Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo: Christian Woo: Faith Healers

Good evening heathens and hell-bound friends and foes alike. Tonight you are going to be “treated” to another edition of Wednesday Woo: Christian Woo. My wife has been taking care of our sick daughter all week and is exhausted to say the least. So I’m stepping in again for this weeks article.

Faith healing is nothing new to Christianity or religion in general. However the role of the faith healer has taken on a completely new life with the advent of mass media. Television has allowed faith healers to put their act out there and gain an incredibly wide audience and since all of this stuff is televised, it can’t possibly be fake, right?

Let’s take a look at some of these healers…

Benny Hinn

Peter Popoff

Pat Robertson

Okay, that’s enough videos. Needless to say these men obviously have an otherworldly power that allows them to cure the blind, make the lame walk, and make lots of people fall down. Yet, each and every one of these people are nothing more than con artists, given a wide audience willing to drop hundreds of dollars for the chance of being healed.

It’s sad but I once believed in faith healing to an extent. The bible even lists it as one of the gifts of the spirit in 1 Corinthians 12.

“To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;” 1 Cor 12:9

Now, I say I believed in it to an extent because I never believed that Benny Hinn had any kind of power. I remember watching one of his videos as a small child and thinking, “this is like pro-wrestling, these people are not really being healed, it’s all one big act.” I asked my mother, why he didn’t just heal everyone? However, I did believe that healing was something that Christians with enough faith could do.

When I entered the ministry, I had no interest in any kind of faith healing career. Yet, I would pray over people during church services and they would claim to feel power surging through them and were healed of countless issues. None of these healings were real, and often times you had to jump through hoops to even see them as something that could require healing.

A few of my miraculous healings…

  • I cured my aunt of breast cancer, she actually had a lump removed and it wasn’t cancerous, it was benign.
  • I cured my great-aunt of colon cancer, except it wasn’t healed and about a year later she had to have a huge mass removed from her intestines.
  • I made a lame man run…..countless times….the same guy. We had a guy who would hobble in, request prayer, I’d pray and he would then run around the building. He actually just had severe arthritis and the placebo affect allowed him to run.
  • I cured a woman of her cataracts….except she had to have them removed a few months later.
  • I have cured peoples money problems
  • Healed families
  • and a plethora of other things

I want to point out that in my case, I never sought people out or claimed that I had any healing gift. In fact if you would ask me, I would claim that I knew i didn’t have the gift of healing…if I did do you think I’d walk around with severe arthritis and a wonky eye?

Anyway, I began to really question faith healing the more people claimed that I had healed them of things that I knew they were not healed from. I realized that faith healing is really nothing more than a bad placebo affect, I say bad because the placebo affect actually works. People would come forward for prayer, usually at the end of a euphoric service, they feel really good and so they imagine that their ailments are better or completely cured. Later when the euphoria wears off, the healing is gone as well.

Faith healing works in the mind of the believer, who seeks out someone to heal them. However, faith healers take advantage of this and seek these people out, putting on huge events and gathering in millions of dollars. These folks still go home and the healing wears off, their finances are harmed, and when they ask why the healing didn’t last it will be thrown back at them that they didn’t have enough faith.

The real reason though is that these people have absolutely no power whatsoever. They are charlatans and go around selling snake oil to anyone willing to buy it.

James Randi built a career debunking these scam artists with the most famous being his expose of Peter Popoff.

Dateline exposed Benny Hinn

Pat Robertson was exposed by a former producer of the 700 club.

Although one could argue that Pat Robertson was exposed when he claimed that god told him to run for president and that he would win…

Each and every time one of these people come forward and are debunked, their ministry takes a short hit and yet a few years later they are back at it once again. Peter Popoff still sells his miracle oil, Hinn still knocks people over, and Robertson continues to claim healings each and every day. How do these people continue coming back after being exposed?

Sadly, it’s simply due to the fact that their followers want to believe they are real and so they will deny any evidence against that idea. They believe in these healers because they want to believe that faith healing is possible. They grasp at any idea in which they might be cured of whatever ailment they suffer from. Unfortunately, in many cases, they will continue these beliefs until they are bankrupt or dead.

