Friday, June 6, 2008

How Did We Christians Get to be so Gullible?

It is a rhetorical question that could take a couple of books to explore. But, before I talk about the how I wanted to explain, by way of examples, of what I’m talking about.

Case # 1. Benny Henn. Should I say more? But the point I want to make about him (and if you don’t know him, I suggest you watch an entire Benny Henn broadcast and you will know what I’m talking about) is how many Evangelicals ARE Benny Henn admirers.

Case # 2. I work in medicine, so many of my examples will come from my sphere of experience. I can say with some confidence, that my Christian patients are some of my most difficult to treat. The reason is that they, more than others, have bought into bizarre explanations of what ails them. They can read one ad on the Internet about a bogus claim to cure anything, from cancer to pimples and they send off their money. On every visit, they are on a new tangent of cures; magnets, bowel cleansing, supplements (which have not been proven to be effective nor safe).

Case # 4. I’m going to connect this posting to my previous ones about “Behind the Looking Glass.” In that last posting, I described how I put together a forum of old college Navigators which was to lead to a reunion. One of the folks on the forum was John. John is a PCA pastor, seminary graduate and was considered the most “intellectual” guy in our campus ministry.

One day John comes on to the forum to announce something new and exciting that “God is doing in his life.” He went on to explain that it was about health care. He first reminded people that he was a pre-med major (briefly) in college. I guess this was suppose to give what he was going to say next some credibility. But before I move on I will add that I was a premed major in college and what I later learned in medical school was light years away from the basic chemistry, anatomy etc. I was studying as an undergraduate.

Pastor John went on to “share” that “God had shown him a couple of things about health care.” One of those things was that glyconutrients were literally God’s given cure to almost every disease known to man. He clearly implied that included things such as arthritis, cancer and HIV aids. Then he encouraged people to contact him for more information. From the response, it sounds like several did contact him for "more information."

I smelled a rat. I did some investigation and found out that a MLM company, Mannatech had supplement made of glyconutrients and the focus of their marketing was Evangelical Christians. I also learned that the founder of this company had a jaded past with two indictments for business fraud, before “God reveled to him glyconutrients.”

Now I would let this slide except for two things. One, John, using his bully pulpit (or authority as a PCA pastor) said that scripture says that everyone who prescribes medication (including myself) are “sorcerers” or practicing witchcraft. I found that not only very offensive, but dangerous. The second thing, related to the first, was that he was encouraging a person on the forum to have her girlfriend (with breast cancer) to stop her chemotherapy and only use glyonutrients sold my Mannatech.

I came onto the forum and asked John two questions. First, was he a sales person in the multi-level-marketing scheme and two, can he share any scientific proof that Mannatec products work for anything? I thought this would a reasonable request because, after all, he was asking people to stop their chemotherapy and start these supplements.

He first responded with very vague proof that they work, including a supposedly endorsement by Ben Carson (famous neuro surgeon at Johns Hopkins). Next he went on to speak with authority (which he didn’t have) describing how all medical research is corrupt, where pharmaceutical companies pay investigators to fudge studies to prove their drugs work, when they do not. I also found that highly offensive because I have worked in drug research throughout my 26-year career and being paid to fudge results is an outrageous claim. I had first hand experience in the industry and John was going on hearsay. But John did not answer my question if he was selling the stuff.

I next called Dr. Ben Carson. I didn’t get to speak to him directly, but his office. I voiced my question, whether Dr. Carson was endorsing the products or not. The answer was absolutely not. He had only spoken at a Mannatech convention as a paid motivational speaker (for about $50K). He speaks to a variety of groups . . . whoever wants him and will pay.

Finally Pastor John admitted that he was a salesman for the company (earning money through their MLM program)

About that time, I had a personal call from the VP of Mannatech who was very apologetic. Dr. Carson had called him expressing concern of how their salespeople were using his name in their sales pitches. He also told me that he was sorry that people like Pastor John was misrepresenting their products as cures for cancer.

In a last, desperate move, I had a strange letter from Pastor John informing me that I was in deep sin for questioning him and his company. It was the sin of gossip and slander. But I had no choice but to speak up because Pastor John was telling people to stop their chemotherapy. Also John had used many lies in his presentation (including not telling people that he was part of the sales force and that Ben Carson had endorsed the product).

Back to my original question is why are we Christians so gullible? I really think the reason is because of the Dualistic view of sanctification. Christians, like John (and myself at times), really believe that through a process of sanctification that we can quickly reach a point that our motives are pure. They loose sight of their sinful psychological dynamics that continue to haunt all of us for the rest of our lives here on earth. We play these games with ourselves and others.

Evangelical Christianity is also more vulnerable because of the mis-application of verses such as, Matt 7:1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” It has been used as a mask, behind which Christians can get away with murder and no one questions them.

But scripture warns us to be wise as serpents but innocent as doves. Often, we are wise as doves and as innocent as serpents.

The worst example that I can think of is growing up in a Baptist Church where a guy, Jack, sexually molested boys for years, including my brother. It was a known fact, but because Jack was a wonderful gospel singer, choir director and didn't swear or drink alcohol, everyone looked the other way saying, "Judge not lest you be judged."

Christians should know about the Fall and Satan's craftiness more than anyone. We should be the most skeptical people on earth rather buying every thing said to us by Christians line . . . hook and sinker. Whatever happened to healthy skepticism? Knowing that God is the God of truth, I really believe that we are mandated to "test" every spirit or to question everything that others say . . . and that our own heart tells us. That doesn't mean that we can't believe anything, but it means that to believe something, we have the responsibility to doubt it first.


Anonymous said...

After seeing some Christians being sucked into what I believe to be a scam - or at least something way too good to be true - I went to Google and did a search on, "Why are christians gullible". It led me to your post. I can't thank you enough for what you wrote.


jmj said...

Thanks for coming by. That was posted a long time ago and I had almost forgotten about it.