Friday, July 31, 2009

Father testifies he hoped God would heal his child

It's a heart-breaking story. An eleven-year old girl is dying of diabetes. Her father doesn't take her to a doctor or a hospital. Instead, he prays for her and asks his God to heal her.

The girl dies in her home, surrounded by her father and other people praying for her. In the end, she couldn't walk, speak or even eat.

Dale Neumann, 47, has been charged with second-degree reckless homicide, and recently testified on his behalf in court in Wasau, Wisconsin. When asked why he didn't seek medical help for his child, Neumann told jurors:

"I can't do that because Biblically, I cannot find that is the way people are healed."

Neumann is partially correct. In the New Testament, many people are healed through divine providence, be it Jesus or the apostles. There's almost no mention whatsoever of medical science in the New Testament, primitive as it must have been.

In three gospels, Jesus cites the often-quoted phrase, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31) What's more, the quote was in response to criticisms that Jesus was spending too much time with sinful people, whereas Jesus replied that who better needs to experience God than those farthest from him. So this line can best be seen as an analogy to make a spiritual point, rather than a piece of advice to those wondering what to do with a sick child. At any rate, this one sentence must have been thin gruel compared to the numerous fantastical accounts of Jesus touching people and having them rise off of their sickbeds, or even from their graves.

On the other hand, the Gospel of Mark tells a story of a woman "subject to bleeding for twelve years." (5:25) Mark tells us that she had "suffered a great deal" when visiting the doctors, who had taken all the money she had and yet had gotten worse, but she was instantly healed when touching Jesus' cloak. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the power of medical science, and this makes it understandable why Neumann may have been skeptical of doctors.

Of course, this still goes on today. Never mind what inefficiencies the sick undergo when dealing with insurance companies, it is still common for someone today to spend themselves into bankruptcy without ever receiving a cure. Medical science has significantly improved in the last two thousand years, but what we don't know about the human body can still leave the best of medical science baffled.

But Neumann's daughter sufferered from diabetes, not some exotic tropical disease that no one has heard of. She suffered from a treatable disease and could have lived a long, full life under medical supervision. Instead, her parents just wanted to pray for her, even as she declined in health. Neumann's wife Leilani was tried separately and found guilty, and now faces up to 25 years in prison.

Side note: According to Colossians 4:14, the apostle Luke was a doctor, and in his gospel he also recounts the story of the sick woman healed by touching Jesus' cloak (8:40-48). For some reason, though, Doctor Luke omits the line that the doctors had bled the woman dry of all her money. In a nice example of closing ranks, Luke simply states, "No one could heal her."

Update: As expected, Neumann was found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide. He'll be sentenced along with his wife in October.

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