Faith healers are nothing but bullshit artists that rob from the weakest members of our society. It’s sad, it’s disgusting, but it’s something that isn’t going to go away anytime soon…

If I’m lying, then I pray that one of these healers has enough faith to call down the wrath of their god and strike me dead at this very instant!

 

Well….

 

I’m still alive…

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My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 20

For part 19 of my journey, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

The next day, after the big blowup at the church, seemed like a relatively normal day. I awoke, went to work, came home and started doing some chores around the yard. My son brought the phone to me and I found it was the head pastor who had called. What he said would change my ministry entirely.

“Hello,” He said, “I just wanted to say how hurt I was last night during the service. Now I don’t want to worry you, but there are rumors that the district is going to strip you of your credentials. I don’t want that to happen and so the district has agreed that if you will get up next Sunday, apologize for the disturbance you caused, and say you were completely wrong, they will forget the whole thing.”

The only thing that I could say at the time was, “I’ll think about it.” He told me to think and pray about it, knowing that I would eventually do the right thing, the thing that god would want me to do. I hung up the phone realizing, that for the first time in my life, I was actually being blackmailed. I felt sick to my stomach, sad, hurt, and beaten down. How on earth would god allow something like this to be done to me after I had stood up for actual biblical teachings?

I don’t remember much from that week outside of the prepared statement I made. It wasn’t very long, about two paragraphs but had taken me almost the entire week to write. Every time I sat down to write it, emotion would overtake me and I that same sick feeling would hit. I knew that this was going to be something I would not be able to turn back from, and so just the thought brought waves of nausea and panic.

I arrived at church very early, the next Sunday, and spent a long time in prayer. This wasn’t something I wanted to say but I was being forced to say it. I had spent a good period of my life trying to become a minister and being threatened with the stripping of my credentials had hurt me more than you can possibly imagine. As the service started, the pastor came to me and asked if I had thought about what I was going to say. I told him that I had and was ready to give my statement.

I really don’t think I have ever been in a service that seemed to last as long as that one did. Every note during the song service seemed to last longer than the one that had come before it. The prayer requests seemed to go on for an eternity, and then the sermon seemed long and drawn out. I remember the message, the pastor gave, was on heeding authority and bowing before god. It was obvious to me that I was being told to tow the line and get back into my place before it was too late.

Finally, the sermon ended and the pastor said that I had a short statement to read before the church. I took the stage and gathered my thoughts. I looked out among the congregation of people who had become my friends. I saw the faces of my family in the congregation as well and knew how shocked they would be by my statement. Then I caught the face of the head pastor, smiling in the way one does when they know they’ve won.

I pulled my statement out from my bible and began to read. I will summarize the majority but here was the first couple of sentence. “I know that you know how much I love being a pastor here. So it saddens me to say that I am giving up my credentials with my denomination.” The church was absolutely silent apart from a few gasps that escaped the mouths of a couple congregants. As I said those words you could see the smile of victory fade from the head pastors face and replacing it was a look of fear and anger. “I have been told that my credentials would be stripped if I did not come here this morning and tell you folks a lie.I will not lie in order to please man.” I remember watching as the head pastor stood up, along with his wife, and walked out of the church.

I am not a bold person, but my point was made, I am not someone who can be blackmailed. The idea that my credentials were being used as a weapon against me had sickened me to the core and it was not something I could stand for. The rest of my statement went on to say that I would still be happy to fill in as a lay minister(A preacher who doesn’t hold credentials) and that I loved everyone in attendance.  I walked off the stage with the congregation in complete and total shock. I grabbed my stuff and I left.

Later that day, one of the deacons called me, he had been one of the people that had agreed with me during the fateful night that I had called out the non-biblical beliefs. He said that as soon as I had left the church board had met and decided that I could continue to preach as long as I felt willing. The also said that they would speak to the head pastor about what had happened and never again would that fraudulent woman’s faith healing be taught in our church.

As I hung up the phone, I don’t really know how to describe the feelings that overtook me. I had won, I was still going to be a minister at my local church, even without the credentials backing me. The joy would follow me to the next Sunday when I was handed the printout of ministry duties for the next month. The head pastor filled this out and when I looked at it I found that I was scheduled to preach only one Wednesday night bible study for the entire month, no Sunday morning or evening services. It was obvious, if he couldn’t force me to accept his dogma, he was going to try and force me out of the ministry one way or another.

