Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bless the Child?


Warning: here follows a rant that some will find offensive, but which is medically-related, so I'm doing it. Turn back now, if you have religious sensitivities.


The Seattle Times has been running a generally heartbreaking series about a young girl with terminal cancer. The latest installment has put me over the edge. I can understand -- even support -- the decision, after giving everything over to conventional treatment and seeing it fail, to stop the drugs and turn in another direction. I'd not, however, have chosen prayer, at least not in the way it's being done. What I see in the recent article is, pure and simple, child abuse.

I've mentioned religion before, relating how, as a surgeon, I've seen faith, for some people, make facing deadly illness easier. (I've also indicated that I've seen it accomplish just the opposite.) Patients' faith clearly can make it easier for me, when giving bad news and when caring for the dying. But this. These prayer circles, this continuing belief that healing will happen if enough people pray -- and, implicitly, if the girl herself is godly enough -- is setting the poor child up for a death bathed in self-recrimination. Evidently, it's already happening. (For those that didn't read the article, its title is a quote from the girl: "You Know I've Been Down... Forgive Me.")

There is nothing -- NOTHING -- worse than the death of a child. I've attended to dying children and their families; and, as some have noticed in the sidebar of this blog, I've lived with it in my family. I have nothing but sympathy and sorrow for the family and for this little girl. But I think if I knew them well enough, I'd be saying this to them, off camera and away from the press: pray if you need to. Pray for comfort, for understanding, for strength. But get off this miracle healing thing. You're ruining what life your child has left. Keep up hope? Sure, as long as it's reasonable. But give her an out; give her a way to accept what's happening to her, if such a thing is possible, without blaming herself.

God help me, I can't stop. I should just shut up at this point, and let it be about the care of the poor child. But I can't. I must also say this: there's something perverse to the point of revulsion in the idea of a god that will heal the girl if enough people pray for her. What sort of god is that? To believe that, you must believe he deliberately made her ill, is putting her through enormous pain and suffering, with the express plan to make it all better only if enough people tell him how great he is; and to keep it up unto her death if they don't. If that sort of god is out there, we're in big, big, BIG trouble. If people survive an illness because of prayer, does that mean that god has rejected those that didn't pray? If you pray for cure and don't get it, and if you believe that praying can lead to cure, then mustn't you accept that God heard your prayers and said no? If so, are you going to hell? But if you say either outcome is God's will, then what's the value of the prayer in the first place? In this case, it seems, it's only to make the girl feel guilty and unworthy. How sad. Since the whole idea is so internally inconsistent, give the poor kid a break.

Does this family's god need reminders; does he have DADD? Or is he waiting for them to hit a magic number of people praying? A certain quantum of prayer-units that must be achieved? Does he give credit for getting close, maybe knock off a little pain when they hit 80%, or is it all or nothing? In praying to him -- and if, as the article says, people around the child see God at work in all his glory -- shouldn't they be thanking him for their daughter's misery rather than asking for a change of plans? Shouldn't they be delighted with the whole thing? If He's perfect, how can you add to that by praying? Or expect a change? I simply don't get it.

And what of children who have no one to pray for them? If prayer works, what's going on with those kids? Does this prayer-tabulating yet perfect god not care about them? Or isn't he paying attention? Has he deliberately set them up in a situation where they're screwed?

If I were asked (and I surely won't be), here's what I'd say: If your child is sick like this one, and is old enough to comprehend what's going on, think it over carefully. If you need to pray, don't just pray for cure and lay it at her feet. It's virtually certain to be a losing proposition. Help her, hold her, care for her, do what you can to make her happy and to help her come to grips. But don't put the whole burden for survival on her. It's a horrible thing to do. She's asking God's forgiveness? Baloney. He should be asking for hers.

125 comments:

Joy said...

Thank you for your words. I've always been confused by how prayer is supposed to work, and you've put my confusion into words much better than I've ever been able to.

Anonymous said...

Sid, you “don’t get it” about Gloria Strauss because you don’t have an invisible friend who is a ruthless, bloodthirsty dictator.

Greg P said...

I don't mean to diminish this, but sadly the world is full of atrocities, even worse than this. The difficulty is trying to carry on while not ignoring things like this and worse, finding points in space and time when we can perhaps make a difference that lessens someone's suffering.

Anonymous said...

I can't even comment.....I keep trying to type a little something but it grows into a full blown tirade in my head.
There are multiple things that anger me about this picture including chilbearing beyond your means (and the earths') because the church shuns birth control, putting all your faith in a profit mongering religion and what Sid said.
Oh, I guess that is a comment...

Anonymous said...

My neighbor's young adult daughter belonged to a 'church' that really was nothing more than a garden-variety cult that periodically invited a famous (to them) faith healer. The daughter had epilepsy that was well controlled by her medications. The 'church' decided to have the faith healer heal the young woman. My neighbor asked her daughter whether, if the faith healing were unsuccessful, it would be because the healer had failed, or because her daughter had somehow failed in something. The young woman had never thought of it in that way, and when the 'healing' failed, she did not feel entirely to blame. A small victory for the mother.

makeminetrauma said...

A young, devout Catholic woman was once convinced to return to her homeland to participate in prayer and non-traditional healing for cervical CA. Several months later she returned to the O.R. still praying but now with advanced disease. She was in tears and terrified and it was too late to help her. I still cry when I remember that day.

nate said...

Hey,
I totally understand where you are coming from. I think what you've been exposed to, the pray for a miracle cure fiasco, is a very radical thing. I'd like to say straight out, that I am a non-denominational Christian. I do believe that prayer CAN work wonders, but it should never be considered a guarantee. The main purpose of prayer, to a Christian, is to just talk to God. You can ask for stuff. Or you can talk to God about your day. Or you can say thanks.

If someone I knew became sick, I'd ask God that somehow they could become better. I'd keep praying and hoping because I am human and I want him or her to be better. But as a Christian, I recognize my submission to Christ and the fact that whatever He does is just. That's something huge and is probably hard for non-believers to fathom. You might see me as putting my beliefs in something blind. But I believe I'm not.

I don't think the people who are placing their entire focus on praying for a miracle are doing the right thing. There was a sermon at my Church last week about how God wants us to be shrewd, but innocent. It was pretty in-depth, but to sum it up -- face reality. If your child is terminally ill, pray, but face the facts.

I believe God can do miracles. But to form a prayer circle asking for a miracle is testing God. And it is in the Bible -- Do not test your God. Prayer circles should pray for comfort for the child, support, etc.

Bongi said...

a family member's husband got prostate cancer. they opted to go for prayer in the place of conventional medicine and surgery. he died a pretty nasty death. when he got to heaven and asked god why he didn't listen to their prayers, i think god probably said he sent medical people with the knowledge of how to help him and it was in fact he who did not accept god's help.

i think god gets a bum wrap for a lot of crap (a crap wrap?) that he is not responsible for. the "it's god's will" crowd will struggle to explain how darfur and childhood cancer and murder and rape and severe debilitating trauma and and and and....is in god's will.

Gershwin's ghost said...

Religion motivates millions of people to lead good lives. When you say "I don't get it," it kind of means you haven't tried to get it.

Surgeons might save lives but God makes life worth living for billions of people Sid. Imagine a life without the golden rule.

Rob said...

We have a faith-healing church in our community and I find that the members are driven to despair by the idea that it is their own "lack of faith" that causes bad things to happen in their lives. This is actually the whole debate in the book of Job, where Job got sick and his friends kept telling him it was his fault. In the end God came and said basically: "I am God and you are not. I do what I do and you are not in a position to second-guess."

I actually believe that prayer helps things, but not in the way these people do. Prayer is more of a way of saying that ultimately things are in God's hands, not ours. As you said, if you fervently pray that a child is healed and the healing doesn't come, then you must accept that God had other plans. Clearly if God wanted to He could get rid of all suffering.

If you believe in God, then with all of the suffering we do see, we must accept one of three possibilities: 1. God is too weak to fix problems, 2. God doesn't really care about our suffering, or 3. Somehow there is a purpose to even the bad stuff that goes beyond our comprehension.

These faith-healing people treat God like he is a vending machine you must put enough faith into to get the desired outcome. In the end it just causes guilt over something that people have no control.

Nolan said...

Rob: I actually believe that prayer helps things

There was a study done in April of last year that was published in the American Heart Journal regarding this very issue -- namely, does prayer help people who are sick. The study not only concluded that there was no measurable difference in the recovery of the participants, but that in fact, if people are told they are being prayed for, it can actually have a negative effect.

Read more here:
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/healthnews.php?newsid=40765

This seems to play into the general concensus on this blog. Choosing prayer in place of medicine just doesn't work, and though prayer can't hurt with proper medical care in place it also can't help.

Sid Schwab said...

GG: I like to imagine a world where people actually live by the golden rule. The rule, by the way, makes good evolutionary sense, and is hardly unique to religion. Fact is, the non-religious people I know seem to follow it more closely than the most publicly religious we all know.

Anonymous said...

RIGHT ON Dr. S and I like your reply to GG. This whole piece is bang-on.

happyj said...

Dr. Schwab,
I understand what you're talking about and I've also wondered why some prayers are answered while others aren't...what makes them worthy? When I sustained my brain injury in my last car accident, my trauma surgeon told my husband, "We've done all we can do (surgery), now all you can do is pray." I think that's everything - docs should do what they do first, but prayer is still needed to make it work. Prayer is the fuel in the car, so to speak, but one still can't do anything without the car. I think its this way for a reason, otherwise the world would lack the beauty that is in the courage of action. Doctors did surgery on me and gave me tons of medicines in my coma (after my head broke one window, hit the bus that hit me full force, then broke through the other window, and I didn't have a cut on me). God has pathways through which to make his miracles happen. Many docs told me then that I was a miracle, but I wouldn't have been alive for them to call me a miracle if not for them. Another thought - In the movie "Bruce Almighty":)) he answers "yes" to all the prayers and chaos ensues.

Anonymous said...

In response to the comment of imagining life without the Golden Rule, I've noticed that religious people tend to believe that morality can only come from a belief in god. This of course is not true. Also, I would rather imagine a world without religion. That should ring a bell with John Lennon fans. All the wars that have been fought, the crusades, the atrocities that have been committed in the name of god. The old testament is rife with the whole "in group, out group" perspective and must be the basis of the idea that religious conflicts in the past were somehow morally justified. Anyway I'm rambling, I just wish religious people would accept me as a moral person even though I don't believe in their god.

Masklinn said...

Religion motivates millions of people to lead good lives.

Or to be holier-than-you assholes, or to slaughter random people or consider them sub-human because they don't believe in the invisible bearded fairy they believe in.

In fact, religion does not motivate millions of people to lead good lives, living does. On the other hand, religion does motivates thousands of people to lie, to cheat, to kill and to be horrible persons.

As Steve Weinberg remarked, Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."


Imagine a life without the golden rule.

You fail on so many level it hurts to read that.

