Jesus Freak: I am a Christian mom who was raised in a fundamental Christian home. I have questioned my beliefs and have come to love myself and God on my own terms. I'm raising my kids the same way.
I am normally hesitant to tell people that I believe in faith healing, or divine healing, because it’s not widely understood. And when it is, it has negative connotations—like crazy snake handlers in the Ozarks or unyielding parents who insist God will heal their child at the expense of his life.
I’m not either of those types of people, but I do believe. I have seen healing work in my life multiple times, and I am not here to convince anyone or argue. I’ve questioned and practiced my beliefs, and I’m comfortable with them after close to a decade. I often would rather not talk about it because this is the kind of thing that I believe most people should figure out for themselves.
But one thing I have learned as a new parent is that I don’t know everything. Parenting is utterly unpredictable and can be terrifying. I thought that I would go into this whole parenting gig with my set beliefs and come out on top. I’m sure any new parent can understand that everything I once believed has been turned upside down. I know I’m better for it; my relationship with God, my faith, and my love for myself have grown much stronger as a parent.
Nonetheless, there is a line where your faith affects your parenting. Every time parents make headlines for sacrificing their child’s health for their religious beliefs, like this Jehovah’s Witness mother who was overruled by a judge for refusing treatment with blood products for her very ill 13-year-old son, parents around the world scoff and are quick to brand her a “bad mother.”
What kind of mother would refuse any health treatment if her child’s life was at stake? What kind of mother wouldn’t jump in an instant to get her child medical treatment just because of her religious beliefs?
I’m not saying I would do the same as this Jehovah’s Witness mom, but I understand. I understand what it’s like to be immersed in a church culture with a staunch set of beliefs. I understand what it’s like to believe that living in faith and holding out until the last minute is the only way to make God come through.
When I hear stories of parents who have believed in faith for their child’s healing, only to have a child die, it breaks my heart. The reason it does is because it scares me. I can understand where these parents are coming from, and I feel like I was “this close” to being that type of parent myself. I don’t think it is right to let your child die when medical treatment is available, but I can understand these parents’ mentality and how desperate and crushed they must feel after losing a child like that.
Yes, I know what the typical response to this will be. These parents are idiots. They are negligent. They should just take their child to the doctor. I’m not saying that I would follow in their footsteps; I’m just saying I understand. This type of faith culture is very familiar to me. I think it helps to put ourselves in other parents’ shoes before we are so quick to call them bad parents.
I personally believe in prayer and healing, but I always, always, always take my kids to the doctor at the first hint of any illness. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m not going to stop believing God. I also am not entirely sure how I plan to teach my kids about healing when they get older. To me, it is a beautiful belief system and a wonderful part of my relationship with God. Yet I don’t want to force any belief on them so that it becomes rote and empty.
When we see parents who refuse medical treatment because of their religious beliefs, I think we can all agree that is not the best parenting move. It is wonderful to have faith and even share this faith with your children, if you are so inclined. It is not acceptable to risk your child’s health or even life because of religious principles, when medical treatment is right around the corner.
We can all agree that this behavior is wrong, but I still am not so quick to judge. Every time one of these headlines comes up where a parent refuses medical treatment because of their faith, I cringe—partially because I feel for the child and partially because I understand the parent’s motivation. I do believe that many parents in these situations are good parents with the best intentions who so desperately want God to heal their children. But that doesn’t change the fact that no matter what you believe, your child’s health comes first.