The next couple of months went exactly like this and then the night of the church business meeting arrived. The first thing that was brought up was why I hadn’t been preaching as much as the other two ministers? A vote was taken and the church stripped the head pastor of his scheduling duties and gave it to my aunt. From that point on, I was back to my regular schedule.

After the initial statement was given before the church, the head pastors messages took a dark turn. He gave the same sermon nearly every Sunday that he preached, a message against those who dare to usurp authority and go against the will of god.  For the next couple of years, that was basically the only sermon he would deliver. He might switch the biblical passages up, but the message was clear, he was saying that I was an evil usurper and that I was hell-bound. Inwardly, I took a little pride every time he spoke out against me.

The next few years went by in a fairly normal fashion. Eventually the church told the head pastor that he had to stop beating me up every sermon and had to apologize before the church or he would not be allowed to preach there any more. The apology was lackluster but things did seem to improve for a bit after it was given. He started preaching less and less at the church which meant more services for me and the other minister.

Around this time I decided to go back to school. I had worked at the meat packing plant for nearly 5 years and it was killing me. Ministry wasn’t going to be something I could make a living on, the most I ever made was 50 dollars per sermon, and so I decided to go back to school and get a degree in accounting, actually it was history at first but I found accounting to be much more practical. Going back to school was scary but i found that I really enjoyed it. I was studying topics that broadened my mind and I loved it.

Life was seemingly getting better and while my mind was broadened in many aspects, my faith had never been stronger. I knew that god had protected me from the wrath of the head pastor and that I was doing his will. My sermons were still filled with fire and brimstone, sin and hellfire, a very dogmatic approach to the faith. I felt that if I just continued on this path I was on, that life would continue to get better. Things at home had seemed to calm, mostly due to the fact that my ex was having another affair, during which she would more or less leave me alone. I was happy and healthy and making a better life for myself and the kids.

I remember thinking at the time that nothing could shake my faith, I would learn very soon that not only could my faith be shaken but it could eventually leave me altogether…

To continue on to part 21 of my journey, click here.

My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 19

For part 18 of my journey, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

Needless to say, the pastors words had shocked me quite a bit. How was I to respond? “Oh, Pastor, you know people don’t come back from the dead…” No, I still fervently believed in the resurrection of Christ at the time, but something told me that this miracle was not going to occur. My grandfather, a sweet man, took my silence to jump in and say that it would be an amazing miracle and that we would all be praying for god’s will to be done. We then said our goodbyes and got back into my grandfather’s truck.

“He’s lost his mind,” my grandfather said.

“No, he’s just deeply in grief, he’ll come too before the funeral.” I said, at least that is what I hoped.

The day of the funeral came and around the time it was going to start I received a phone call. It was a woman with the church saying that the head pastor had got the prayer chain going, he needed us all to pray so that god’s miracle could occur. I hung up the phone believing then that my grandfather had been right. I knew that his daughter was not going to be resurrected and that in the end he was just going to make a mess of her funeral. I learned later that when the funeral was just beginning, he had gotten up, gone to the front of the church and commanded her to get up. A few seconds later he did the same thing. He then screamed at the top of his lungs for Jesus to heal his daughter and yet still she lay still. I’ve been told that he nearly collapsed and was helped to his seat, the only words he said for the rest of the day was, “If only we had more faith.”

After that, a tension fell upon our church. Each Sunday that the head pastor preached, he would speak on faith and that not believing god could do something was the same as praying against a miracle to occur. I hate to say it but a few times went by when I did question if my lack of faith had been what had prevented the miracle that he had been so sure of. His sermons lacked energy and you could tell that he was a broken man. I felt awful for him but would pray daily that god would heal him of the depression that he had fallen into.

This went on for about 6 months and then one day he arrived at church in a positively manic mood. He was bouncing with excitement and couldn’t wait to speak before the church. When he took the stage he said that he understood what had prevented the miracle from occurring and he would make sure we never went through another struggle like he had experienced. He had been up one night, watching “Sid Roth’s: It’s Supernatural,” when a faith healer had been interviewed. She had talked about all the numerous healings that she had taken part in and that she was willing to teach anyone who was willing to listen how to do it. That night he had bought several of her books and a DVD of her miracle ministry.

