Why Did the Schaibles Let Their Children Die?

The DA says Herbert and Catherine Shaible, members of the First Century Gospel Church, watched their two sons die because they refused to let them see a doctor. The Schaibles have another explanation: It was God’s will.

A First Century Gospel Church member tells me about another member who gave in. His daughter was four or five and got very sick, and her father took her to the hospital, where she stayed for a while. The father now is under court order to take her for medical care if she has more problems.

The member who tells me this ponders: “So they both got court orders to get medical care—one member took his daughter. Herb did not take his son. Who is right? I don’t know. It really makes you decide what you believe is the truth.”

The detectives who took Herbie and Cathy Schaible’s statements on the night Brandon died were stunned at their seeming offhandedness in the face of losing a second son. But how they really feel, Dave Schaible says, is another matter. Alone with Dave, Herbie cried over Brandon’s death. It was painful for Herbie to be portrayed by the legal system, as Dave believes he has been, as uncaring, or “cuckoo in the head. Herb really wanted to stand up in court and say, ‘I’m not that way! The God’s honest truth! I’m not that way!’ What people don’t understand is that we live for our children.”




In the end, what’s most stunning about First Century members is the spiritual hardship they’ve chosen. No matter how wrong—or ludicrous—praying for a sick child instead of taking him to a doctor might be, the burden of that failure rests with Herbie and Cathy Schaible in a way that really is beyond the legal system: God failed to save Kent, and then Brandon, because of some spiritual roadblock in Herbie and Cathy’s relationship with Him.

Imagine trying to live with that—with the belief that your prayers went unanswered because there was, in fact, something wrong with the prayers. Something wrong with you. It’s hard for an outsider to make sense of that.

Yet as I keep going to services, there’s also no getting around the congregants’ severity of purpose. They have chosen a path to their truth. On this point, they command respect: That path is narrow. There are no shortcuts. In this way, too, they’re at cross-purposes with the world in which the rest of us live.

At services through the heat of July into August, Pastor Clark keeps hitting the contest between our faith in God and the Devil’s stranglehold on us, a constant refrain. There are few empty seats. At every service, hymns—“Look to the Lamb of God” and “Christ Receiveth Sinful Man” and “Why Do You Wait?”—rise sweetly into the unrepentant dead air of late summer.

I sit in the back, near the bookshelves of slim primers for young children to read during the service. One Wednesday night, a little girl can’t reach an open shelf. I offer to help, and she eyes me for a moment—not in suspicion, exactly, more in wonder: Who are you? You are … different. She relents, handing me her books. I put them on the high shelf, and then we shyly look at each other again for a moment, before she turns and slips back, to the safety of her family and church.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 < PreviousView as One Page

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • J joseph

    Praise Jesus Christ for someone in this wicked world still believes and demonstrates faith for the healing of body.

    • Chrissy

      I agree with this comment^^

    • ChuckV

      When it takes letting your child die of a treatable disease to show your faith, something is very wrong with your faith.

  • J Joseph

    If nothing is at stake, there is no faith required.

  • leppy240

    they are only doing what they have been taught all their lives. I am pretty sure they never expected the kids to die. they are good people under some messed up teaching.

  • S.I. Rosenbaum

    wow. What I want to know is why this is not taken to other extremes. Why don’t you say, the lord will provide food without us ever going shopping, and then wait for food to arrive? How is that different from the faith required to eschew medicine for the sick?

    I also want to know how they explain people getting better by taking medicine, without prayer. Is that the work of satan? did God favor those people for some reason without them knowing it?

    there is something about the relationship between god and bodies that makes faith healing different from waiting for groceries? Is there something fortifying about the death of these children?

    • PsychicSecretary

      Exactly. Why do we need the artificiality of food to be nourished?

      Whatever this is, it is not Christianity, which does not require human perfection for God to hear our prayers.

      And how can these churchgoers claim genealogies are not important? Have they read Genesis, Numbers, I Chronicles or Matthew?

  • hagdirt

    I was taught that God works with human hands.

  • Georgina Yang

    Miracles work through a Messiah, currently dead for the last two thousand years. The rest of the time we are bound to plebeian laws of nature.

    • Michael

      I can’t say I agree with what these people did, but in reponse to this comment:
      Newsflash: Jesus is alive.

