Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

More on latest religion-inspired infanticide case

I blogged about this story a week and a half ago where a devout Christian woman, in a fit of what is likely post-partum depression, cut off her 10-month-old baby's arms and killed her. The tedious denials that her hyper-fundamentalist version of Christianity was feeding her delusions had already begun, but I guessed that she was probably trying to do right by God and that she was probably even thinking about the verse where Jesus tells his followers that if your right hand offends you, you should cut it off. Unfortunately, I was right.

Haynes, the defense lawyer, said he had not seen the affidavit and did not know what, if any, passage his client was reading at the time of the killing.

He said his client recently quoted to him a Bible verse in the book of Matthew that he said he believes influenced her actions.

The verse Schlosser told him was: "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."

Haynes said he believes his client might have taken the passage literally.

As S.Z. at World O'Crap points out, and rightly I think, the constant scolding that the Bible shoudl be taken as literally as possible by fundamentalist pastors to their followers is bound to exacerbate the problems of people with mental health issues like this woman has.

But fundamentalist Christianity encourages believers not to question the Bible (and to just have greater faith if they want to see miraculous healings), so some people (especially those with mental problems) do tend to take these things literally.

And, as the pastor this woman followed teaches that demons are literal beings with a physical presence, and that mental illness means that the demons are literally living inside you, it's not really that far a jump to conclude that Jesus meant that if there's demons in your hands, literally cut your hands off. S.Z., again:

So, if Schlosser was ever worried about the post-partum depression for which she received treatment after the birth of her last child, she might have just believed that it was a manifestation of her own wickedness and of the demonic spirits that possessed her. And she would have wanted to do something to help her daughter, to whom she had unwittingly passed on these demonic spirits (She's referring to the commonly-held belief that if a parent has "demons", the child inherits them, sort of like how you inherit blue eyes or what have you.) -- and if Doyle talked about "taking the axe" to the evil spirit, and if the Bible said to cut off the body parts that offend, she'd better do it if she didn't want her daughter going to hell.

Clearly, the difference between what parts of the Bible must be taken literally and which you are allowed to read metaphorically are not so easy to tell apart. And tempting as it is to ostracize the mentally ill, write off their delusions coming only from their minds and leave it at that, it's just not true. The mentally ill live in our world and respond to the same messages that we supposedly "sane" people do. This woman was reacting to what she thought was reality, and mind you, it's the reality she's been taught by people that we tend to regard as within the bounds of sanity.

19 Comments:

Blogger Roxanne said...

I'm going to be sick.

12/15/2004

 
Blogger Anne said...

One step from this to burning witches.

12/15/2004

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

personally, I don't see why she couldn't have cut off her own arms, but hey, that's just me.

I think any hyper-fundy belief system (Christianity or not) is dangerous, specifically to those already mentally ill. Just as engaging in dark-fantasy role-playing is probably not a good idea if you're already having trouble distiguishing reality from fantasy.

-wookie

12/15/2004

 
Blogger flea said...

I was going to tell Steve this story when we were getting ready to go to bed the other night, but decided against it. It would just upset him, and I couldn't bring myself to burden him with it. Weird how this story feels almost like a physical burden to carry around, doesn't it?

12/15/2004

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a book by a psychiatrist called A. Favazza on culture, self-injury and body modification; one interesting thing he found was that eye enucleation, whilst rare in Chrisitan cultures, is pretty much non-existent in Buddhist and other religious cultures which don't have any of the 'If thy eye offend thee...' stuff. It's maddening to hear people go on and on about the power and authority of the Bible and their preaching and then turn around and disavow it's influence when something bad happens.

Leah

12/16/2004

 
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