We need to stop faith healing.
“Cancer comes from demons, and If you have enough faith, you can cast them out.” These words were said to a friend of mine, a friend who is raw and tender form losing their young daughter to brain cancer. Somehow more prayers, better prayers, more faith, better faith would have cast out the demons that were causing this child to have brain cancer. So now it is the parent’s fault for not believing and praying enough to save their little girl.
People who believe serious illness is a spiritual or demonic thing may not be shouting it from every street corner, but they exist. There are churches buildings full of them, being taught this truth from the pulpit, buying into this lie. “Miracles are real” they proclaim, citing stories from teachers, preachers, and healers who commission their followers to have faith, faith, and more faith if they want to see that miracle they are praying comes. If the miracle doesn’t come through, it’s not the preacher’s fault. It’s the ordinary person’s fault for not having faith in the right way.
Faith is this elusive thing that you need to have. This unwavering, blind belief in the supernatural, in a god, who still bestows health and wealth on those Christians who are worthy because of their faith. With this faith, cancer can be banished. With this faith, the paralyzed can walk again. With this faith, the blind can see again. With this faith, diabetes can evaporate. With this faith, your aunt Sally can find health where the doctors fail.
But you sure as hell better have that faith down pat correct if you want to lead this supernaturally healthy life.
And we haven’t even begun to touch on mental health. In this theological view, mental health is nothing but a spiritual problem. Either it’s due to some sin in your life, some demon oppression, or straight up a lack of this magical dose of faith. If you want deliverance from the soul-crushing depression, you better pray your ass off. You want those pesky panic attacks to stop? Cast those burdens on Jesus and stop holding yourself back. I hear you’re on psych meds. You don’t need those tools of the devil; they will only keep you in bondage. Just have faith, my friend. After all, miracles still happen.
I’m so sick of this bullshit.
I’m tired of hucksters and charlatans getting rich off the deception. Oh yes, some pastors and preachers do nothing but espouse this theology, saying if you sow a seed of faith by giving them money God will bless you and you’ll see your miracle. The more you give, the bigger the faith. These assholes get rich by praying on superstition, fear, and desperation. Some of them even have faith healing services. But if they had this supernatural power to make people well, why aren’t they preaching, teaching, and healing in the hospital?
There is no true power in these teachings. Only fear, superstition, and manipulation.
There is nothing good about this faith healing theology. I know, I grew up with it being taught to me. While my family never went as far as to attribute physical sickness to outright demonic attacks, there was an assumption that sickness ultimately came from Satan and with the right faith it could be cast out, healed, and overcome. Faith healers blared from the TV despite money scandals. As long as it wasn’t about sex, they were innocent or at least forgivable.
The “anointed by God” taught us spiritual laws about interpreting dreams, forgiveness, and (of course) faith. Everything hinged on this magical, ethereal thing called faith. But it was never defined. The closest I ever heard to a definition was Hebrews 11.1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (NRSV). We were told that this meant we had to visualize our miracle or blessing in our spirit, and then, through faith, manifest it in the physical world. There were no concrete definitions to these things. All we were told was to believe, and if we believed correctly, then jackpot, blessings, and health would be ours.
But what about when it doesn’t happen? What about the miracle that never manifests? What about the sickness that takes our loved one? What happens when God seems to fail us? Well, since we know for a fact that miracles happen all the time through faith, it must be our fault for not believing enough, not having the right kind of faith, for not visualizing the miracle hard enough.
If God doesn’t come through it’s our fault.
Can you imagine the guilt placed on someone who lost their child by telling them if they had believed better they would still be alive?
What about the husband who has just become a widower?
What about the person with chronic illness?
What about me?
See I live with bipolar. It’s a disease in my body. Then people come around and tell me that it’s just a figment of my mind, it’s a spiritual problem and I need to get right with God to be healed. I need faith.
Faith isn’t medication.
Belief isn’t treatment.
God may do miracles, but he hasn’t in my life despite my pleading, praying, and yes, my faith. So, I have zero faith that some supernatural power trip is going to heal me. My medications and therapy do just fine, thank you very much. And if/when I relapse, no one is blaming me, saying I did it wrong, I didn’t believe enough; I didn’t do it right. There is no guilt, only hope and forward momentum towards stability.
I’m done being quiet about this shit theology. It’s time to flip tables and drive out the abusive people posing as pastors and teachers who do nothing but prey on the innocent and helpless. It’s time to defend the weak and desperate. It’s time, to tell the truth, and denounce faith healing as some viable form of Christianity. It’s pure superstition and lies.
Now I can hear people telling me, “But God does do miracles today.” To which I reply I don’t know about that. If God does, then God does. I do know that when Jesus healed in the gospels, he did it out of compassion and care, not demanding people get right with him or have the right kind of faith. All Jesus asked was that they accept the healing. That’s my kind of miracle, one that is handed out with grace.
And grace is how I want to hand good things to other people. With grace, I want to bandage wounds inflicted by shitty theology. With Grace, I want to shield and shelter the needy and desperate from the lies and deception masquerading as some hope. Grace is the backbone of true miracles, not the demand to get faith right.
It’s time we stopped faith healing from holding some place in our Christian community. It’s time we call out false teaching where it is. It’s time to turn over pulpits and tables and preach grace upon grace upon grace.
Even if there is no miracle, no salvation from sickness and death, even if there is sorrow, Jesus stays with us in the suffering, the pain, the darkness. We who say we follow Jesus should be the ones to sit in the margins as well, with the needy, the poor, the desperate. Just like Jesus. We don’t need to horde money stolen from the hands of those who need it but are desperate for some hope. Grace is free, and our goodness, kindness, and presence should be as well.
Maybe that’s the real miracle.