To me, the problem with healing is… well…
It just doesn’t seem to happen.
Now, before we go all postal, allow me to unpack my thoughts a little bit. My experience so far in life has been that it’s always a friend of a friend, or this guy on TV, or something someone read about in a book. It’s like it’s always happening somewhere, but nowhere that I can access. And come on, healing is one of those few aspects of the supernatural that should have an empirically verifiable result. A severed hand restored, a huge tumor gone, and so on and so forth. It’s not like trying to prove that God is a man or that He wants the U.S. to bomb this or that country. I’ll leave that for the Texans to argue over. No, healing is something that should be plainly obvious.
So… Is it all just a big hoax?
I know some of you are reaching for your Bibles, so allow me to address that right off the bat. What I’m driving at is not that I think the historical accounts of healings recorded in the Bible are false. In fact, I was raised to un-objectively believe it all, the whole enchilada, as literal fact. But now I realize that there’s almost no way to prove these Biblical accounts’ fact or myth status, but that’s okay because that’s not my point. My point is, healing supposedly still happens. Today.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, I do have a vested interest in this topic, which I will discuss in a future post. But even before that developed, I was simply curious about the phenomenon. Can you blame me? It sounds really cool. Dead guys walking around and the like.
Where I came from:
I grew up in several AG churches over the years, spread mainly across the Midwest. I remember going to tent meetings and revivals and healing seminars all throughout my childhood. At one point, when I was in middle school in Kansas City, MO, we even went to a Benny Hinn rally (seminar? crusade?) to see all the wonderful healings and maybe get slain in the spirit ourselves. It was amazing the way people responded to his persona, like he was literally wielding the power of God via his trademark blow-into-the-microphone move. You know, the way he just breaths heavily through the PA and people seem to swoon and fall backwards. This was not the first meeting of this type for my family, but it certainly was the largest and most… produced, for lack of a better term.
Interestingly, of all the things I can remember my family wanted healed at one of these sort of meetings, they still seem to want that healing. My dad’s legs are still messed up from a car accident that broke them both, after which they weren’t set properly. He’s always had a cane as long as I can remember, and now wears a brace on one or both of them when the pain gets bad. My mom still has migraines, my older sister still has inner ear problems that give her trouble. I don’t remember my younger sister wanting much more corrected about her than the fact that she has to wear glasses, but insomuch as she has always wanted her vision ‘restored to perfection’ (even today) she’s still waiting. None have given up hope, however.
Now I know we could stop right here and argue till we’re blue in the face. “Just because you’ve never seen a healing doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.” Sure, logically, that’s right. But there are a lot of things I’ve never seen that I don’t doubt exist; a million dollars, the Eiffel Tower, the movie Beaches. The point is, the reality of healing cannot be argued out with logic to establish what must necessarily be true. If it happens, the proof would be easy to access. It bears repeating that healing is one of the few supernatural phenomena that should have an empirically verifiable result.
Another aspect of my AG upbringing was the Guest Missionary Speaker. As a huge part of the denomination, every few weeks we’d have special guest speakers and missionaries reporting on the great things God’s been up to during their time in other countries.
Here’s what I noticed. When I was a kid, I remember the dramatic numbers of healings, limbs being restored, people being raised from the dead, lepers being fully healed, etc. It was usually in the hundreds for each missionary who came back to report, sometimes more.
However, this seems to have changed in recent years. At some point (long before I had any vested interest in this topic) the numbers began to peter out, or the stories began to take on a second hand vibe. No longer did the missionary say he touched the leper who was healed, but instead, he had reports of healings in this or that village, maybe after the crusade. And the figures became more and more modest. Was God moving on? I wondered.
Now I hate to have to make this comparison, but it’s inevitable for me, because I used to love the Sci-Fi channel. What can I say? I was a nerdy, teenage boy. Anyway, one afternoon I was watching one of those UFO programs (directly following the Bigfoot one) when the narrator with the 50’s B-movie voiceover was talking about the mountain of evidence for UFO’s and how the camcorder was revolutionizing their ‘science.’
It hit me like a shot of Bacardi 151. The camcorder! Why hadn’t I thought of that? I mean, if I wanted to see a miracle in some far off country (since, at the time, there seemed to be a lull in homeland faith-healings (and I’d never put much stock in the superstar faith healers anyway (man, that’s a lot of parenthesis))) all I needed to do was find video of it. I was sure I would have some sort of evidence soon. I mean, it simply had to have happened once in front of a camera.
I was further encouraged when I realized that most missionary speakers were no longer using a slide show set to a cheesy Michael W Smith song to show what they’re doing in country with church funds, they were beginning to use videos (still, unfortunately, set to a cheesy Michael W Smith song). Since they were armed with camcorders, and since “God is still in the business of healing” (well, that was the catch phrase at the time), then there must be something on video somewhere. Right?
Well, that search has spanned many years now and so far come up with bupkis. It would seem, then, that the growing popularity of personal video cameras was inversely proportional to the number of miraculous healings that missionaries were willing to report.
Now I know, it’s a logical fallacy to assume that correlation means causation. I’ll give you that. But it is certainly something worth taking note of. With the lack of video evidence from missionaries, the people I was taught to trust as handling the forefront of God’s work in other countries, I began to flounder.
A Step In A Different Direction (Or maybe… A Step Back?)
However, it was right about this time that the faith healers were making a comeback. Their success didn’t seem to be hindered by video coverage, they still claimed to be healing hundreds or more per meeting.
After a good deal of wrestling, then, I decided to turn my attention back to faith healers, as uncomfortable as those guys tend to make me feel. I decided it was time I gave them an honest second look. I mean, they make mad cash running seminars, crusades, retreats, selling books, hosting TV programs and blessing anything from prayer cloths to drinking water. If they were frauds, the public just wouldn’t stand for it. Could they?
Thoughts so far?