For some reason American Christianity seems to keep having some believers who hanker after miracles, who count upon divine healing or protection, but their faith (or should we call it folly?) ends in tragedy. I’m referring to parents in Philadelphia who were recently sent to prison for third-degree homicide in the death of their 7-month-old son, and a Kentucky preacher dying of snake bite when he and his family refused medical care.
In the case of the Philadelphia parents found guilty of the death of their 7-month-old child — they were members of a Pentecostal church that believed in divine healing. The tragedy in this case is compounded in that it was the second time these parents had refused to take a child for medical care, resulting in that child’s death. The first case involved their 2-year-old son, and the parents were on probation for that death when their 7-month-old second son died of treatable pneumonia.
According to the Christianity Today news report, the judge lectured the defendants sternly before sentencing them to prison. He said, “You’ve killed two of your children …. Not God. Not the church. Not religious devotion. You.” Adding to this sad news, reportedly 38 percent of American adults believe a parent has the right to refuse treatment for an infant with a life-threatening diagnosis. That sounds foreboding for a great many innocent kids across this land.
In the case of the Kentucky minister dying of snake bite, this involves an Appalachian snake-handling sect that takes very literally the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark 16:18 that speak of signs accompanying those who believe, saying: “They shall take up serpents in their hands, and … it will not hurt them …” (KJV). These people seem to take the words in this text, “they shall take up serpents …” as indicative or predictive or even as a command.