Thursday, March 27, 2008

Parents pick prayer over docs; girl dies

It is stories like this one that highlight the absolute horrors of mysticism in American life:

Police are investigating an 11-year-old girl's death from an undiagnosed, treatable form of diabetes after her parents chose to pray for her rather than take her to a doctor.

An autopsy showed Madeline Neumann died Sunday of diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that left too little insulin in her body, Everest Metro Police Chief Dan Vergin said.

She had probably been ill for about a month, suffering symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness, the chief said Wednesday, noting that he expects to complete the investigation by Friday and forward the results to the district attorney.

The girl's mother, Leilani Neumann, said that she and her family believe in the Bible and that healing comes from God, but that they do not belong to an organized religion or faith, are not fanatics and have nothing against doctors. [Robert Imrie, Associated Press Writer]
That is, Ms. Neumann has nothing against doctors except when it came to calling upon one to treat her daughter's plainly obvious and easily manageable condition. Yet consider for a moment just what evidence Neumann had to conclude that "healing comes from God." This claim is nothing more than unfounded faith, utterly devoid of any reason or proof. In contrast, modern medicine is nothing more than the scientific method applied to physical health—the process of systematically identifying and obeying nature so as to be able to properly command it. And here we have abundant proof that science makes human life better; after all, our entire modern civilization, from CAT Scans to iPhones, is built upon the practical benefits of this truth.

So how on earth could Madeline Neumann's parents conclude that God alone would save their daughter and that medical science was unneeded? Just how much evidence did they (and let's be honest, their daughter too) willfully choose to ignore in order to engage in their deadly flight of mystic fancy? And most importantly, what cultural forces led them to such a horrific conclusion, and why were they unwilling to act upon the proper (and seemingly obvious) alternative?

As this story develops, it will be interesting to learn just how Neumann's parents were able to internally rationalize such an outrage. In the mean time, we are faced with a very troubling truth: in a nation where the practical benefits of reason, science and technology surround us, seemingly everyday Americans are nevertheless willing to engage in Stone-age mysticism and irrationality—and do so at the price of precious human life. Even if there is tremendous outcry against these parents, I can't help but take the fact that this girl died in the first pace as a troubling sign.


Mel McGuire said...


I saw a story about the girl's death yesterday and did some drilling down.

"Child's death: Mother an apparent follower of online ministry--Wausau Daily Herald"

"Unleavend Bread Ministries: healing testamonials"

Including: Curing Uneven Tire Wear

I read about a half-dozen cases and found this--the final step in the betrayal of reason. The element that particularly interested me in these two excerpts is in bold italics.

" From Faith Stops Bleeding:
Wouldn't you know it, the enemy started to make me doubt. The pain came back and I got a slight touch of blood on the surface of my thumb, but the Lord strengthened me to ignore his tricks. I rebuked the thoughts and ignored the blood and continued to do what I was doing, and of course it was completely fine from then on! "


" From God Heals Horses, Too:
As I walked away and mentally said, "He'll be fine," of course the enemy tried putting opposing thoughts in my mind. The thought came to me that everyone will think I'm crazy for not rushing him to the vet. Another thought came that he could die. I got mad and said out loud, "He will live and not die!" I came against those thoughts and took them captive in the Name of Jesus. I said, "It is done and he will be fine," and went inside the house to do a few things... "

What I'm seeing is how the believers, in these two examples, deal with doubts. They are able to consciously identify the situation as coming from the "enemy" and can easily take control and ignore the doubts. Wow, at this point, reason is eliminated and unreason is victorious. I don't know if this is "teaching" only from the UBM witch doctor or if it's some generally practiced part of faith. Either way, it's sick and it's deadly.

Anybody want to specialize in the psychopathology of faith?

Dennis H said...

Dear sir,

I found your post and the conclusion that the fact that a death like this could occur at all is perhaps more troubling than the death itself quite interesting. It is my suspicion that if you could look into the minds of these parents, you would find that modern technology is not a product of the human mind, but simply things that are, like rocks and trees and rivers. Rare is the person today who really understands just how much thought must go into providing even the simplest things that we take for granted today. (Do you know how much technical innovation was required to make the aluminum pots and pans in your kitchen?)

As the quality of education continues to drop in America through such programs as No Child Left Behind and the focus on standardized testing among other things, as knowledge increasingly replaces understanding as the standard of intelligence and achievement in schools, you can expect to see more and more incidents of this kind.

All that being said, I must object to your unreasonable attack on the child in the second to last paragraph. Although all people are born with the capacity for reason, that faculty can only develop if they are raised in an environment where that faculty makes sense. To a child raised in an environment which seems to be governed by irrational rules, and particularly if surrounded by people who support the irrational rather than the rational, the child will grow up unable to take advantage of their rational mind.

Much aside from that, any child of 11 would be quite remarkable if he or she was able to stand up to a firm decision of his or her parents. The power of authority is so strong that most adults will bow to it without even realizing what they are doing. The effect can only be stronger upon a child.

Bill Bucko said...

I started standing up to the strong authority of my parents at a far earlier age than 11.

Children who have started to reason have the same choices an adult does:

consciousness vs. non-effort

reason vs. feelings

sovereignty vs. psychological dependence

Nicholas Provenzo said...

It is not my intent to "attack" the daughter; morally, at age 11, she is the innocent victim of her parent's failure to act rationally and responsibly. In what became a desperate (and deadly) situation, I only would have wished for her to have the presence of mind to rebel against her parents and have contacted one of her more sane relatives. The sad reality is that some children would, but most probably wouldn't, and again, there's something tragic here that deserves to be examined.