Modern medicine has come a long way. We’ve gone from leeches to pills, amputation to surgery, certain death to a minor inconvenience. We’ve made such great advances over the course of our history that you’d be a fool, or in this case a “true believer,” to reject what it can offer.
You can find some of these “true believers” in The Followers of Christ, a small Christian sect based in Oregon and Oklahoma. Though their congregation has less than 2000 followers, they have generated a lot of controversy over their belief in “faith healing.”
For those who are unfamiliar, faith healing is a practice that focuses on prayer in order to heal, rather than medical treatment. The Followers of Christ believe in this practice so strongly that members are allegedly shunned if they seek medical care. This belief has led to the unnecessary deaths of numerous children. The infant mortality rate in this group alone is significantly higher than that of the rest of the world.
Why do they believe in the practice of faith healing? Why refuse treatment when a life-threatening could be so easily cured? If you look to the Bible for an answer, you won’t find one. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that followers should not seek medical help from a doctor.
The most notable case of this abuse was when church members Shannon and Dale Hickman were convicted of second-degree manslaughter, receiving a sentence of six years in prison following the death of their infant son just two hours after delivery. Their son, David, was born two months premature and weighed under four pounds.
Rather than go to a hospital, Dale sprayed his son’s head with olive oil and began to pray. When it became clear to Dale that his newborn son was not going to survive, he simply sat in a chair and prayed. The cause of death of staphylococcus pneumonia, an easily treatable disease. If David had been born at a hospital, or even taken to one, he would have survived.
You’d think this would be the end of the Followers of Christ’s preaching about faith healing, considering that two members of their congregation have been jailed. Not so.
Sarah Mitchell, Shannon’s sister, had twins with her husband Travis. She gave birth at her parents’ home in Oregon City when her second daughter developed breathing complications. She died a few hours later.
An hour and a half after, church elder Carl Hansen phoned the county medical examiner who informed him that the surviving daughter needed medical attention and called the police. When they arrived, they convinced Sarah and Travis to take their daughter to a medical professional for treatment.
Thankfully, she was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Oregon Health and Science University, where she survived.
The Mitchells have both been charged with murder and criminal mistreatment in connection with the death of their daughter. They are being held without bail. But if past behavior proves anything, it’s that prison isn’t enough of a deterrent for the Followers of Christ. If an infant dies, it’s God’s will.
Medical science be damned, in their eyes.