But in the end, here's the truth: the so-called "Golden Rule" (or Ethics of Reciprocity in modern terms) doesn't come from any god or supernatural entity and even less from the abrahamic god, it comes from humans and social evolution.

asterisk girlie said...

I just found your blog randomly through anothers. I must say that I hadn't heard of this yet (live in the East Coast) but this is just a very sad story.

I think it is great that someone in the medical community speaks up against something like this in any way, shape, or form.

I have nothing against people who have faith, but having it all rest on if the little girl is good enough and if all the people pray enough...if that is a real god, makes you rather worried about how life (and death) will be.

FetchingGal said...

If prayer really worked then why is the conflict in the middle east still happening?

In my experience, prayer can be a comfort for some people but not for me. Prayers go unanswered everyday. Praying is not a cure for squat. I feel bad for that kid in the article and those in similar situations. :(

Lynn Price said...

In order to say that God/Infinite Being/The Cosmic Muffin will heal someone is to know His mind and intent. To presume an outcome on His behalf is arrogance at its finest.

Pseudo_Doctor said...

great post on an interesting topic....

llewelly said...

It's not as if those people started praying only yesterday. Religious people tend to pray as soon as anyone close gets sick - especially with something serious, like cancer. So far, it hasn't worked. It's interesting that they gave up on medicine, but continue to pray, although prayer has been no more effective than medicine, for this little girl, and while medicine has not worked for her, having finite limitations, it has helped billions people - which prayer has not.

SeaSpray said...

Hi Anonymous 7/15/07 8:56 am - I am a Christian and I totally believe that a person can be a moral person and be an atheist. I also believe there are many people - since the beginning of time up to the present that consider themselves religious that don't have any sense of morality even though they think they do.

**I also believe there have been many things done (pick your poison)in the name of God that God had/has no part of.

Jesus himself rebuked the pharisees for having the appearance of being religious but said that inside they were as dead men's bones. When they tried to trip him up by asking which was the most important law not to be broken (murder? Stealing? Adultery?, etc.)he responded with "love your neighbor as yourself" because in so doing you won't break any of the laws. Love thy neighbor sums it up.

Religious person? That can have negative connotations for sure. It depends on who or what is attached to that "religious" label.

Religion can sometimes evoke thought of legalism. Jesus said he came to set the captives free. There are a lot of man made rules some of which have led to oppression/bondage or at the very least the various denominations.

Jesus said that he would like us to all be one. However, that isn't the way it is right now and I have know doubt that God blesses and honors sincere and wholesome efforts made by man to get to know him - he is no respecter of persons - he loves us all equally.

A world without God? YIKES! I shudder to think. People often quote the atrocities committed in the name of God but do they not know of the wonderful blessings to our fellow man that have come about because of his presence in their lives? They have given their life in service (Mother Theresa) or sacrificed their blood (missionaries in various areas of the world) for the betterment of our fellow human beings. And how many people that no one will ever realize (God does) give of themselves that impacts their small corner of the world?

Again - I am not saying that a person has to believe in God in order to do good BUT I am saying don't discount the importance of how God's inspiration affects an individual which than in turn moves forward to effect a positive change in the circumstances/lives of others. I like to think of it as a ripple of good moving forward.

Dr Schwab - I read your post and the article and I would like to say that first of all my heart goes out to the girl, her family and friend and all those impacted by her illness.

I can appreciate your frustration and anger. I can also understand their mind set although I seriously think it is important that she know there is NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING she did wrong for this to have happened to her.

It also does not mean that God does not love her or is out to punish her or anyone else.

I will come back to this but for now I have some painting to do. Anyone want to help??

Can't blame a girl for trying! :)

P.S. I absolutely believe there IS power in healing prayer. I have experienced 2 healings myself which I will spare you here. One I already talked about on my blog but didn't finish and the other one I haven't written about as yet. I also had an amazing experience (an encounter)in the hospital when I was admitted over night through the ER with 3 more kidney stones. But if I were to tell that story...well suffice it to know that I keep that one close to my heart and have only shared it with a couple of people I knew I could trust. No- I wasn't dramatically healed. It was the urologist that removed the stones and stented me the next day in the OR that facilitated my healing.

In my opinion and not my original idea - God is the great physician and he can and does effect direct healing in a person and more often than not he works through you wonderful and gifted physicians on earth along with medications, therapies, etc. and you yourself have spoken of "Good Vibrations" (I loved that post!) and know that positive attitude can make all the difference in a pre-op/post-op patient.)

And then...people live with awful disease and or disability..or..they die. Where is our healing God then? Did we not pray right or as you said -not say enough prayers?

One last thing for now. Boy, a girl will do anything to procrastinate so she doesn't have to paint! :)

I have already mentioned that all the problems I have had with a ureteral stricture was initially caused by a large kidney stone back in May of 2004. Well, where WAS God? Why did that have to happen?

I have always enjoyed writing and usually am someone who will even find a napkin to write a thought down (since I was a young girl)and over the years have written intermittently my thoughts on paper. Sometimes, I will write a letter to God. I will tell him all my thoughts, questions and often will also include my prayer requests for anything or anyone that concerns me. I write exactly as I would pray so I guess they are prayer letters to God. Then I might not do it foe a couple of years, the paper or journal has long been buried and so when I do come across it - it is always interesting to see what was going on around that date and to see how prayer has or hasn't been answered.

I said all that to say that this past winter I came across a letter to God that I wrote to him in June 2004 after the first big kidney stone attack and I was stented with my first stent at the time.

In the letter, one of my prayers was for God to keep me from ever getting another kidney stone and to please protect my kidneys and other organs. (O.k. - I know - some of you by now are thinking I am a mental midget - I get it.)

It was 2 weeks later when he removed the stent that I was hit by those other 3 stones and then stented again for another 2 weeks. Then 16 months later I presented to the ED with sepsis, pyelonephritis and severe hydronephrosis and so then as you know it has been on going treatment with a different (skilled, dedicated and compassionate urologist)and it hasn't been a day at the beach - that's for sure. (BTW - I AM healing now as evidenced by the last renal scan and don't need the surgery. I AM healing!!) So - Where was God? My prayer request was sincere! Did he not care? Not only did I get more stones but kidney damage! Does that mean there is no God? Or that God doesn't heal? That he doesn't care about me or anyone else affected by this?

Dr S. - I sincerely apologize for the length of this. Be back later. Obviously remove this if you find this offensive or too long. :)

enrico said...

I can't believe that no one has commented on the fact that the article pointed out how so many people were praying so that they could selfishly receive blessings. ("'When we pray for Gloria, it's like we're the ones receiving the blessings,' says Mary Caldwell, a family friend. 'We're receiving the healing. It's very humbling. It's been life-changing for all of us.'") I think that sheds LOTS of light on this particular situation. And that whole scene where the lady asks Gloria to bless her, which then induces guilt? Horrifying.

I do think that in the end, though, religious beliefs should just remain what they are. It's the context she knows, it's the framework in which she believes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the I didn't read any medical treatment that was being withheld (save the reluctance to fill the Prozac, but that wasn't confirmed in the end); she's in proper hospice care, receiving palliative treatment (they need to ramp up the pain killers, though) appropriate for her terminal condition. While their activities do clash with your views (and many others), is it abuse? I don't think so, personally. I think for an 11-year-old, not completely formed as a person, that "rescuing" her from this prison of prayer and trying to "open her eyes to empower her" in the few weeks/months she has remaining would be abusive, tearing away the very fabric of everything she knows.

As long as the family doesn't guilt her for not praying, for not having faith, and especially doesn't substitute prayer for doctors' advice (which again, I didn't read but it may have been elsewhere), I say let them pray, and may God grant Gloria peace and comfort--regardless of how much or how little prayer is offered.

Pursey Tuttweiler said...

Sid,
This was beautifully written and your ending line was brilliant. I believe in the power of prayer in that I believe it gives an ill patient strength to know that so many are rooting for them. In my experience in offering prayers to others or accepting them from others, many people offer to send energy or healing thoughts because they do not believe in God. That too is very important to me and all of my friends and family, even the athiests and agnostics in the group. However, what this family is doing is entirely different, and if they are telling this child that she is dying because she sinned or did not accept God I think the child is being horribly abused. Thanks for writing this article. I will never forget your closing line. Your thought process is exactly why I HATED Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks gets in a big storm and prays his ass off. All the other fishing boats are trashed, and he gets all this shrimp and becomes a mogul. The movie plods along and I keep asking myself, what happened to the other shrimpers. Forrest Gump gained from their misfortune and the message was he gained because he believed in God. Are the other shrimpers destitute, dead, what? Were the wiped out shrimpers all a bunch of satanic cult worshipers sacrificing children and deserved to die? Crappy movie. The American public loved it, ate it up.

Don said...

If there was such a person as Satan and I were he, I could think of no better a curse then the Plague of Religion. Through the Plague of Religion I could bring misery and death to FAR more people than by ANY other means!

A previous poster stole my thunder about the Golden Rule. I sleep well at night knowing that I've not lied to anyone or cheated anyone out of even a nickel. My morality comes from within me and not from any religion pushing me to be that way 'cause HE said so. It must be the right thing to do; I don't hate anyone. However, turn on talk radio and listen while hate against many is preached in the name of God.

Greg P said...

Whoa, seaspray! Way too long a comment.

Something I plan to blog about in future is some commentary after reading The Great Transformation, by Karen Armstrong.
It's the kind of book that can perhaps please the religious and atheists alike, depending on how you interpret events.

The idea of the Golden Rule or kindness to others far predates any religion we can recognize. In fact, one might say that religions have only gradually come about to incorporate this idea as they have evolved. Most extant religions have a history combining elements of kindness with aggressiveness, even annihilation of those outside.

Sid Schwab said...

enrico: the "abuse" part is taking a dying child and by a combination of deliberate behavior and stupidity dragging her to a point of asking God's forgiveness for, essentially, her illness. The headline of the article says it all, far as I'm concerned. Although it's another subject, many cases of overt and brutal child abuse -- beatings, starvations, etc -- have occurred at the hands of parents who believed they were doing God's will. This is mental abuse, of the same flavor. And, according to the article, not a little physical abuse as well -- forcing her here and there when she's barely able. But the latter wasn't my point.

Sid Schwab said...

Pursey: thanks. I liked the last line, too.

Sid Schwab said...

Greg: I look forward to your post. I'm thinking, since this discussion is so interesting, that maybe I should just give in to my desires and have a weekly (or something) rant on subjects like these.

By the way, I'm not deliberately posting single replies. Just scatterbrained today for some reason.

Jenster said...

Two years ago at the age of 39 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband had just quit his job and accepted another 1200 miles away and my children were 10 and 13. The kids and I stayed in Little Rock for a year while I underwent chemotherapy after my mastectomy and my husband came home every other weekend. There are a million adjectives to describe how it was for our family, "frightening" and "sad", just two of them.

I did everything standard medical protocol advises and continue to do so today. I've had further surgeries and problems related to the chemotherapy, but so far no recurrence.

I believe whole-heartedly in the power of prayer. Did I pray the lump would prove to be benign on surgical biopsy? You bet I did! But I also thanked God that I live during a time when breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence.

The greatest benefit, however, of my relationship with MY God (not my religion for all the reasons mentioned) was the peace and strength and grace and joy HE gave me and my family through the darkest time of our lives.

Depending on medical care should not be a lack of faith. Instead it should be taken advantage of and seen as a gift.

As to religions being responsible for most if not all the atrocities this world has witnessed, I agree. But religion and God are two very different things. And if there's a God it stands to reason that there's a Satan. Why don't people ever seem to blame him for anything?

Judy said...

I wonder how much of this stems from shoddy reporting? I'm not there, so I don't know the truth, but I did find other articles that give a different feel.

This, for example:
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sports/2003695104_brewer06.html

There are others.

Yes, the family is absolutely holding out for a miracle - but I'd bet that they've been advised by at least one priest that God doesn't always give us what we want or ask for. It's simply not a part of Catholic teaching.

I see a lot of positives - the family has been surrounded by the love and support of their community. I did find the pressure to go to the prayer service pretty disturbing, though.

gg said...

How about the new golden rule: greed is good?

Do you mix with many religious people Sid?

It is quite nice to hear a doctor whining about God instead of how little money he earns however. Good for you.

Anonymous said...

I hate this as much as you do. How terrible for them to make this child feel like it will be her own fault when she dies.

I know a woman who believes this way and SHE makes me sick as well. She is always talking about how Prayer healed her of arthritis and the only reason any of us have it is because we don't Pray as much as what she did. Well I say BS to all of that.

What is wrong with us when we can't accept illness or death? Losing a child would be the hardest thing in life to endure. I'm not sure I could. but, I'm absolutely certain I would do all I could to make that child comfortable and to make them know that it certainly isn't their own fault. It is child abuse.

Rob said...

Sid:

I think your next post should be on something like baking cookies or gardening.

I want to see if you get so many responses because of your fine writing or if it is the topics you choose.

I am sure it's your writing.

Rob

llewelly said...


And if there's a God it stands to reason that there's a Satan. Why don't people ever seem to blame him for anything?


If God is all-powerful, Satan does nothing without God's consent.
To postulate a Satan who is not merely God's proxy, is to postulate a God with finite powers.

Tanya said...

The article does not specify if this poor child has received actual treatment for her cancer, just pain control.If she is not receiving any treatment, just what does the law say regarding prayer but no treatment? Where do we draw the line legally in order to protect children and also allow people to practice their religious faith? This is a very sad case, and perhaps the child wouldn't survive even with medical treatment. But what if, for example, a child has a broken arm and the parents choose to pray for the arm to heal rather than have it set? Do we allow them to withold treatment in a case where treatment will obviously cure the child, or do we give them free rein for their religous practices?
And just as an aside, I'm a cancer survivor, and I learned pretty quickly to avoid most public places because I was horrified every time a total stranger, always a woman, came up to me and started praying over me. One woman even tried laying on her hands. It happened all the time and I hated it.

Enrico said...

Dr. Schwab said: "[the 'abuse' part is] dragging her to a point of asking God's forgiveness for, essentially, her illness."

That's not what I got from that exchange at all. I don't think for one second that Gloria feels that she brought this on herself or that the family and community are praying for the cure of a disease brought on by her or anyone's lack of faith. I read Gloria's statement as being, "God forgive me for letting my faith slip/for thinking that prayer won't matter/for giving up/etc," not "Forgive me for being bad and for whatever I did to bring this illness on to me." There are other religious whackjobs that actually believe this, but I didn't get this read on any of the people involved.

Pressuring her to go to a prayer service if she doesn't feel up to it is, in my mind, wrong.--I mean, if a little girl with terminally ill cancer can't have the freedom from guilt to say "I feel bad," that's horrible. But the parents are motivated by what they perceive as faith, and like a coach, I'm sure they're trying to be positive and uplifiting, etc. even when the circumstances seem hopeless. You can respond (and I'd certainly agree), "They're wasting time expecting a miracle, whittling away the remaining weeks she's here with prayer meetings instead of enjoying every second with their daughter."

So in essence, I think this is sort of a spiritual Rorschach test--you'll see what you project onto the situation based on your personal beliefs. I think a lot of commenters have veered off the deep end with ethical conundrums that don't exist here, such as withholding treatment to a child, etc. Believe me, if this were the case, you'd be reading about it, as the doctors would have certainly tried to get a court order like that Starchild freakshow case. She will die soon, no doubt. The exercise of false hope, seen objectively, is futile. In the context of faith, it's not necessarily hopeless, and more importantly, to Gloria--still inextricably enmeshed in her parents' beliefs at this age--it's not either. Ripping away at that fabric with cold intervention from the outside would be more abusive--that was *my* point in the comment.

If I were a worker for that hospice, I'd make sure to counsel the parents to remind them that each day at this point is a gift on borrowed time; make the most of it doing what they'd want to do as a family as much as possible. The prayer can happen when it happens, but not at the expense of family time. And I'd reassure Gloria that there's nothing wrong with feeling bad and wanting to stay in bed, that she doesn't have to be "brave" every day. She's already shown enough bravery for a lifetime.

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank said...

Wow. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for having the courage to post it. I'm in tears right now and can't really say too much more, except amen, amen, amen, amen.

Petri said...

Religion makes it impossible to debate them with scientific studies in these instances. If the person is healed it worked, if the person dies it was in God's plan. There's no null hypothesis to prove or disprove. This is how religion has worked itself into many modern day arenas.

I think it's worth noting though, that no matter how devout they may be about pray, when the person is actively in the process of dying where do they go? Do you see the trauma patient being brought to the local church, or the very end stage cancer patient placed on an altar? No, because even the most zealous believer's facade is pierced by the reality of impending death. It's to bad that for most people no medical intervention will save them at that point.

I think religion works well as long as it's conveniant, once the crap hits the fan, people turn back to what they KNOW works.

I hope that if something could be done for this girl she would be court ordered to recieve it and end this foolishness.

Anne said...

In Judaism we have this wonderful Hebrew word yisrael (israel - the word, not the country) meaning, "to wrestle with God." I wish more people did more thinking and less proclaiming. I don't know and neither do you. Keep praying, but embrace the wonderful minds that have brought us to this point in medical care. Nobody is served by extremism, and no god of mine would give us great treatment options and then expect us to play Russian Roulette as a test.

Sid Schwab said...

anne: Yit-gadal v'yit-kadash sh'mey raba, b'alma di v'ra hirutey, vyam-lih mal-hutey b'ha-yey-hon uv'yomey-hon uv'ha-yey d'hol beyt yisrael ba-agala u-vizman kariv, v'imru amen.

Anonymous said...

I read the installment of the series linked 6/15/07. I sure see no evidence of this:

"But this. These prayer circles, this continuing belief that healing will happen if enough people pray -- and, implicitly, if the girl herself is godly enough -- is setting the poor child up for a death bathed in self-recrimination"

Where does it say they are praying only for a miracle? All Catholic healing prayers include prayers for acceptance, peace, redemption through suffering, and many other themes.

I think the author of this blog is reading into the situation and seeing something that I certainly don't see.

Sid Schwab said...

I never said they were praying "only" for a miracle. But it's mentioned at least two times in the current article that they are praying for a miracle. It's also even more explicit in the previous articles in the series. I referred, as you quoted, to "this continuing belief that healing will happen..." and that's clearly going on. The more important point, also clear in the article, is that it's led to the girl feeling guilty and asking God's forgiveness. That's the abusive part. And the fact that, with pressure, she relents and goes out when she'd much rather not. I don't think I'm reading into it at all.

fierce lioness said...

I had cancer as a young adult, and I can say there is definitely a certain amount of pressure to be upbeat and optimistic and a fighter - the tyranny of positive thinking, if you will.

I don't think there's anything wrong to trying to be positive, but there's also a need to be realistic. I know people who have beat themselves up because they felt despair or depression at times and were unable to recognize or accept that this is normal.

People with cancer (and their families) really do not need this psychological burden. Stuff happens; often we don't know why. We have to learn how to live with the ambiguity, and maybe that's what faith really is.

Child abuse? Well, I had a cousin who was dx'd with Hodgkins lymphoma as a teenager. His parents were so desperate to get him cured that they took him to an exorcist. I have no idea what the ritual entailed, nor whether he was a willing participant, but the thought of it makes me, well, uneasy. And in the end my cousin died anyway... so what sort of conclusion is a person of faith to draw from this?

I think if you scratch the surface of Gloria's story, underneath you'll find a tremendous amount of fear. This family is trying to keep the darkness at bay with a candle made out of prayer... and I really feel for them.

faded said...

There was a comment made by a preacher who prays for people to be healed. He runs the big group meetings and a fair number of people get miracles at his meetings. He said this to a crowed who came to hear him, "The healing is nice but it does really matter. The real objective is learn how to love and be loved. If you can love people that is the greatest healing." If you can find the love of God in any situation that is real healing. To make healing a test of faith is actauly a form of religious abuse.

Anonymous said...

Sid:

What part of the 6/10/07 article makes you believe the pray-ers think the more people who pray for a miracle, the more likely it is to happen? The "I know it will happen" is simply hopeful optimism.

What part of the article displays a guilt-feeling victim of a horrible disease? Tired, sick people often rather stay home than go to any social function.

I just don't see those two themes in the article of 6/10/07 alone.

Sid Schwab said...

How about the title of the article? It's a quote from the girl...

Anonymous said...

Well said. It's amazing the sorts of things people are capable of believing.

I wish more medical professionals showed the same kind of clear thought and basic common sense that you displayed here.

Leon

Anonymous said...

You're definitely reading what you want to read from the headline, IMHO.

There can be a thousand reasons she doesn't want to go to a prayer meeting for her. Somehow, you attribute feelings of guilt at being sick. How about just tiredness from all the pain pills?

"Forgive me" is commonly used for the smallest of social offenses, by people whom go to prayer meetings.

I think she knows exactly of the predicament she is in. I join her and all her prayer warriors asking the Good Lord for a miracle. If that is not to be, I pray her suffering on this earth can be offered for souls in Purgaory, and that all involved can just accept the frailties of this life.

buckeye surgeon said...

There's a great scene in Brothers Karamazov where Ivan (the skeptic) and Alyosha (the monk) have a discussion over dinner about God and the meaning of life. Ivan proceeds to describe a series of stories taken from the newspapers that deal specifically with the suffering of children. A hungry little boy who stole a Count's chicken and was stripped naked and sent off as the prey of the next morning's hunt, torn to shreds by a pack of dogs. A little girl who is forced to sleep every night in the dark, cold outhouse by abusive parents, silently praying for "gentle Jesus" to help her. Ivan grants the existence of God. That's not what concerns him. What he can't accept is a world that allows an innocent child to suffer, even for one second. Who cares if God exists or not, if He is nothing more than a cruel, capricious tyrant.

gershwin's ghost said...

