Guilty by Reason of Worldview

  The jury has returned its verdict: Andrea Yates isn't insane. She's legally responsible, knowing right from wrong, and she'll spend the next forty years in prison. So why did she kill her five children?   The case is intricate and convoluted. But apparently one major factor behind her homicidal behavior was a severely distorted worldview. Perhaps the legal profession should add a new category: "guilty by reason of worldview."   One striking fact distinguishes this case from most murders: Mrs. Yates claims she thought she was doing her victims a favor!   What worldview programmed her to "help" her children in such a bizarre way? A new book details the scenario that allegedly drove her thinking in that direction. Suzy Spencer, author of Breaking Point, told ABC's "Good Morning, America" that Yates was profoundly influenced by the hyper-judgmental message of traveling evangelist Michael Woroniecki.   In his native Grand Rapids, Woroniecki was arrested at least five times, primarily for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. His final arrest there occurred in 1981 when a woman claimed he confronted her while she was waiting to buy tickets to the circus -- calling her a hell-bound sinner and berating her until she burst into tears. In a plea bargain, the city dropped charges in exchange for Woroniecki's promise to stop preaching and to move out of Grand Rapids.   But the vocal denunciations continued elsewhere. Brigham Young University reports that Woroniecki came to its campus where he loudly denounced "Mormon scumbags," shouted "Brigham Young is in hell, along with the pope and Billy Graham," and accused students of crucifying Christ. He left campus in handcuffs, and Brigham Young's academic dean commented, "All he wants to do is create a scene, and he certainly did with his negative message." reports that Rusty Yates first met Woroniecki in the 1980s. The Yates family became financial supporters and later bought a used bus from him when the itinerant preacher upgraded to a newer one. The two families exchanged letters for several years, and Andrea avidly read the evangelist's newsletter, "The Perilous Times." Included were statements like: "At birth a woman inherits the contentious nature of Eve . . . " Women are witches, it said, and bad children come from bad mothers.   Andrea's impressionable mind may have fit the pieces together in what would seem to her a logical pattern: She was such a wicked person, that the only way to prevent her children, therefore, from reaping the deadly wages of her sin was to dispatch them to the next world before they reached the age of accountability. Killing them would be doing them a favor.   Twisted thinking leads to twisted actions. The Bible informs us, "As a man thinks in his heart, so he is." It commends the people of ancient Berea as "more noble" because they didn't uncritically take the word of any human teacher. Instead, they "searched the Scriptures daily" to test "whether these things were true."   Would things have been different if Andrea Yates had let Scripture be the arbiter of her teacher's statements? We can't say. But a more scriptural worldview would certainly have improved the likelihood of her not becoming "guilty by reason of worldview."         For further reading:   "Did preacher sway Texas mom?" The Grand Rapids Press, 23 January 2002.   Information about Michael Peter and Rachel Woroniecki can be found here.   "The Evil Inside: Andrea Yates Believed She Was Possessed," ABC News, 21 January 2002.   Excerptsfrom Breaking Point may be read here.   Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, The Problem of Evil (Tyndale House, 1999).   Bible passages cited: Proverbs 23:7; Acts 17:10-11.  


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary