views, jurors said she still had parental responsibility.
A child's unnecessary death is dramatic. It vividly draws our attention to the absurdity of someone following a rigid rule, or the orders of a superior, when a situation obviously demands that something different be done.
But religious dogmatism and hierarchical control can take on all sorts of more subtle forms. Instead of a baby dying, the consequences of obsessive obedience can be the "death" of a true believer's independence, conscience, and personal morality by a thousand theological cuts.
For many years I was part of an India-based spiritual organization whose devotees considered the guru to be God in human form. So not surprisingly, the dictates of this supposedly divine being were taken extremely seriously.
An oft-told tale was of a guru who ordered his disciples to dig deep pits in a field, then fill them up with the just-removed dirt and dig different pits. The "winner" of this absurd exercise in blind obedience was the disciple who kept digging the longest, thereby demonstrating the most faith in his guru's just-have-faith command.
I used to aspire to being such a disciple.
I'd act first and think later (or not at all) when an instruction from the guru was communicated to Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) initiates. If minute amounts of animal rennet suddenly became a dietary no-no, then by God I'd stop eating any cheese that wasn't clearly labeled "vegetarian" rennet.
Now, though, I realize that the difference between that true-believing me and the faith-healing couple who were found guilty of manslaughter was a matter of degree.
And the same was true of many other RSSB disciples-- even more so, since I had a more scientific and rational attitude toward the teachings than the typical initiate. If the guru had given a command to do something truly weird, there's little doubt that a large proportion of his followers would have followed his dictate.
That's what followers do: follow.
So even though I find the Christian baby-killers deeply distasteful, to some degree I understand how they could have believed that it was better to annoint their newborn with oil rather than dialing 911.
Religions lead people to believe in crazy things.
Feeling that you are obeying God's will is a powerful force. This doesn't excuse what the faith-healing parents did. But everyone who believes in a "higher power" shares, to some degree, the blind obedience that caused an Oregon baby to die unnecessarily.