I believe that after the Bible, the Brothers Karamazov is the Pope's favorite book. True story.

Michelle said...

I can't agree with you more Sid. Just for the record, I am a Christian and I do believe in healing. But, one thing I had to come to grips with in regards to my recent surgery is the fact that God is big enough to heal through modern medicine!! What a friggin concept!
Its another case where 40% more or less of Christians give the rest a bad name...or may be its the other way around - we're always screwing up one way or another.
I know one thing - God is not some sort of vending machine where if you put in enough prayer, he'll give you what you want. I sincerely pity those who hold on to such a belief.

Doggerelle said...

Sid, Thank you for having the courage to say the things that most people would only say in private.
*If* God exists, isn't it possible that he created the vocations of the workers who've made it their missions to help others: if you turn round and reject that why on earth would prayers make the difference.
Sorry. I am bitter. My godmother died of breast cancer after refusing conventional treatment in favor of prayer and 'alternative' medicine. She died poor, disillusioned and having lost her faith. I cannot imagine making that decision on behalf of my child.

Charllotte said...

I must admit, your post made me really angry -- not in the sense that you made me angry, but in the sense that what you said is true. It cuts to the quick because this is a tender nerve for me -- its so frustrating when fellows explain away God by saying that praying for healing is challenging His almighty will -- but if God *asks* us to pray and be true with him, what are you supposed to do? And how can you explain away Jesus saying that the word of God will be followed by signs and wonders?

I agree that prayer should be accompanied by medical treatment -- but I'm still waiting for the day that we will see miracles. In any case, thank you.

Anonymous said...

llewelly, you've got it all wrong... we don't need God's consent to do things - in fact we often do things he tells us not to - so why would satan need his consent?

beajerry said...

Great last paragraph!

Prayer is often a selfish thing - used to comfort the person who's praying. Combine that with a cultish religious ritual and you marry that selfishness to ignorance.
Now THAT should be a sin!

Anonymous said...

religion and medicine are not mutually exclusive. i am a doctor. God made me. he made my mind. i can do what i do because of that mind. i believe i have the skills that i do because of God. why then does the church not see me as an instrument of God?

Anonymous said...

come on beajerry! what human being is not selfish? are you going to tell me you don't look out for number one? please. don't flame christians for a characteristic all humans have. i'm sure you think of yourself first in all your decisions and actions but because you're not christian it's ok for you?

Anonymous said...

God and religion are two very different things. people started religion, not God. and like all things people do, we messed it up. not God's fault.

md/phd kid said...

my great aunt was married to a religious protestant. She got cervical CA. he said let's pray. Stopped going to a doctor altogether, prayed prayed prayed instead.
She died while rotting in her bed. He said she never believed in God and was punished that way.
He got some sort of cancer later on in life and went to the doctor, got an operation, cured. What an a##hole!

Anonymous said...

You ask many questions in your blog and as I read them I know there are answers to them all. If you look at each of these questions and say, "What if it is true?" and try to disprove it, many answers can be discovered.
Gloria's family is a loving family. If you check out some websites you'll see the large circle of family and friends. You'll see the fun adventures and activities they do to help keep her spirits up.
Gloria has been through so much treatment over the past few years. Her body is weak from the treatment. She is tired. The article caught her at a moment where she was frightened. That happens with all cancer patients.(I am also one)This little girl needs to be allowed to grieve. She knows she is ill. We feel sadness and fear even when there is joy around us but it doesn't take over our lives. How can we fully understand joy if we haven't experienced sadness? This little girl truly knows the joys life has.
Medicine has worn out her body and the cancer had taken over. The family has turned to prayer. God can answer prayers in ways that we cannot alway understand while on this earth. Gloria and her family know that.
I have not met the Strauss family but I have an idea of what is going through Gloria's heart and mind. Nothing gives me more strength than my loving family, friends and faith. She is blessed to have all three. You treasure little childen, I can tell. So does the Strauss family. They have given life to seven beautiful children and are praying for their daughter's.

moof said...

Dr. Schwab, as someone who's been in several healing ministries, and who ran healing retreats for over 15 years, I've got to say that I absolutely agree with you.

People who do this sort of thing might have the right intentions, but what they don't realize is that 1) it's setting up a lot of people for a chance to lose their faith, and 2) I don't know how they envision God, but I've never seen him as a pushover who can be barraged into doing something he doesn't want to do - for whatever reasons.

They should follow their own teachings across the board - remembering that he's supposed to see everything with a clarity that we mortal humans don't possess.

We always taught people that if he moves his hand to heal, it's not because of our "holiness" or "merit," but because of his own.

Thank you for this post. I wish I'd had it on hand years and years ago.

SeaSpray said...

Hi Dr S - it has been most interesting reading all these comments. I do want to come back to say a bit more as soon as I have time without distraction. we are giving younger son a big graduation party on Sunday and am still preparing for that. Although, I couldn't resist responding to the interview! Quite clever! :)

Dan said...

Everyone must remember that Gloria Strauss and her family have tried ALL cancer treatments. If I recall correctly, there was a story explaining everything she has been through. Lots of chemo. Lots of experimental drugs. Because the doctor can't do much more, she had the option to try more treatment, last ditch kind of thing, or enjoy what the doctor believes are her final days. All cancer patients reach that point at some point. Don't confuse this with, say, a child who was recently diagnosed with cancer and her parents just don't want to treat her with chemo at all. This little girl has been through everything. The stories are catching her at the end, not at the beginning. i think that's important to note.

Anonymous said...

First, off I would like to say that i completely disagree with most, if not all, of your comments! I find it completely distturbing that someone with as high as education as you have, in the profession that you are in would even fathom ridiculing how a family deals with a terminal illness. You have got to be kidding me... In your blog, you say " what I have seen in the recent article is, pure and simple, child abuse"..Then you go on to say "Pray for comfort, pray for understanding, for strength. but get off this miracle thing". To even suggest that this families religious beliefs are child abuse is, pure and simple, out of line. And to suggest that this family needs to pray for comfort, understanding, strength and to keep up hope, as long as it is reasonable, is absoluelty wrong on your part. As long as it is reasonable??this family prays for all of those things... and they pray for a miracle. There is absoluelty nothing wrong with that. To even think that this family has not helped Gloria accept and understand what she is going through is absouluelty ludicrous.I am good friends with Glorias grandmother. She has read some of this article, and prays no one else in her family reads this. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. but, sometimes opinions should be silenced for the sake of feelings. So, since you have given your opinion, let me give you mine: Gloria Struass is a very strong little girl who has a very loving, wonderful family. To witness this families bond, strength, and love for each other when you are around them is absoluelty breath taking. You should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking that your opinion was neccessary at this point in time and then even having the guts to post it where gloria and her family could read. You want to be a non-believer, then be. but, don't for one single second, think that Gloria is not getting the proper guidence from her family in this terrible time. i can tell you what Gloria is gonna do if she sees this.... she will pray for you.

Anonymous said...

And furthermore,may i add to by blog, Gloria HAS recieved several different methods of treatment for her illness...she has been through everything medically possible since she was diagnosed. I encourage everyone including you, doctor, to go back and read ALL of the articles on Gloria.

Anonymous said...

I don't even know where to start with this... Total loss of words for you! Are you a parent? What kind of person are you to judge how they deal with the cancer? The word AMAZING does not even come close to desciribing Ms. Gloria. I too hope nobody else in the Strauss family reads this. If you are a member of the Strauss family and you are reading this please don't give up. Don't let one person's opinion stop what we have all been doing. Those of us that know Gloria and the family understand... and for those of you who are agreeing with this blog, Im sorry your life has yet to be touched by such an beautiful and couragous family. REALLY SID!!!! I think you should have done a bit more investigating prior to writing such hurtful words. The Strauss' would NEVER do anything to hurt a one of their children. Really I wish I had a quarter of their strength. If I were in their shoes I would be doing EVERYTHING possible as well. I do think (and I know D & K would agree with me) they have been very blessed with the out pour of love and support from the community and extended family.

Sid Schwab said...

I said in the very beginning that they'd followed treatment until it failed, and that I supported the idea of turning away at that point. The only thing I've criticized is the extent to which, by praying for miracles and getting her involved in it, she will feel at fault when it fails. And the article -- which is the one, as I said, that did it for me -- indicates that indeed that's happening. I don't doubt they love their children. But I think they are harming her with a PART of what they are doing. As to investigating: I'm responding to a series of articles in the paper. That's what I said from the beginning. In addition to suggesting that an eleven year old doesn't have the tools to deal with the failure of her attempts to live as her parents are making her live, I also -- separately -- question the whole idea of praying for miracles, because it presumes things about God that either make no sense or are flatly abhorrent. And, as I said, if anyone asked me, I'd advise against the sort of prayer they are -- according to the articles -- invoking. Because it's hurtful to the child. That's what I believe. I think what I said the opposite of mean-spirited. It's a call for reason in the face of an impossible situation. To allow the child to be free of guilt.

Jessica Morley said...

I am so sorry you think this way.

You have absolutely no right to judge Gloria or her family, especially when you have never even met them and don’t have your facts straight. I am a very good friend of the Strausses, and they are the most incredible people I know.

Gloria has been fighting this cancer for over four years and has exhausted all medical treatment options - her family DID NOT just "give up;" they've been experimenting with treatment trials for several years and none of them worked. She had no other medical options to turn to.

Fortunately there is something more powerful than any medicine - GOD. You seem to disagree and there's nothing I can do to change your mind, but it's the truth. You can choose not to believe in the grace of God or in miracles, but it's your loss.

Gloria is NOT being "abused" and I simply can't understand how you came to that conclusion. Like I said before, YOU DO NOT KNOW HER. You don't know how much strength and spirit this girl has. You don't know how much faith she has, or just how deep her relationship with God is. She has wisdom far beyond many grown adults. It's not as if she started believing in this miracle yesterday because some people forced the idea upon her. She's believed all along, and it’s because of her close and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Like someone commented below, if Gloria read this blog she would pray for you.

And where are you getting this "they're making her think it will be her fault if she dies" thing? That is COMPLETELY off base. I think you are confused because you don't understand our faith. No one ever said that we believe that Gloria will be healed if she is "godly enough" or if "there is the right number of people praying" - you are either twisting someone's words or making false assumptions. No one thinks that, least of all Gloria. We know that God is here with us always and Gloria knows this better than anyone. She knows that she did nothing to bring this sickness upon her, and she also knows that God has been by her side throughout this entire journey. We trust in His love for us, and we trust that God's plan for her is one of healing. There is not a "magic number" of people praying needed for a miracle.

