Andrea Yates has now been found not guilty by reason of insanity for murdering three of her five children. Society has attributed this crime to mental illness, and Mrs. Yates will disappear into state mental hospitals for many years. She was a psycho who murdered her children, end of story. Everything will return to normal and the nation's children are safe once again.
But one last question lingers. Shortly after the crimes were committed, Mrs. Yates stated that she had to kill her children to keep them from going to hell. "These were their innocent years. God would take them up." Are these two sentences the psychotic ravings of a mentally ill killer, or correct "Christian" theology? Compare her two sentences to the following quote from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, "God, in His mercy and love, watches over little children who are taken by death, and they go to be with Him in heaven." It appears that the two are identical as to their meaning! That meaning is that innocent children who are taken by death go immediately to live with God in heaven for eternity! In fact, Christian authorities today tell us that the souls of the five murdered Yates children are in heaven with God. Andrea Yates came from a Christian background and understood this theology.
The simple psychotic killer explanation ignores a very important aspect of her life, her religious beliefs. For a fact, her mental illness did not cause her to believe that deceased innocent children are taken up by God to heaven. That belief is not a symptom of psychosis, it is a religious belief. What might have happened had she not held this belief? Without this belief she had no reason or explanation for murdering her children. This was the only reason she gave. If she lied about murdering the children so as to send them to heaven, the motive falls back to some type of hatred. Perhaps she hated her situation and directed that hatred toward the children. But according to every account I've read, she loved the children.
When psychiatric help failed her, two avenues of escape from her untenable situation remained, to flee or commit suicide. She had already failed twice at suicide. Both of these escapes required abandoning her children, whom she loved, to an unknown future. She 'knew' the eternal future home of her children would be either heaven or hell. If they died in their innocent years, heaven was assured! If they lived past their innocent years, salvation would require an active action on their part and she would not be around to guide them in that direction if she fled or committed suicide! There were also only two choices for each of her five children, a sure heaven versus a possible eternity suffering in the fires of hell. Time was running out, as the eldest son was rapidly growing out of his innocent years! Two choices, only one of which was acceptable! She made that one choice and finalized their eternity while they were still innocent. This false "Christian" theology which persuades some depressed Christian mothers to murder their innocent children can be detailed as follows:
Is it any wonder that depressed Christian mothers murder their innocent children and send them to heaven? Goodness, perhaps we have a problem! Andrea Yates either used this "Christian" theology as a reason to murder her children or as an excuse to justify the crime. Either way, the children are with God in heaven. Religious child murders are not new. Newsweek Magazine reported shortly after the Yates murders that:
To this day, no one will admit that mental illness and religion combined to seal the fate of the Yates children. After five years we have learned little or nothing from this tragic event, so these type of murders will continue! Why? Because we cannot question our religion, that is unacceptable! We must believe and defend what we are told. This untouchability is what gave us the sexual abuse of children for many years in one great denomination. Why can't we question our religions? I am a Christian, and I certainly have questions! I am a Christian who has read the Bible. Our religions are not infallible!
When Andrea Yates reached the depths of her depression she resorted to her religious beliefs, not the psychiatric help which had previously failed her! In an altruistic act based on mainstream Christian theology, she eliminated any possibility of her children burning eternally in hell. They will never encounter the temptations of alcohol, drugs, sex, and other worldly influences which may have led them down the wide path to destruction. They will never have to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior! She made the decision for them while they were still innocent!
Mrs. Yates informed psychiatrist Park Dietz that at the time of the killings she was praying that her four sons would go to heaven. Apparently she was not certain that all four boys were still in "their innocent years." However, she had no concern about six month old Mary because, "she was the most innocent of all of them." She must now be relieved to hear great evangelists proclaim that all of her children are presently with God in heaven. That is, she totally succeeded! Andrea Yates is now free from the fear and worry regarding where her five children will spend eternity. The same constant fear and worry which helped drive her insane. She has succeeded according to the best of our Christian authorities.
To date, there have been no winners in this tragedy. When these five children died, society lost what they might have become. Paul will never deliver your newspaper, you will not see John in his school play, Luke will not date your daughter, Noah will not become a lawyer, nor will Mary become a famous novelist. In a sense, Andrea Yates stole from all of us when she committed this crime. What we can know for certain is that similar murders will occur in the future. At least six more have occurred since the Yates murders, so the problem has not been resolved. In fact, the problem has not even been recognized! The cycle continues!
Some good needs to come from this tragedy! Our society now has another opportunity to end this cycle of senseless child sacrifices. Waiting for the next opportunity will result in more small dead bodies! So let us not waste this opportunity! When someone reaches the same bottomless pit depths of depression which Andrea Yates sank to, if they do not murder their child or children, it will be worth whatever efforts we have invested in prevention. Hold your child or grandchild in your arms and you will know this to be true.
We have a short moment in time before the tragic Yates event is relegated to history. In this moment we need to accomplish two things. First, support efforts to better understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses such as postpartum depression which can result in these tragedies. Secondly, ask your pastors and religious leaders to discuss, study, and debate the Christian theology relied on by these mentally ill mothers to justify their acts. Should it even be possible to logically justify the murder of innocent children through Christian theology? Ask this question! If any Christian theology sanctions the murder of innocent children, then that theology is wrong! Let us not fail our responsibility this time. End the cycle! Learn the truth and be set free from fear and worry! Stop the murder of innocent children!