The Andrea Yates Case: The Christian God 0 vs. Christianity Meme 3
On June 20th, 2001, Houston Texas resident Andrea Yates drowned all five of her children, ages from 7 years to 6 months, in the home bathtub. Most people have been shocked and are in disbelief of a mother whose maternal instincts had been so misdirected. She has pleaded innocence by reason of insanity in her murder trial. (She has since been convicted of murder.) Her much publicized case has drawn a lot of international attention, but little of it has been about the role of God and Christianity in the tragedy.

Andrea was clearly struggling with mental illness--psychotic depression and schizophrenia, in particular. Her first bout with postpartum depression followed the birth of her fourth child, Luke, in 1999. She had several suicide attempts and four psychiatric hospitalizations. A psychiatrist who treated her warned her against having more children. He wrote, "Apparently patient and husband plan to have as many babies as nature will allow! This will surely guarantee future psychotic depression." Her condition stabilized and the couple believed she had been cured. After the birth of their fifth child, Mary, and the death of her father, Andrea fell into another depression and had two more hospitalizations. According to her sister, she became irrational after the death of her father. She had another suicide attempt just weeks before killing her children. Dr. Melissa Ferguson, medical director of psychiatric services in the Harris County jail testified that she was, "one of the sickest patients I have ever seen."

Much of Andrea’s psychosis had religious imagery. She was obsessed with images of Satan. About the murders, she told her doctor, "It was the seventh deadly sin. My children weren't righteous. They stumbled because I was evil. The way I was raising them they could never be saved... Better for someone else to tie a millstone around their neck and cast them into a river than to stumble. They were going to perish [in Hell]." During her detention, she was concerned about whether the mark of the beast (666) was on her head. She said that, "Governor [George W.] Bush would have to destroy Satan." [Note: Her misquote of the Bible comes from Mark 9:47: "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." It not about killing children, but killing those who offend child believers.]

Andrea and her husband Russell are devout Christians. Andrea was home-schooling her children, no doubt with a strong religious slant. The couple probably believed, as many Christians do, that it was their duty to God to procreate. The couple is likely to have sought religious council and help during their troubled recent years. Without doubt they and others prayed to God for his help with her mental illness.

While the Yates family was deeply steeped in Christianity, the Christian God conspicuously failed to help Andrea, Russell, or their five innocent children. He did not make her well, get her the help she needed, or prevent her from killing the children. The omniscient, omnipotent Christian God turned a blind eye to the cries for help of a devout, Christian family in a desperate situation. Andrea Yates disproves the Christian concept of a benevolent God that answers the prayers of devout Christians. (Any other conclusion amounts to blaming the victims.) So, the Christian God gets a score of zero in the case of Andrea Yates. (Perhaps he was too busy assembling jihadis under the alias of Allah for their September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.)

If we now look at the case from the perspective of the Christianity Meme, things become more understandable. In Andrea and Russell Yates, the Christianity Meme had two willing and able hosts. The Christianity Meme called the shots. Andrea and Russell simply obeyed. They had a passel of kids for infection by the Christianity Meme through home schooling. The Yates were likely convinced that having children and raising them in the Christian tradition was their sacred duty. Recall that the Christianity Meme's only goal is to infect and spread itself, regardless of the consequences. In the Yates, it had a good thing going. The Christianity Meme has no concern for the mental and physical health of its hosts, however a healthy host can live longer and infect more people. The Christianity Meme set up the creation of more children in order to further itself. It lost some ground in that the five children were killed. Instead of having 7 life-long infectees and however many descendants, the Christianity Meme ended up only with two (so far). Out of the bargain, however, the Christianity Meme landed a nice memorial to itself (see the photo), bearing testament to the strength of its infection in the Yates. More importantly, the Christianity Meme emerges without any blame or responsibility for this tragedy.

To tally the score, God gets 0 points for a complete no-show. The Christianity Meme gets 7 points for the infectees, but loses 5 to death. Finally, it gains 1 for dodging blame, so the total for the Christianity Meme is 3. Note that since his wife's conviction, Russell Yates has declared that he intends to have more children, so the Christianity Meme may yet garner more points.