A cadre of psychiatrists told the court hearing her trial that she was clinically insane.
Why is someone considered insane when Gold talks to her but perfectly normal when she talks to God? Every day millions of people around the globe talk to God. (It’s called praying.) Most sensible people consider these monologists mentally stable; yet, should the object of their conversation – God – ever answer back, we brand them crazy.
That seems a little unfair.
Nearly every week we hear a professional athlete attributing his sports achievement to God, as if God considers, say, an auto race as important and worthy of His time as, for example, the situation in Iraq. But no one ever commits these athletes to a mental hospital. Instead, we smile and nod, pleased that the power of prayer has been affirmed yet again by someone worthy of God’s love and Nextel Cup favors.
A few days ago we picked up a pamphlet distributed by an organization called the Christian Reformed Church, a Calvinist sect competing in an already crowded market for souls. The brochure enumerated distinctive teachings the CRC holds dear. The first one was, Our God Reigns. Which was explained thusly: “The CRC teaches that nothing in the world happens outside of God’s will. Our creator is in control of all things. No forces in heaven, earth, or hell can frustrate what God promises to do for us (PS.2). That does not mean that everything that happens is God’s will. We do many things God does not want. Our disobedience sets into motion many disastrous events that are our own doing. In spite of that [sic], we may still exercise our human freedom. But our actions and decisions are under our heavenly Father’s restraining, providing care.”
Now, we’re not nearly smart enough to untangle the Gordian knot of logical fallacies contained in the CRC’s manifesto. But we do know this: There are many, many people who devoutly believe whatever it is the preceding paragraph is trying to say. And not one of them is considered insane.
Reasonable folks might point at the murderous Texas mom and say, “God would never have told one of His flock to do such a monstrous thing.”
But isn’t that a bit presumptuous of us to assume we can know what God says in His private conversations with his worshippers? After all, He’s previously told Medieval Englishmen to get on their horses and slaughter Arabs. He’s previously told obedient Spanish Catholics to torture and maim heretics who refused to confess their essential evil. And even today He’s telling thousands – millions? – of orthodox Muslims that Jews, Americans, and anyone else who refuses to get with the program need to be exterminated.
The case of the Texas mom illustrates a terrible dilemma people of faith must face every time they bow their head in prayer: God may hear our pleas; but woe is the day when we actually hear Him answer back.