I just caught a glimpse of the grotesque reality show (a redundancy, I know) “17 Kids and Counting,” which chronicles the “family values” of Arkansas evangelicals Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 17 children. The segment I saw was shot during the final weeks of Michelle’s 18th pregnancy and included discussions of the medical precautions being taken to meet the obstetric challenge presented by a 40+ woman with 17 previous births. The hospital and medical sequence concluded with Jim Bob announcing unctuously: “Ultimately, we’re just putting our faith in God,” or something to that effect.
The heck he is. I would love for once to see someone really put his faith in God and forego the fruits of centuries of patient scientific work based on empirical proof, not faith. Jim Bob cloaks himself in the superior virtue of the pious, and yet his actions in seeking out the best medical advice and care are indistinguishable from a heathen secularist.
One might say, “Well, what’s wrong with a belt-and-suspenders approach? Take advantage of medical science, but it can’t hurt to throw in a little prayer as an extra insurance policy.” What’s wrong is the implication when announcing your prayer policy that you are morally superior to those of us without such a policy, even as you behave (rationally and understandably) just like everyone else.
The baby was delivered safely on December 18. I can guess who will get the ultimate thanks. It’s unlikely to be the unsung generations of empiricists who have triumphed over the childbirth mortality of mothers and infants, a condition that has been the human race’s God-given fate for most of history.
And another guess: in those countries still plagued by high rates of childbirth mortality, parents pray with as much fervor as any Arkansas congregation.