March 20, 2002

There's no doubt Andrea Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub, one by one. There's also no doubt her accomplices included mental illness, social isolation - and bad religion. Bad religion is a graceless form of religion that dwells in the dark, preying on sick and vulnerable minds and souls. It's a loveless form of religion that flourishes in fear and delights in doubt. It's a hopeless form of religion that obsesses over such notions as original sin, eternal damnation, and the devil. It's a punitive and abusive form of religion that heavily influenced the mother of Noah, John, Paul, Luke, and Mary. "The Bible says the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour," Russell Yates, Andrea's husband, told Time magazine. "Jesus says, `Resist the devil and he will flee from you.' Andrea did not have the strength to resist.'" Psychiatrists testified that Andrea Yates was severely depressed and delusional, possibly suffering from paranoid and catatonic schizophrenia. She also tended to isolate herself and her home-schooled children from family and friends. She also believed demons surrounded her and she was fulfilling a prophecy by drowning her five children last June. "She believed that the children would be tormented and perish in the fires of hell unless they were killed," Dr. Melissa Ferguson testified. According to Time magazine, Yates told jail doctors the death of her children was her punishment, not theirs. "She had failed her children," Time reported.
"Only her execution would rescue her from the evil inside her - a state-sanctioned exorcism in which George W. Bush, the former Governor and now President, would come to save her from the clutches of Satan." No one saved Andrea Yates or her children from the clutches of bad religion. The bad religion she encountered teaches that newborn children are sinners, inherently evil. It teaches that women are wicked descendants of Eve, who is responsible for Man's fall from grace. It teaches that illness is a punishment for sin. Bad religion is taught by people like Michael Woroniecki, an intinerant street preacher who was a sort of spiritual adviser to Rusty and Andrea Yates. Woroniecki was arrested several times in the early 1980s in Grand Rapids, Mich., for berating people with a bullhorn and his distorted version of the Bible, according to the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press. Woroniecki left Grand Rapids after that and began touring the country with his wife, Rachel, and their children, living in a bus. The Yateses followed their example and also lived in a bus for a while. Russell Yates met Woroniecki at Auburn University in the 1980s. They reconnected in 1998. "Andrea, moved by the repent-or-burn zeal, wound up exchanging letters with the preacher and his wife for years," Time reported. In one letter, Michael Woroniecki wrote, "the role of women is derived . . . from the sin of Eve" and that bad children come from bad mothers, Time reported. In another letter, Rachel Woroniecki wrote, "Life is so short. It is so very cruel. It is so lonely and empty. You must accept the reality that this life is under the curse of sin and death," ABC News reported.
Bad religion isn't just abrasive. It's abusive. According to Survivors of Spiritual Abuse (SOSA), these are some of the signs of that sort of abuse: -- Antisocial withdrawal accompanied by depression. -- Auditory hallucinations. -- Belief that his/her soul is "lost," "sold," or "possessed." -- Compulsive or obsessive thoughts. -- Confusion about family roles and relationships. -- Evidence of frequent trance states. -- Exaggerated sense of guilt and responsibility for others. -- Extreme compliance with authority figures. "Spiritual abuse is an abuse that encompasses many other forms of abuse," SOSA explains on its Web site, www.sosa.org. "Many of these abuses are physical, and many are emotional. It is an abuse that encroaches on the mind and soul, along with the body. "The person being spiritually abused is often told, and made to feel, that they are evil, be it for causing a `holy' person to lust, or for being severely ill, as in some cases of exorcism, or for just being born." Bad religion leads to judgmentalism, cynicism and despair. It alienates people from each other, from themselves, even from their own children - and from God. Bad religion isn't just bad. It's toxic. There's only one antidote to bad religion. The grace, love, hope, and community of good religion. (C) 2002 The Commercial Appeal Memphis, TN. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved
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