Faith and prayer are so complex that it is impossible for me to explain this all in words. They have to be experienced to be understood, and I’m sorry that you have not opened yourself to these incredible gifts. Gloria loves God above all else and she certainly has no feelings of blame or guilt, toward herself or God – let me make that completely clear. You are very wrong in assuming this.

In conclusion, YES, WE BELIEVE IN A MIRACLE. This is not denial; this is faith. Please do not judge Gloria, her family or fellow believers. Gloria is a miracle already and has changed the lives of thousands of people, drawing them closer to God. You have the right to believe whatever you choose to believe, but don’t accuse or attack this family and their community. All they have done is put complete trust in our wonderful, compassionate God - the very best and most important thing that any person can do.

God Bless You.

Sid Schwab said...

To repeat: I'm aware of the treatments they've had, based on the articles. My reaction is also based on the articles, the most recent of which begins with "Forgive me, God."

I understand people feel blessed to be near her. I quite understand that people look at the world and see God's work. What I don't understand, though, is why, if that's the case, their prayers aren't like this:

"Thank you, Lord, for the misery you are causing this girl and her family. With each wrack of pain she feels, we praise You. When her kidneys fail, we will rejoice. We are truly blessed to witness this, and can only pray that when You are done working Your will on her, You will turn to one in our own family, so that we also may be blessed with Your grace as we witness even more closely Your love manifested through the destruction of our child. Blessed be Your name."

Truly, I don't get it. If what is happening to this child is a sign of God's grace, then why aren't the prayers like that?

Nor do any of you now what I have or haven't experienced of God, of prayer. Who, I could just as easily ask, are you to judge?

Anonymous said...

Sid, your opinion doesn't sit well with alot of people...I truely believe you are wrong... Your advice(if asked)would be to stop praying for a miracle because it presumes things about God that makes no sense... to pray for strength and understanding.. to me, that statement says that you do not understand this families faith. It suggests that they don't pray for thoose things, which is a completely faulse accusation on this family. In my opinion, you are totally off the path of which this family is on. If you read all the articles, did you know that this family has been taking family trips, going to plays, movies, visiting family out of state, going to church or prayer meetings (when SHE wants to, etc...
This little girl is living life to the fullest... as you suggest... to live guilt free. She feels no guilt, and she understands..

We all have a right to our own opinions, you as well. But, you make a statement/question in one of your responses to a blog comment... "Nor do any of you know what I have, or haven't experienced of God, of prayer... who are you to judge?"...To me, it seems like your whole blog was a judgment on this family.

SeaSpray said...

Dr S. - these perspectives are all so very interesting.

After my son's graduation party on Sunday I will come back to this. For now - I need to send my computer over to a neighbor's because it is too much of a distraction! Still lot's to do!

Sid Schwab said...

anon: my "who are you to judge" was in response to a commenter asking that of me. I know what you think of most of my opinions. What of the prayer I proposed in my previous comment? And for the final time: I'm aware, from the articles, of what the family is doing for the girl. Which is what any of us -- short of having her pray for a miracle -- would do. No one is changing any minds here. Some aren't reading very carefully. In any case, it is what it is. A child is dying, some see it as a gift from God and find it exhilarating, some are asking Him to change His perfect mind, some see an aspect of the praying as putting an onus of guilt on the child, some see an inconsistency in the idea of prayer, some see it as ennobling. It won't change as long as there are humans, and death.

Susan said...

I, too, have been reading these articles because I, too, currently have a child dying of neuroblastoma. I do not pray for a miracle for him. I pray for his suffering to be eased. I agree so much with a lot of what you said. When I hear parents of kids with the same cancer who are in remission praising god for "curing" their child and what a wonderful, glorious god he is, it always makes me wonder what they would/will say if their child relapses? Does that also mean He picked their child to live and mine to die? If so, how does he make those decisions?

I know you are getting flack for this post, but I appreciate your willingness to ponder these things.

Sid Schwab said...

Susan: thank you. And I'm sorry for what you are going through, and for your courage in sharing it. There's nothing worse in the world.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to get involved in a debate about religion. The Seattle Times story about Gloria and her family is NOT about religion.

Instead, it is about having hope and persevering through the darkest of times with faith, grace and dignity. The Strauss family just so happens to embody this through their religion.

Sadly, most of the readers seem to be mis-informed. I think that if they go back and read ALL of the articles they will have a better understanding of what has REALLY transpired:

Gloria went through 4 years of medical treatment (chemo, bone-marrow, experimental drugs, etc.) This family NEVER chose prayer over medical treatment until May of this year. It was at this time that their Dr. at Children's Hospital said that there was nothing more they could do for her. They could do Chemo again but Gloria CHOSE not to do that. She CHOSE to live out the rest of her life being able to enjoy her time and not be sick from Chemo and lose her hair etc. This is a very grownup decision to make and all terminally ill patients have had to make this decision at some point in time.

There are 7 children and they are a very close family. Even through these tough months they have gone on a family vacation to Ocean Shores, the girls have gotten make-overs, they have slumber parties, and all of the kids help each other. If Gloria is to sick to get out of bed, the kids come to her bed to play.

This family does not blame Gloria for her illness nor does Gloria think that. Gloria was just saying that she was glad to receive forgiveness when she started to lose hope and become sad. She was NOT asking for forgiveness because she did anything wrong. There's a HUGE difefrence there. It's like when a team-player gets down and thinks negatively and then the player snaps out of that funk. And they say "Hey team, I'm sorry I created some bad energy and was thinking negatively. I'm back in the game now and am ready to win".

And they were not forcing her to go to that prayer service. Doug is a Basketball Coach and he and Kristen were hopeful that she would decide to go. They did not force her; they encouraged her. And ALL loving parents have had that coach-like attitude to get us to do something; to push us and make us reach even when we didn't want to.

And in response to the statement about the people praying were selfish I think you need to re-read that Quote that you used. Those praying are humbled b/c they SEE how pure and sweet and kind Gloria is even through this painful experience. It's the same as being humbled and blessed when you volunteer in a soup kitchen and a poor person touches your life. ALthough we're the ones volunteering for them they tend to give us so much more back b/c of how they touch our hearts. Their touching our hearts lasts a lifetime but thefree food we provide them only lasts until they are hungry again. So we can be humbled even when we are praying and helping others. And that is NOT selfish.

Doug and Kristen are VERY aware that Gloria living may not be God's plan. And if you read the latest article you would have read a statement where Doug says this. However, like ANY parent would they can pray that if this is not God's plan to please change the plan to include her life. That's a real request that any parent would make. They know that she may die today but they HOPE that she lives for years. They love her and no one blames Gloria for anything!

I'm saddened that people have chosen to make this about religion instead of seeing a terminally ill situation first-hand. It's wonderful that the Seattle Times has made this available for people to see the process (emotionally and physically), to celebrate life, family, community. This 11 year old girl has brought more people together than most people do in their ENTIRE lives. She has touched people that are religious and non-religious.

She's smart, funny, articulate and beautiful. And if you listen to Gloria in her own words (which is also available to hear on the website) she states that if you're not religious just to think positively. SHE includes the non-believers even though the non-believers don't all include her and her family.

And her survival has nothing to do with HOW MANY people pray for her - that's an ignorant statement and I shuldn't even waste my energy responding to that crap. No where does it say that or make that claim! On the contrary, it has to do with prayer and positive thoughts in general. And thinking positively DOES work in all aspects of our lives.

I'm NOT religious but I admire Gloria for her strength and courage and I respect her and her family for their beliefs and that they are steadfast in their beliefs.

How would you face your death if it was a slow and painful experience? Would you handle it as gracefully as this 11 year old child?

Anonymous said...

Also, we all need to keep in mind that this is written by a reporter. Perhaps he puts a spin on the story and/or chooses a headline that we don't agree with. Since this is written by a 3rd party it may not actually exemplify reality. just a thought.....

Karen the LairMistress said...

I live in Seattle, and I've been reading the articles about Gloria Strauss and her family in the Seattle Times. I have very conflicted feelings about this story. I feel very concerned about this family, and pray for them regularly; but at the same time, there's something vaguely morbid about this whole story, and I can't quite put my finger on what it is. Perhaps others can figure it out better than I can. I do believe that death is "not the end", and that the kid is going to be fine, whatever happens. However, I'm most concerned about the fact that her family and friends are putting their faith and trust at stake on whether she lives or dies. They clearly don't want to let her go; and I don't even want to imagine their emotional and spiritual crisis whenever she crosses over. I really do wish prayer and meditation could do concrete healing, even at a distance, regardless of whether a Higher Power has made up his/her mind on the outcome or not. I'm still trying, at the age of 42, to figure out how the heck praying works and what it does...

Sid Schwab said...

Karen: I admire your willingness to struggle with it rather than swallow anything whole. I don't understand, either, the idea of praying for a specific outcome in any context. To believe it will "work," as I said in the original post, necessarily implies things about god that are inconsistent with the idea that god is perfect, all knowing, and all powerful. Even more so, the idea that the more people that pray for a certain thing, the better. But I'm no theologian. I'm just a person interested in the world and, like you, willing to question religious wisdom. I like to quote Richard Feynman, who said he'd rather live with doubt than to believe something that turned out to be untrue.

Karen the LairMistress said...

Dr. Schwab: have you read the latest article on Gloria at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003799218_gloria21.html ? Not a good situation at all, alas...

Thanks for your reply, in any case...

Karen said...

Sorry; here is the correct link...

--Karen again

Anonymous said...

Go here.

Karen the LairMistress said...

Alas, wee Gloria is now hospitalized, in a medically-induced coma, due to extreme pain that cannot be controlled, even with very high (100 mg.) doses of dilaudid (sp?). She had a very good couple of weeks, walking around and going shopping; but just in the past several days has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, according to the blog by Jerry Brewer, the Seattle Times reporter covering this story. We'll just have to wait and see. I tried praying for the recovery of Irish musician Tommy Makem (one of my very favorite folksingers) from lung cancer; but he passed away on August 1 anyway. I'm missing him desperately. However, at least he's no longer suffering; he lived a very full life and leaves a marvelous musical/cultural legacy; and he nearly made it to age 75...

JKM said...

Dear Sid, Thank you for expressing this. My mother died, when my siblings and I were teenagers, of a rare brain tumor. We took care of her ourselves and during the entire ordeal we were never allowed to say good-bye or express anything other than the fact that she would be cured by God if we prayed hard enough, believed enough. Out father spent the entire last year making us feel that if she died it was our fault - we were not faithful enough. The years it took me to get over this are indescribable - it is indeed child abuse. We should have spent that year with her telling her good-bye...her three kids loved her even if her husband didn't. And no decent God would ever wait for people to reach a magic number of "prayers".

JKM in Seattle

Anonymous said...