“He had been up one night, watching “Sid Roth’s: It’s Supernatural,” when a faith healer had been interviewed.”

He then went on to say that he would like to lead a bible study based on her books and that he would be inviting other local churches to take part in it.  The first night we would watch her video, and the next night we would read from her book and see if god would bring about the healings that she promised it would do. He was absolutely sure that if we just paid attention to what this faith healer had to say, we would see miracles and revival like we had never seen before.

I was very doubtful that anything could be found in this woman’s book that we couldn’t already find in the bible and even more so, I absolutely hated faith healers. From the first time I saw a Benny Hinn video tape at around the age of 7, I knew the whole thing was absolute bunk. I remember the scolding I got, from a church member, for asking why Mr. Hinn’s cameramen are never slain in the spirit like everyone else around them? I saw through the act even at that age. Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t believe that miracles could occur, I definitely believed in miracles, but I didn’t believe that god would be ok with people making money off of miracles.

The first night of the Bible study started like any other. We had an enjoyable song service, a testimony service and then the lights were dimmed so that we could watch the video. Within minutes I knew it was a complete and total scam. The first miracle shown was a woman being healed of legs that were different length, as an attempt to cure her back pain. This is one of the oldest cons in the book and I will include a video of the con below. The video isn’t the greatest quality but shows how old this trick is, basically you slip one shoe slightly off making it appear as if one leg is shorter and when you push the shoe back on it looks like the other leg has lengthened.

I was absolutely disgusted, but everyone around me was eating it up. This faith healers schtick was in the prayer-book she sold. While healing someone she would repeat a prayer from her book and the healing would occur. She said the reason that we didn’t see miracles was due to the fact that we weren’t praying with the right words, but lucky enough for us, god had spoken the correct words to her in a vision. She then went on to cure a man of his blindness, and another of her deafness. These are all common cons that fraud healers practice every day,  they work by acting as if the persons ailment is worse than it actually is and playing off of it. So if someone says they have trouble hearing, you play it off as if they are fully deaf, trouble seeing, you play it off as if they are totally blind.  It’s bullshit and they know it, but enough gullible people exist to keep the scam going. When the video ended, I sat in shock as people in the congregation, from several local churches, openly wept and praised god that we had been sent the answer to all of our prayers.

After that it was question and answer time. People would ask the head pastor a question and he would give a nonsense answer. I seethed in anger at some of the things I was hearing but probably would have kept my mouth shut until the pastor said one thing.

“This video has opened my eyes, the only book I’ll ever need for my ministry from here on out is this book,” holding up a book of prayer sold by the faith healer.

That was too much. I stood up and raised my hand to get the pastors attention. He acknowledged me and I asked, “Isn’t this entire thing contrary to what Christ taught about prayer in the bible?” He asked what I meant and I read from the bible this passage from Matthew.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

                                             – Matthew 6:5-8

I was simply trying to point out how the video and the biblical passage did not line up, but I could tell how angry and hurt the head pastor was. He looked up and said, “Do you think I don’t know what the bible says about prayer?” I tried saying that I knew he did and wasn’t questioning him personally but he cut me off. “I know exactly what the bible says about prayer and yet I know this woman is right, sit back down, Matthew.”

I stood my ground and my aunt, also in the congregation that night, stood up for me. She said that until I had spoken up she had been in awe of the video but that I was right and that everything in the video was non-biblical. A couple of others agreed and said that while they too had been amazed by the video, they didn’t believe she was teaching something that Christ would approve of.

Angrily, the head pastor said, “If that’s how you folks want it, we’ll end the bible study now, we won’t speak of this again, but don’t be surprised when you need a miracle and god doesn’t grant it because of what has happened tonight!”

I was both hurt but also happy. I had stood my ground and won. I knew that god would bless me for standing on his word and not allowing my mind to be drawn away by greener looking pastures. I went to bed that night thinking that things might calm down. I figured I had been through the worst of it but little did I know how vindictive this man, the respected pastor that I loved, the one that had performed my wedding ceremony, could be.

To continue on to part 20, click here.