The religious belief system known as the Christian Science is widely spread and practiced. Each year, there are many children whose medical aliments go untreated owing to the parents have a strong faith in “healing” by God and Jesus. These parents don’t believe in medical treatments, and wouldn’t let their children to be hospitalized. Donald Braxton, professor of religion, explains some of the Christian Science beliefs..
How did Christian Science develop as a religion, and are there other offshoots of it?
Christian Science came about in the 19th century, during the time in which modern medicine and modern scientific practices are only beginning to come on line and develop. In the United States, Christian Scientists emerged in New England and they tended to emphasize this thing called the mind, the consciousness, and were just unlocking what it was and how it worked. And so Christian Science as new medical practices were coming in to existence, tended to want to emphasize the fact that it is always better to try to heal sickness mentally before you address them physically. Christianity has a long history, Jesus was a magician and a faith healer, so it’s a very legitimate experience for the Christian faith, and most Christian faith however has not taken it to the extent that they have taken it.
Is this kind of faith healing legal here in the US?
It depends on the kind of faith healing that you’re talking about. There are clearly cases when the law has intervened and removed children from the custody of parents because the parents were going to leave something up to God that there was an evitable medical solution for it. Then there are other things when you were better off had you got medical treatment but it’s not necessary the case that turning down medical treatment is somehow life threatening to the children, and those are of course tolerated and debated. But I would say the vast majority of cases where people believe religious beliefs have an impact on their health go unidentified and they usually have to do a smaller aliment where it certainly can’t hurt a kind of positive religious attitude will have a kind of placebo effect on your well being. As a matter of fact it is a very legitimate field of study in psychiatry and psychology to study placebo effects on people.
What are your opinions on parents not hospitalizing their sick children?
One of the things that you are talking about are people’s rights to make decisions about a diversity life styles, and we really want to tolerate the diversity of ways in which people there is no agreement on terms of the proper way of how people raise their family. There are clear rights and issues involved there that need to be guarded and protected. So while we have to protect family rights and decision making, and we have to protect public health. And in particular the most important thing is the society has decided to have the well being of the children involved. And part of that issue there is children are the most vulnerable members of our society.
-Helen Hu ’13, Juniata Online journalist.