Really read the articles, spend some time understanding the passion and convictions of the family and Gloria. Your response only highlights your lack of insight. Their prayers are for a "healing".. a healing in Heaven or on Earth. The miracle is not just a healing but the changing of many lives - that has already happened. Life is not black and white.. there is more than one way to love, prepare and care for a child in this situation. Who are you to judge if this is the right or wrong way for Gloria to prepare for what cancer brings her. Open your eyes, your heart and your mind.

Sid Schwab said...

According to today's article, she and her family still expect a miracle cure. People who see her are moved. Fine. But what's at play here is the need, in the face of tragedy, to deceive ourselves and others. That need is strong enough that people see a miracle in the slow death of this brave girl, no matter what goes on: were she healed (she won't be), that's a miracle. As she's not healed, it's a miracle, too. People are affected (who wouldn't be?) by her suffering, and for many, who can't look life straight in the eye, they find a way to see God at work in it. Fine. The good news is that she has been given a way to deal with her suffering; the bad news is that it's a delusion; but at her age it doesn't matter. The sad thing is that adults are deluding themselves as well. We have enough self-delusion to go around, in this world. If it helps to deal with suffering, I suppose there's not much harm. But when it becomes a way of dealing with everything -- which is what's happening to our whole country -- it threatens our survival. That's reality. But reality is hard, and people would rather retreat to fantasy. It's only human.

Anonymous said...

Doctors....Do you actually think your MD gives you the title of god too? You stick to what you know and let the rest of us stick to what we know. My word....doctor heal thyself!!!! You are about as smug as any human being can be. You learn how to become a doctor through what the US government tells you is required, basically you learn inside a box!! Just because you have not seen a miracle in your time does not give you conclusive evidence that a miracle is not inside the realm of this reality. This child has enough understanding of the reality that has consumed her life to know that what is paramount here is the will of GOD...We Catholics believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, his suffering was a way of cleansing our souls and purging our sinful lives before his father in heaven. The point of our lives and the miracle is that in our suffering we accept the will of the father and my dear doctor, the miracle is already in our midst. We are witnessing some of the greatest conversions in our time due to the suffering of this one sweet and innocent and faith filled little girl. She will live whether it's here on earth or with our Father in heaven but guarenteed you will have to look a little closer than you have to see the gift of her life and what it has meant for countless hundreds if not thousands. The prayer that has gone out into the heavens just for this child has no doubt cut through the inner spaces of Gods heavenly kingdom and reached into the furthest recesses of the human spirit to cause conversion and renew the faith of human beings all over the world. One life, that is all it takes is one life.
I hope that prayer for this child does something even bigger I hope it takes the hardest of hearts and breaks them from the sin of pride and reaches in where the holy spirit would wish to dwell and take away the walls that bind you and people like you from the simplest of joys...hope!
I myself think that childhood cancers and disease is due to vaccinations. They should be banned! It should be re-researched and from the ground up the whole thing revamped! Vaccines are toxic to human beings. They are grown in mediums from aborted human beings cells. They are grown from animals using things like their kidneys and they are cut with some of the most toxic chemical combinations and preservatives known to man. This is what we inject our precious children with????? So please, lets all pray for this wonderful human being and hope to God that she will live and if she should not let us all give thanks to her life that she is a testimony of faith in spite of trial and suffering and let us remind ourselves that in order to be closer to God we do need the faith of a child to help us, we are not in control but God is. We are not sure what tomorrow will bring but at least we know that with God our lives are more blessed and more comforted and more uplifted. People are our biggest gift from God and so long as Gloria is surrounded with the people she loves and who love her back, she is more blessed than she could ever ask for and her life is more full now than perhaps it would ever be if she were to live to 100. Please stop trying to douse the faith and hope of so many because you are a doubting Thomas. The miracle is for you too, be open to it and stop trying to defend your position. You are not in control here, you never were and it's obvious God is.
Go Gloria Go!!!!

Sid Schwab said...

In other words, she's lucky God chose, rather than to allow her to live, to make her suffer a slow, painful, and premature death. Hallelujah.

I think it's telling that the above commenter also claims, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that vaccinations are the cause of all ills.

Look: I'm expressing an opinion here. I hardly think I'm God, as any reader of this blog ought easily to recognize. People who see God at work in this child's suffering are entitled to their opinion, just as I am to mine. It's a view of God that I find repugnant, inconsistent, and devoid of any basis in reality, even if you accept that there's a world beyond reality. As I said, the view of God that allows such suffering as a way to teach people to believe in him, and a belief in a God that's so fallible as to change His mind if people pray in certain ways, is one that I don't share. I pray that it's not the case. If it is, we're in deep, deep trouble. Because it's a God that's capricious and highly imperfect. Of course, those who need to reconcile such tragedy with religious faith set it up so it's a no lose for themselves: any way it works out is proof of healing, of prayer, of a perfect God. There's no other system like it: no matter what happens, I told you so.

Finally, this: I don't intend this to be a religious blog. I saw a medical tragedy unfolding, and I commented. I won't change your mind, you won't change mind. That's the way it is with faith. It has nothing to do with discourse. So I hope to be able to restrain myself from further response here.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you can't fight your way out of your box. Kids die from vaccines, become sick, crippled even develope cancer. A scientific truth too! Vaccine injury ??? Ever heard of it? ...
You were being critical of the family that chooses to speak highly of God in spite of the suffering of this child. Doc, no human being born into this life escapes suffering. I can see that you have deep struggles with your own controls in this life. Doctors struggle. You don't have every single answer for everything, but you choose to serve people and when your science and your ability are arested and you have maxed out what you can, people continue on without medical science and reach deeper into the spiritual realm and as they continue to they are bringing with them so many others who have been touched profoundly, you have no handle on that and no control over it. Free will is in this life, people suffer in this life at the hands of others. People can turn a negative into a positive but the outcome is in the eyes of the beholder. You sound so childish for actually writing "I told you so." In that sentence alone you sound so confused as if you think that your medical science alone has the answer and the rest is all useless mantra.
People through-out history have used prayer as a means to intervene in times of struggle and pain, to bring hope where their is despair, and to feel the spirit of God every present in their lives by calling upon him in times like Gloria's. Free will caused the suffering so we are all bound to experience this otherwise we would not grow, when we are forced to grow we are forced to realize the human condition and try to fix it and to ask for devine intervention when we do, which is why we would not need you a doctor, scientists and the professions. People put here on this earth by the hand of God. Those people are also bound by the laws of the same laws of this life and some choose a path for good while others for bad and some try to behave like God while others instead are humble before God, admitting that they are human and humans are weak. Divine intervention can take a whole event and turn it around 360 for the greater glory of God, sometimes this happens if it is Gods will, but be certain that God should not apologize to little Gloria (blasphemous) for it is in Gods time we are here and in Gods time we cross over to be with him in paradise. This is the gift of our faith, paradise is far greater joy than this earth which is passing. Everyone in lfe has suffering, but it is in how you choose to spend that time on earth, living it with joy or with anger and hate and doubt and faithless, or join the hundreds of millions of humans that have gone before us and alive today sharing a common theme which is this Faith hope and love.

Sid Schwab said...

OK: when I wrote the "I told you so," I was -- as any minimal reader could tell -- referring to what is said by those who have stacked the deck: no matter how it turns out, it proves whatever it is that they are arguing for.

As to the rest of it: which is it? God's will, or vaccinations? You can't argue both ways. If what's happening to Gloria is a sign of God's grace, then He's calling the shots. Or are vaccinations more powerful than he is? If He answers prayers, then by definition, he's in charge of everything, including the outcome of vaccinations. If they cause cancer, then it's either God's will, or he's not paying attention. I realize belief is not about proof. But it ought at least be internally consistent. I have a belief system that is. I don't think the system that sees God's will in Gloria's suffering and also expects prayers to be answered, is. Go ahead -- unless you say something as wrong as that "I told you so" comment, you get the last word. Whatever you say, it's true. (Although I'd point out that turning a thing 360 is to return to where one started. I'd go with 180. But that's just me.)

Anonymous said...

I think if you go back and read what I wrote, you will find that I did say that everyone has free will, even the doctors and scientists who create vaccines. Some do their job for good while others are there for the almighty dollar. All I can say for sure is that doctors learn American medicine in the parameters of a box. You are educated to arrive at the MD level once you have followed the outlines and directives of what our government says you must learn and be certified in.
Sure grants are given out to do studies and research yes,but only those findings that help the direction they want the study to head in will they approve of, the rest? Well it's work well done of course,but in the end no less disposable.
As far as vaccines? Many well meaning doctors follow the medical prescriptive and give out these harmful concoctions, to even their own, and funny some don't. Be that as it may, the point about whether God will intervene is to say that he will change the outcome of human hands if it's his will. Well sorry sir, this is not the case. Humans will either be here on earth to do good to fellow man or to do bad, the ones that do the bad make it difficult for the ones that wish to do good. God sometimes cannot alter the will of man because this is not why he created people, people are suppose to know instinctively right from wrong, good from evil and so on.
The question of whether or not God can make Gloria well is not even worthy of an answer, but to a human being struggling with this problem as you view it, understand that God would know what happens to ones soul through the power of suffering. It happens in real life all the time, it's a typical story of love and patience and understanding. Parents are notorious for using this application of reward and consequences. "Patience is a virtue" "Save the best for last",
"Wait for the light at the end of the tunnel" Their is always a rainbow after the storm and at the end of the rainbow is a pot of gold....and many other virtues, this is the reasonable expectation through suffering. You always see people rise up from the depths and be applauded and cheered when they overcome. So the truth is if Gloria does not find victory over human suffering and live to see the fruits of her suffering throughout the future, she will know that her rewards are eternal which are far more wondrous and far more astonishing and far more satisfying. This is the legacy that has been handed down through generations and we as Catholics believe that we are born to eternal life when we die. So the answer is NO God's will is not always going to produce the healing of the illness brought upon us through man's own misdoings but he can soften their blow and he can deliver people from their sin through the suffering of others. This happens to be one of the mysteries of our faith. It's there in your hospital every day I am totally certain of it. I think it's a better approach to this uncertain path which only God knows the outcome than to say that this little girl in the end might be getting set up to fail. Nonsense, she has already succeeded, I can only hope that I am having the same affect in my struggles in my own life. She is to be blessed in a unique way even more than she already is. That is going to be my prayer for her.

Anonymous said...

Gloria died this morning. As a non-Catholic person of faith connected with her community, I, too, have stood a bit aghast at the holy-rolling heavy handed use of "miracle" and the convenient transfer of specificity when the obviously desired "miracle" of total healing became unlikely, faith not withstanding.

That said, the faith here is genuine and loving, not punishing. Whatever you think of the parents' choices, all who have come into contact with this child have remarked on her selflessness and love. It's not put on. It's faith. You may not understand it. You may not agree with it. You don't have to. Gloria has changed my understanding of death and dying. I only hope that I can face my own time with as much courage and acceptance as she showed.

Sid Schwab said...