  • kc49

    Since they opt not to wear seatbelts, I would like to know if they lock their doors.

  • Antonette

    Using their logic that using seat belts is an affront to God, saying that you don’t trust him, then using crosswalks would be too. Or obeying red lights, or not walking into traffic or trying to put out a fire that’s burning down your house …

  • DRig

    I have faith in a Christian God too, but I have faith that He has also empowered us to be able to care for ourselves. If you believe that God is all-powerful, then why can’t you believe that people have vaccines, medicines and seat belts because that is God’s will and He created intelligent people, empowered to do these things to protect us?
    Have faith and trust in God, but also understand it may be His will that you get antibiotics, vaccines and birth control.

  • jane smith

    Letting your child slowly suffocate to death as he struggles to breathe for hours and hours isn’t faith-it’s torture. These people are disgusting.

  • Max Freeman

    These vile, twisted people should be put away for life. It’s ironic how much evil is possible through religion.

    • typedriven

      They’re not vile and twisted. They are simply people who believe in the example of Christ, as they call him. I agree with you that much evil is possible through blindness disguised as religion, but you have only to read this article with an open mind to see that these are genuinely loving, trusting people. Their inability to think about the modern world is a separate issue.

      • Charles Stevens

        I agree. I am an atheist and anti-theist; when I first heard of this family I felt very much like Max but I see now that these people are mentally ill. They had no intention of harming their child and they did not want their child to get sick or die. It is the same as any other crime being done through mental illness. These people need to have their remaining children removed from their home, but imprisoning them does not seem right. They need to be institutionalized.

  • typedriven

    I have a lot of respect for people’s faith, of whatever kind. People don’t believe what they do because they have malice or a deliberate lack of logic. They have deeper reasons for their faith. Yet when it comes to something like this — letting your children die for lack of medical care because you believe that Jesus didn’t use medicine, he used faith, and that God will heal you if he chooses — just defies a very basic logic. After all, these same people drive cars with gas engines and use electricity to light up their homes. You might ask: did God give men and women their intellectual gifts to help them understand the world? Certainly, they’d say. Did men and women use those God-given gifts to understand mechanics and combustion and electricity and so forth? Certainly, they’d say. Do you use an electric chainsaw to cut wood for your carpentry projects? Certainly, they’d say. Yet, wasn’t Jesus a carpenter? Did he use an electric saw? Well . . . they’d say. So you’re saying that you’ll take advantage of almost everything in the modern world, including things Jesus didn’t have, and yet medicine, where men and women have used their God-given gifts to develop mastery over illness and death, is some sort of exception for you? The single most important thing in the modern world, provided for you by God, and you won’t use it? These people should be sent to jail, not for negligence, but for a simple inability to think.

    What adds a further kink to the logic is that these people consider themselves to be living by God’s law. Thus, if you rely on your faith, your devotion to God, for healing, then it would stand to reason that your family would be healthier than Godless families that don’t live by faith. Yet, somehow it has escaped their notice that the children of the Godless aren’t dropping dead all around them, while they are losing child after child. Seriously, it’s not that their faith is wrong. It’s a simple lack of an ability to think outside certain very narrow limits of logic, of ability to actually look at the world around them and reason about what is there. They are truly a hazard to themselves and to their defenseless children.

  • MGN

    “They have prayed for greater understanding. To understand what it is they were doing wrong, what it is that would lead God not to answer their prayers to save Kent, and then Brandon.”

    The simple answer is: there is no god! Or they just happened to pick the one wrong god out of the 500+ that are worshipped in the world today.

  • JoJoJas

    Religion is bull. Face it. The truth shall set you free.
    -from an ethical Humanist

  • LeeAnn Gerleman

    A childhood friend of mine had a Christian Scientist Mother . She never got vaccinations, or stayed home sick from school, if they got really sick, they paid a person in the Church to pray for them. One time the father and one of the children was in a rollover car accident. The little boy (2) was in a coma for over two weeks. The doctors said they could save him, But his Mom paid for practitioners to pray for him. Finally the Father (not a Christian Scientist) signed the approval for the surgery. They got a divorce over it later, but the little boy lived. but he was brain damaged, acted like a 3 year old the rest of his life. They eventually remarried many years later. My friend grew up to be a teacher and would you believe it? Married a dermatologist! LOL.