Monday, June 16, 2008

Miracles & Magic: Part I Faith-Healers

I see myself standing at a door, considering if I dare to enter. The reason is, I've entered that door before and it has become like a Pandora's Box. But here I go again.

Why I come to this subject of miracle-workers and faith-healers is because of book I am now reading, My Beautiful Idol, by Pete Gall. I'm not done with the book so I really don't know the direction that the author will take me in. But he did just go through an experience (BTW, it is an autobiography) that brings back to my mind, a personal experience, a long time ago.

First I will start with Pete's experience. He's left his high-paying Chicago advertising job and is seeking what he should do for Christ (in a nut-shell). He is in Utah, working in a Christian re-hab. He meets a hot young girl that he wants to get to know better. He goes to a local charismatic church with her and they have a healing service. In the service, the evangelist is touching people and they are falling down and they are lengthening legs (or at least he refers to leg-lengthening healings). He was called up front, they touched his head, and he fell down. In summary, his conclusion was that he felt bad . . . conned. He felt like the experience was bogus . . . yet, seemed to say that Jesus was there, in the experience. So it makes me wonder . . . how can it be both ways, a con job and a work of Jesus?

I hear too often Christians speaking in those terms. They usually say, irrational things, like, "Well it's not my cup of tea . . . and the guy is a con man, but who am I say that the people participating aren't being reached for Jesus."

When I entered college as a freshman, I jumped right into the center of The Navigators (Christian para-church ministry). I actually lived in the main ministry house, off campus, and with the main two leaders who were discipling my friend Bill and I.

The Navigators is not a charismatic group per se, although you could and can find some Navigators who are. Tom, our campus leader favored a charismatic perspective. He is the one, I mentioned much earlier, who God spoke directly too, in a mystical way, telling him to marry this new (hot blond haired-blue eyed) gal that came into the ministry. Since it was “God telling him to do it” the gal, Julie, had no choice but to obey God . . . right?

It was when I was a Sophomore that our ministry took a very charismatic turn. There was an ecumenical environment on campus anyway. Baptist students (although we looked down up on them for being “unspiritual”), hung out with us as well a Campus Crusade, Presbyterians, Methodist and Church of God. But oddly the charismatic revival that swept through campus came from the Episcopalian and Catholic churches. While the main Churches did not practice charismatic beliefs in their services or masses, there was an “underground” charismatic movement spawned by one of the Episcopalian priest in combination with a group called, “The Full Gospel Business Men.”

So, our entire Navigator ministry follow suit and we all became charismatic that second year. I remember Tom telling me that a higher spiritual plane that we should seek was being “Baptized in the Holy Spirit.” The outward sign of that event was speaking in tongues. I remember one by one members of the group would share, in tears and excited voices, that the “spirit had slain them” and they were now “Baptized by the Holy Spirit.”

The social pressure to do the same was tremendous! A non-Baptized by the Holy Spirit person was quickly becoming an inferior outcast. I prayed earnestly for the gift so I would be part of my social group again.

I can remember walking and praying, begging God to “bless me” with such an event. I tried over and over to work myself up into an emotional tizzy, rolling my eyes in the back of my head, foaming at the mouth, grunting until finally the grunts became the “speaking in tongues” that I had wanted so badly. Now, I know beyond a question of doubt that I personally conjured up the emotional event under such social pressure. I knew in my deepest heart of hearts that it was all fake . . . but I closed the closet door on that knowledge because so much was at stake. I too wanted to be spiritual! I am confident, that everyone in the entire group did the same thing as I had done, faked it.

But suddenly everything changed . . . in the direction of extreme Dualism. Nothing in our physical lives mattered anymore, but everything (if it had any value at all) was “spiritual.” Then “miracles” started happening left and right. Engines lights that been on (warning of an problem) suddenly went out! (But the car owner never mentioned that they also had put oil in the car).

Psychosomatic illnesses left and right started to be healed. One of our fellow students, born with cerebral palsy was being prayed for. We were going to throw away her wheelchair. But when it didn’t happened, a “word from God” came to us that she had secret sin in her life that was blocking the healing. Retrospectively, this was very cruel, and even a form of emotional abuse!

We were throwing away our text books for school because God would "give us the knowledge--straight into our brains, without the worldly philosophies attached" or so we thought (btw, my grade-point average plummeted that year).

In summary, this became the most emotional dishonest and dysfunctional time of my life. If you hated some guy because a cute girl (which you liked) gave him more attention, you could say that "God has spoken to you that this man had demonic oppression and every one should be weary of him." You couldn't say the truth, I hate the jerk out of jealously because he's better-looking than me and the girls like him more. So there were all these crazy, manipulative games going on all the time, being covered by this super-spiritual facade.

I think I mentioned once before about a Navigator leader, named David, that sexually pursued me like crazy. It creeped me out. But he was also a master of this spiritual manipulation. He could say things like, "God spoke to me from the word today that I need a special baptism, by water, down at the river and in a pure, unclothed way. God also showed me that he wanted a brother who loved me to go with me." In other words, he was hot for me and wanted me to go skinny dipping with him. I always refused and then he would be "deeply hurt and his spirit grieved." So do you see this horrible nightmare that this time of "miracles and magic" created for us.

I have excepts from a book I'm working on pasted at the very end of this page. I didn't want to post it here because it is so long. I will see if I can figure out how to link to it from here, but just scroll down or use the "ctrl F" and type in From Butterflies and it will take you there.

There will be more discussion on this topic coming in Parts II, III etc.

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