Thank you for your post. I'm saddened by her death, and I never doubted the sincerity of her faith, or that of those around her. And I understand it. Nor do I argue with anything that allows one to face and accept the reality of death. From experience both professional and personal I know the pain the family is suffering, and I hope -- and trust -- that their faith will make it more bearable.

Anonymous said...

Billy Graham was asked what was the one thing he wanted to ask God when he got to heaven. He said, "I want to know about pain. Why did you create pain to be experienced in our lifetime?". That's something that many of us wonder about. Even Billy Graham. I believe that whatever God says, that's ok with me. The answer is much, much bigger than I am able to comprehend or understand.

Any parent who is losing a child to a terminal illness should pray for whatever they want, however they want. Pray for comfort. Pray for understanding. Pray for peace. Pray for healing. Pray for help in accepting whatever happens.

Ace Jones said...

As an atheist, I stand in firm agreement with Sid. As someone who is moral and godless at the same time, It hurts to see someone so small and innocent spend what few days she has left hoping for a miracle from a prayer greedy tyrant.

My mother told me once that God took Grandma because he needs another cook... I suppose God needed another ten year old for uh... um...

Anonymous said...

I'd like to ask...what choice did Gloria really have? They had tried all the treatments, including experimental one, and all had failed. I didn't see a conflict because I saw the Strauss family leaning on their faith, but still caring medically for Gloria. This seems clear to me from the articles...is someone getting a different conclusion?

Finally, my take on prayer is that it's not like God is a gigantic vending machine that you ask stuff from, and if it doesn't happen then it's a failure. That would be childish. Prayer is about a relationship with the Creator, not so much to understand but to accept what life brings. Not to be smug, because I can't really explain it if you don't feel it, so you can believe what you want to believe about that.

Sid Schwab said...

As I said in my original post, I had no problem with their decision to end medical treatment; I also indicated understanding of the role of, and need people have for, faith. Having read several prior articles about her, this post was specifically in response to the reliance on prayer for healing in such a way as to put a burden on the child, as manifested in the title of the article to which I responded: "Forgive me, God, I'm tired." She had more than enough to deal with, without the added burden of feeling guilty. Once again: it's the implication that healing will occur if there's enough prayer and faith, and in particular the resulting need in the child to feel she must ask God's forgiveness if she's too tired to follow the perceived rules.

I did diverge into stating the obvious: a God who answers prayers is, by definition, one who is either imperfect or capricious, neither one of which seems consistent with the Christian idea of Him. But that's beside the specific point I was making about Gloria.

Gloria Strauss Fan said...

I am a Seattle resident who has been following the home town story about Gloria Strauss and her struggle with cancer. The most interesting thing about her ongoing story to me has been that each installment contradicts the negative arguments that people like Sid and myself and other readers have raised against religion. It is as though we had stereotypes about the abused child of fantatical parents in our minds, and in this particular story of Gloria, the stereotypes don't fit. Maybe the stereotypes never do fit, and that is the danger of tagging them to a particular family such as the Strauss family. From the articles, and GLorias own clips, I get the impression she was a willing player in the drama. Maybe you and I would not have chosen to spend our last days this way, but Gloria admitted she was an aspiring actress and was intrigued that her interviewer considered her a star. Listen to her prayers in the audio file made a couple days before she died -- this is a young woman who has come into her own. The label that Sid has applied to her "abused child" based on one sentence she uttered seems off base to me, and just as silly as the poor misguided soul who has been ranting about the evils of all vaccines. I think the lesson here is that we should all become as educated as we can about religion, about medicine and science, and look at the positive contributions of all of those as well as the negative. And that is what I learned from Gloria Strauss, that a person can be optimistic and happy and full of love or they can be bitter and nasty and resentful. The choice is ours. I really enjoyed reading Glorias words and attitudes, with her positive outlook and generosity, more than surly Sid's blog. And this is not just because I like to ignore the worlds problems in my fantasy land, as surly Sid suggests. We can change the world by treating other humans with dignity and grace, more effectively than with ill founded accusations and stereotyping.

Sid Schwab said...

I don't think her story at all contradicts what I said about religion. It helped them all. If it didn't, what would be the point? And, as they prayed for the impossible, they changed the criteria by which they could call it successful. If they didn't, how would it work?

Gloria indeed showed grace, courage, and amazing maturity. I don't happen to believe that the only way humans can face life and death with grace, courage, and maturity is by believing in patently false ideas. On the other hand, I'm enough of a realist to know that most need it, and therefore, as a physician who has dealt with death many times, in that context I'm glad for it. And I'm glad that as it became obvious even to the Strauss family that she was going to die, they abandoned the false hope and gave her the permission she needed to die.

I think the reason the story touches people so deeply is that in seeing one child facing death with such grace it allows us -- for a moment -- to ignore the millions of children dying in pain, starving, raped, killed in war. It allows us to look away from reality. The vision of one child smiling and praying her way to death erases our own fears, convinces us -- against much evidence to the contrary -- that the death of a child is a sign of God's love. Who wouldn't want to feel like that?

Gloria Strauss Fan said...

It is true that Gloria's uplifting story distracted me from the everyday horrors of suffering multitudes of children. The story about Gloria did not skip the misery of the pain she suffered, but it was certainly not the focus. Your reply has reminded me that the Seattle newspapers have also been running a story about local billionaire Bill Gates latest cause -- a noble effort to find a vaccine for malaria. When the choice came between reading about a beautiful bubbly young blond girl suffering in Childrens Hospital, and the story that featured a comatose baby being buzzed by flies in a third world country, I chose Gloria. This distraction is not something that can be blamed on the Strauss famiy or the Catholic religion, however. You have reminded that these far away children are real, and I will start reading the series in the paper about the Gates Foundation extraordinary efforts to combat malaria. Gloria also mentioned in her blog that she wanted to be a nurse and help people, her example being the disastrous tsunami in Indonesia. As I mentioned before, the articles about Gloria do tend to break down our negative ideas about organized religion, and even though the readers of the story may have focused more on one child for a while than the masses, Gloria herself often mentioned the importance of helping all suffering people.

Sid Schwab said...

It's clear from the articles and from comments here that Gloria was a special and wonderful child. It's horribly sad; and her bravery is deeply touching.

Anonymous said...

Sid,
Today I attended Gloria's funeral. You imply the Strauss Family just prayed and withheld medical treatment. You are totally wrong. They did everything they could, all treatments failed. Yes they also prayed. We all did.
They are a wonderful family in our community I suggest you talk about what you fully know the facts about. A little more compassion would become you.

Sid Schwab said...

anonymous: re-read my post. I didn't suggest that at all. A little better reading would become you.

Anonymous said...

Next time, focus on a topic that you have a better understanding of. Your commentary on whether or not prayer is helpful in a situation like this couldn't be further from the truth. Who are you to judge the power of prayer? Until you've taken even one step in the shoes of someone like Gloria or her family, kindly keep your comments to yourself.

Sid Schwab said...

No, anonymous, I won't. But you are quite free not to read them. And, as someone who's cared for people with deadly illness for over thirty years, I'd say I'm pretty well qualified to judge the power of all sorts of modalities, including prayer.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr.

I can't tell you how much I appreciated what you have written re: Gloria Strauss. As a local of the Seattle area, I have read each installment in this series with a sense of disgust. I was unsure what exactly it was about it that bothered me (other than the fact that I'm an atheist and the entire baloney prayer aspect made me ill)... You put to words what were only random and scattered thoughts of my own. While I weep for this little girls family and their loss, the circus like atmosphere... the almost cult like fascination with her.... left me shaking my head after ever reading.

Paul said...

If faith healing works why have we never seen an amputee healed or a child born without a limb healed?

cathauto said...

I'm a bit late to this but just read from your current post (actually not so current: 2/24/08 "Funnyman"... I had it starred in my google reader).

I had a child 9 years ago who had holoprosencephaly. As a believer in god (at that time) I prayed every single day of my pregnancy for a healthy child, with no apparent reason to think I would not have one. When my daughter was born we were (obviously) devastated and just utterly heartbroken, to say the least. My reason for recalling this sad story is because my husband and I cried over her crib in the hospital, our tears falling onto her face and into her mouth, and I just believed that an all-loving god would grant this prayer... She lived for 6 short weeks and died on my (yes, my) birthday. I remember going to the doctor for my 6 week check-up post delivery and the nurse looked at my chart and said "God don't give you more than you can handle". I never went back to that clinic.

Full disclosure: I am an atheist now but didn't convert (or should I say de-convert) until around 3 years ago. That is another story, steeped in logic and reasoning.

Sid Schwab said...

cathauto: there can be no greater tragedy or heartbreak. I see a beautiful child on your website. It doesn't erase the horror; but I'm glad to see you've found happiness.

cathauto said...

Thank you for that, Doctor. If only they were all like you...

Catherine

Anonymous said...

You did briefly note that the Struass family did not only rely on prayer, however I still read many comments on here that attack the family for not treating the child.

I would just like to underline the fact that the family tried every single treatment that was possible. The prayers they were asking for were not simply trying to "demand" God to save her. The prayers provided support and hope for the family. I was a student of Mr. Strauss, and a family friend. They did everything in their power to help their daughter; treatment and prayer.

I understand the point of your article, and once again I acknowledge that you are not saying the Struass did not treat their child. Since it does not apply to the Strauss family, then why even mention them. I find it disturbing that an educated man such as yourself couldn't find a more tactful way of expressing your opinion.

Sid Schwab said...

anonymous:

It seems you missed a point, just as you say some commenters did. My point, for the umpteenth time, was that the family was setting the child up for blaming herself for the failure of cure. It was never that they were praying for cure, per se. It was that they were forcing her to attend prayer circles, etc, etc, when she felt too ill. As I said, it was the title of the particular article that put me over the edge: "Forgive me God..." What a sad thing for a dying child to believe. She needs forgiveness for failing to do whatever it is that she and her family think god wants her to do.

In insisting that if she just believed hard enough everything would be fine, they (unintentionally, I assume) implied that if she wasn't cured, it would be because she failed to believe enough. THAT'S the issue. THAT'S what I called child abuse. They went way past the time when, for the child's sake, they should have simply given her comfort and freed her from demands and expectations that were doomed to fail.

And THAT, very specifically, is why I mentioned the Strauss family.

Anonymous said...

Sid.

As a family friend of the Strauss family, I attended those prayer services, and at no point did Gloria or her family ask God for the direct healing and cure of her cancer. In fact, Gloria would pray for everything and everyone around her, and never mentioned herself in her prayers. Gloria came to terms of her illness a long time ago, and she understood fully what was happening to her. She never blamed herself for "not praying enough" or "not meeting God's prayer quota" as you have strongly suggested.

There was also at no point in time anything that could be associated with "child abuse" Gloria was simply an amazing child who loved her family and showed significant amounts of grace in such a difficult time. For her that grace came from prayer and her religion. If prayer made her that amazing child who showed wisdom beyond her years, then who are you to pick that apart.

Sid Schwab said...

anonymous # zillion: as I've said a zillion times, the title of the article in the paper about which I was writing was "Forgive me, God..." Beyond that, I've said everything I have to say at this point, in the post, and in many responses to comments like this. Read them all. Or not.

M.M. (West Seattle, WA) said...

"Sid"... you really don't understand what's happened. I saw this page over a year ago and I was sickened. I won't try to make you take my opinion on what you've said, but I will show you my side at the least:

Gloria asked for forgiveness because she felt she hadn't done enough yet in her life. And if you were terminally ill that age, you wouldn't consider your life very long. I don't believe I've done enough in my life yet either.

I hope you weren't saying that this was in any way negligence on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Strauss. Because they put Gloria through countless days - years - of treatments, and the pain and effects of each all fell short. So when they saw the cancer beginning to consume her body further, they didn't wish to add to that pain.

And at that point, you could say that they simply "let go". But that's only half of it. They "let God". And regardless of whether you believe in God, a god, a spirit, a higher power, etc, you have to believe in something. And she did. She made the most of her life, being selfless the entire time. I still remember her name, her words the week before she died:

"Help us to rise up, in a new way" She was referring to her final battle with cancer, of leaving her body, the Earth. For us, she was referring to changing for the better, realizing that there is hope, that a young girl can utter more mature words than a 30-year-old to speak some truth.

My main point in leaving this comment to you is this:
By saying this, you're almost trying to discredit what this determined, selfless young girl did in the final months of her life. And by any standards, that's cruel.

Perhaps if you'd ever open your eyes and at least examine our position here... you might partially understand why we believe what we believe. Determination overcame the Nazis. Love was Ghandi's weapon. Hope was South Africa's defeat of apartheid. Faith was Gloria's victory that may not seem like a gain to you, but she lived her life to her fullest.

Sid Schwab said...

"Gloria asked for forgiveness because she felt she hadn't done enough yet in her life."

Yeah, right. Then who needs forgiveness? We need to forgive God (if he were deserving of it) for putting this little girl through all that suffering, and making her feel guilty on top of everything else. It's simply nonsense. I'm sorry she was brought up to feel that way. She needs no forgiving. If he existed, it would be god who did.

I understand how hard it is to rationalize the suffering of a child with a supposedly loving and all powerful god, and at some level I admire your struggle. At some point, however, one needs to change the explanations in the face of the facts. What I am trying to "discredit" is the entirely inconsistent belief system, not the girl, who never got old enough to see the falsity.

Anonymous said...

Sid Viscous; Why do you Atheists feel the strong need to smugly defend yourselves via attacking the faithful?

You are spiritually vacant...Hollow. You believe in nothing -religiously speaking, so how can you defend "nothing"? Why would you defend "nothing"?

Where does it get you? Does it recruit new Atheists for you?

We, the faithful, have The Holy Bible, which we believe is the word of God. We have something to defend.

Where's your Atheist "bible"? Oh that's right... I forgot -You don't have one...

And don't tell me that your "bible" is; logic, science, intelligence, and common sense -as if the faithful have been duped into believing in a Santa Claus, called "God".

No, you Atheists are way too smart to fall for that old lie, again, right? You are certainly much smarter than those faithful fools.

You Atheists play that same old tired rhetoric card, all of the time, as if to say -in contrast to you -that the faithful are illogical, stupid, and naive.

There are former Atheists (who have more formal education than you) who have converted to being believers in God.

Are they, all of a sudden -stupid, and illogical? -Or, are you just a small minded idiot, who has obviously been scarred by some traumatic childhood experience, to the point where you feel the need to rant and bash the faithful, on your blog?

Sid Schwab said...

Anonymous:

Why do you faithful feel the strong need to smugly defend yourselves via attacking the atheists?

Anonymous said...

Nice "projecting" there, doc.

Who created this blog -me, or you?

You wrote a blog, and uploaded it to the world-wide-web, that clearly attacks the faithful, by viciously bashing a family, and their terminally ill daughter, for leaning on their faith after they had, first, exhausted all medical treatment possibilities, as their family was going through an enormously emotional, and enormously tragic time. You have no shame... but you then try to turn it all around and project it onto us, that we -the faithful, are the ones attacking you, the Atheists.

No, quite the opposite. We are defending ourselves. You Atheists are the ones on the offense.

Your blog is posted on the Internet -not for the purpose of "debate", or for "awareness". It was posted as an attack on the faithful, hidden behind the seemingly harmless guise of "debate", and of "making people aware".

Did you become a medical doctor to help people? Then why trash, attack -and risk hurting, that family while they were down? You didn't have to mention that family by name to talk about your Atheism.

You can be an Atheist -I really don't care. My problem with Atheists is not that you don't believe that there is a God. My problem with Atheists is that you attack the faithful.

We, the faithful, are busy minding our own business, practicing our faith. However; you Atheists are the dog with no bone, so you -instead, chew the furniture of the faithful.

You Atheists are on the offense and you are militant. You don't use a tire iron to attack us -rather; you attack in a passive-aggressive way, as seen by your blog, and the faithful are sick and tired of the attacks.

You atheists are constantly nipping at the heels of the faithful.

Don't agree? Go to the You-Tube web site and see how many Atheist videos that are uploaded, there.

One Atheist video author even has an animated image of a ninja warrior posted next to his videos.

That's a strong hint that he is obviously looking for a fight. He knows that his videos are attacking the faithful.

See how many Atheists comment on those videos, by verbally attacking the faithful.

Usually, the words that they use to attack the offended faithful, are; "dumb"; "asshole"; "moron"; "dumb-fuck"; "uneducated"; illogical"; "go fuck your mother"; etc...

Atheists are not interested in debating. They're interested in attacking.

You Atheists are militant. You're on the offense. For you Atheists, the Internet is now being used as your grass-roots medium to channel your agenda for offensively attacking the faithful.

Look: Highly educated engineers designed the ovens, used to cremate millions of murdered Jews, in Nazi concentration camps.

Highly educated Nazi medical doctors performed ghastly, excruciatingly painful and cruel, medical experiments on millions of Jewish children, without even using anesthesia -in Nazi concentration camps.

So I'm suspicious of Atheists' self-proclaimed "educated intelligence", and "logic".

Go ahead and believe that there is no God. I really don't care. I do care, however, when you Atheists attack the faithful.

Stop attacking the faithful.
Just knock it off.

I don't see you attacking a Muslim, by name, within your blog, probably because you're afraid that he'd find you and cut your head off in two seconds, if you did.

However; you Atheists see us "peaceful" Catholics, and Christians as "easy-pickin's".

It's "safe" to attack us, so it's "open-season" on us.

I'm not apologizing to Atheists, for my faith. You Atheists should, however, apologize for your attacks on the faithful.

I have faith and you don't. I'll believe in God and you'll believe in your "logic". I'll continue to practice my faith, in peace, regardless of your non-belief in God. Just stop harassing us with attacks.

The constant attacks on the faithful only serve to make you Atheists appear insecure, and emotionally weak.

Sid Schwab said...

What a bunch of whiny self-pity. For starters, I suggest you re-read my entire post, possibly after taking some sort of sedative. Note what I said about the positive aspects of faith. Note that I'm not attacking faith, but a particular iteration thereof, the kind that leads a dying child to say "I'm sorry, God." Which was the point of the post. It wasn't even, assuming you can read it, against prayer, per se.

It's only in recent years that I've felt like speaking up. I have no problem with people of faith who need it to get through a tough life, and who manage to keep it to themselves. It's sad, in my opinion, that they can't enjoy the world without magical thinking; but as a private matter it does not harm.

It's when faith has entered the public arena to the extent that there are school boards foisting creationism on us, which makes us dumber, which affects me, as a citizen of the US which is competing with the rest of the world.

It's when presidents think their god is telling them to invade other countries, which led to countless deaths and has nearly destroyed our country.

It's when people fly into buildings in the name of their god.

It's when religionists pray for the death of our president. We know prayer doesn't work, of course; but we do know there are plenty of crazies out there who, hearing that, would be happy to carry out what that idiot thinks is god's work. Right? Haven't we seen plenty of it? In Kansas, for example?

It's when the anti-science aspects of religion slop over into health care. Or when it makes people make religious arguments against anthropogenic climate change.

It's when our politicians make their faith a selling point. When religionists are forcing their views on the rest of us that the rest of us have a right -- a need and a duty -- to push back.

You see it as attack. I see it as defense. You find it necessary to resort to the tired and off-point "nazi" trope. I find it useful to point out the inherent contradictions in certain beliefs: such as the idea that gods respond to prayers. Or that the world is we see it is compatible with the idea of a god that is all knowing, all powerful, involved to the point of answering prayers, and loving.

If people believe things that are patently false -- that the earth is 6000 years old, for example -- they ought to expect other people to point out the wrongness. Because, as in the examples above, such thinking endangers us all.

If people, intentionally or not, put a guilt trip on a dying child, it deserves comment. (And I realize it was a subtle point, to which most religionist commenters responded defensively, without taking the time to think or to read carefully. But deep reflection, of course, is not really part of the deal.)

Take the time to read my post with understanding of what I was saying. And slog through the comments to find my responses.

And see if you EVER see me use the words to describe the faithful that you ascribe to atheists. Nor, if you were to read Dawkins, or Harris, for example, would you find them doing so. Making arguments, pointing out flawed thinking: what is wrong with that? And, if you were to read them, you'd find a similar thread: it's because of the extent to which religious thought has begun to endanger us all that they write. None has a problem with private faith (other than the general concept that we're better off facing reality) and certainly not spirituality; it's that, as the world gets more and more dangerous, people are resorting to magical thinking rather than facing our problems.

Finally, this: this post (a year old, by the way) is on a small little blog in a tiny corner of the blogosphere. I express opinions sometimes. Last I looked, I have that right. You also have the right not to read them. I think it's time you exercised it.

Sid Schwab said...

PS: your "projecting much" opener was weird, since I was just quoting back, with only a slight change, the opening line of the previous anonymous comment. Yours? Hard to tell when anonymi haven't the courtesy to identify. If it was yours, you have a short memory. If it wasn't yours, you need to read more carefully. But we already knew that.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sid Schwab said...

anonymous: first of all, I never "condemned" the love they gave the child. I reacted to the pressure put on her by the praying for cure, and her asking god to forgive her for not going to prayer circles.

Second, I delete comments that promote businesses: in this case, the writer's cashing in on the story.

Anonymous said...

"And if there's a God it stands to reason that there's a Satan. Why don't people ever seem to blame him for anything?"

Um, doesn't it say in the bible that Satan can't do a damn thing unless God gives him permission to? Maybe it's time to actually read that thing, ya think?

At any rate, thank you so much for writing this, I can't believe someone else is saying this so effectively. I'm not necessarily against the concept of the Christian god but this isn't something godly - it's just like you said, child abuse, pure and simple. Poor kid. :(

Anonymous said...

Great article. Great writer. Great person.