Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Readers on this blog will notice that I have little or no patience with superstition, and I am quite skeptical with regards to clairvoyance, faith healing and other theological nonsense expounded upon by folks who have no evidence to back up their fraudulent claims, well-meaning they may be.
Of late, I have noticed a surge of Christian pamphlets at my doorstep; while I haven't been receiving any Christian visitors in my home personally, I have noticed that a lot of similar-looking pamphlets have been lying about near my home, cluttered around void decks and all, and on closer inspection I discovered, to my chagrin, that they have originated from one source: Lighthouse Evangelism, a church located in the eastern part of Singapore (Exact Location: Tampines).
Welcome to the Peter Pan world of happy evangelism and faith healing.
Light House Evangelism: The Beginnings
What caught my attention on that little red flyer was its rather flamboyant and outrageous contents: According to this Church, faith healing does work, and to "prove" its message, it has written testimonials to validate its claims.
In order to provide a little insight into this megachurch, it is imperative to dwell a little into the history of this unctuous Church and the origins of such preposterous claims:
From the Church website:
"Lighthouse Evangelism was born on April 16, 1978. Pastor Rony with 8 other members commissioned by Jubilee Presbyterian Church (English Service) conducted their first service at Chip Bee Centre. Twenty-four people were present – most of them came as a result of the nine pioneers’ door-to-door evangelism. The church grew slowly but surely and steadily.
The turning point came when Pastor Rony planted an outreach in Hotel Grand Central with the help of ten Lighters on January 1, 1984, leaving the established work at Chip Bee to Pastor Clarence. The first service attracted 125 people; and within one and a half years, there were about 200 worshippers at the Hotel.
On Sept 1, 1985, the two centres merged as one in Hotel Grand Central. With dedicated Lighters, the church grew rapidly. Two morning services were then conducted but the hall became too small.
The next big step we took was on June 1, 1986; we shifted to Amara Hotel which had just been opened that very week. For the next six years, we had to relocate our services to other hotels and auditoriums whenever Amara could not accommodate us.
These untimely disruptions spurred us to search more urgently a ground where we could build our church. Then we managed to secure the Tampines site for our first church building. Our first Sunday Service was conducted on August 9, 1992 when Lighthouse Tampines was completed. It was overflowed with our members and guests. 700 Lighters were prepared to travel to the east with us."
Like most megachurches, Lighthouse Evangelism started from humble origins, and while it looks like an ordinary church on the surface, it has a very impressive "portfolio" on its cards: The presence of God that has the power to heal its members!!!!
Listed on its miracle testimonies are written testimonies of folks who have been incapacitated or devastated by some form of physical and mental ailment in some stage of their lives, and, according to all of them, the church and ultimately god had interfered to deliver them from their agonies.
Some of these purported ailments include:
1. Slipped Discs
2. Hepatitis B
5. Gambling, Smoking and Sex Addictions
& so on and so forth.
Now, at this point, I'd like to seek forgiveness for at least one issue: Cherry-picking. I am not about to bore my readers or myself to death, so I am going to cherry pick and take one "miracle" testimony from this cluster of testimonies to rationalize and explain why such testimonies are the combined result of misplaced faith, superstition and irrational thinking.
The Case of Jimmy Heng
Like most middle-aged folks, Jimmy suffered from a host of ailments: High Blood Pressure, kidney stones, and eye problems.
& like any concerned patient, his first instinct was to pay a visit to the good doctor, not a miracle service....clearly, when life and death issues are concerned, faith is very conveniently chucked to the back seat.
Jimmy's condition is described as follows:
"Over the years, he suffered from a host of sicknesses. He had repeated leg infections which bothered him for more than two years. His doctor could not trace the root cause. All he knew was that his body was not responding to any antibiotic. The first infection started with a swell in his left ankle which rapidly spread all the way up to his knee. His left leg ended up almost double its normal size. The doctor could only open up the infected part, clean up the pus and then stitch it back. The infection occurred a second time. This time it affected the back of his right knee. When it started to swell, Jimmy reacted quickly and underwent surgery before it spread further. His third infection was in his right ankle. Again a surgery was warranted to resolve the problem. By the time he had his fourth infection, he became very concerned as his doctor said that the attacks could come anytime. Although surgery could take care of it, there was no prevention at all. In 1995, he attended his first Miracle Service which was then conducted once a month. After prayer, he rejoiced that his leg infection stopped completely and had not recurred since."
At this point we can deduce that Jimmy had at least three operations to solve his knee problem, the forth operation was not required because the knee did not become infected, and this, apparently, was attributed to the miracle service prayer he attended once a month!
No infection plus prayers equals to a miracle from God!!!
Well, subsequently, God deals Jimmy with a second whammy:
"Jimmy also suffered from high blood pressure for years. One day, he suddenly felt a bursting sensation at the top of his head. Knowing that something was simply not right, he consulted a doctor. His blood pressure was found to be 196/155 which was dangerously high and could lead to a stroke. Long-term medication was prescribed to keep his blood pressure under control. Then at one Miracle Service, God impressed upon his heart to depend on Him and showed him the way to receive his healing. The Lord told Jimmy to come before Him and be still for five to 10 minutes, three times a day. Jimmy obeyed. Before long, he was healed. Without medication, his blood pressure hovered at the normal range of 120/90. "
Now, it has become apparent that once again, despite his new-found faith, Jimmy turns to the good doctor for advice: His blood pressure was dangerously high, and this meant that he had to take medication for his high blood pressure. Apparently, he chose faith, and found that, to his delight, his blood pressure dropped!
Did the problems stop there? No. Now we know that blood pressure is sometimes a pesky problem: Sure it recedes for a while, but if you are deluded to think that you really don't need medication to control it, it comes back, and this time round, Jimmy had kidney stones to contend with, which, I suspect, has to do with his blood pressure ailment which he refused to have controlled due to his faith in the "miracle services". The result is sad, but inevitable:
"Furthermore, Jimmy was hospitalized because of kidney stones. On the eve of the surgery, he was prayed over by one of our pastors. Although the pain persisted, he just continued to trust God and commanded the stones to be removed in the name of Jesus. After 15 minutes, he just felt an assurance in his spirit that the stones were gone. The following day, a routine ultrasound scan was conducted and the surgery was duly called off because there was not a trace of any kidney stone."
Again, this stroke of good fortune is attributed to God. But guess what I found from a medical journal website:
"Fortunately, surgery is not usually necessary. Most kidney stones can pass through the urinary system with plenty of water—2 to 3 quarts a day—to help move the stone along. Often, the patient can stay home during this process, drinking fluids and taking pain medication as needed. The doctor usually asks the patient to save the passed stone(s) for testing. It can be caught in a cup or tea strainer used only for this purpose."
While I am not a doctor, and I do not have the ability to turn back the clock and witness the chain of events, it is most likely that the good doctor had advised him to drink plenty of fluids to pass out his stone via urine, hence saving him from undergoing the trauma of a surgery.
Well of course we don't want the good doctor to get all the credit, do we??? So it is God, and not the Doc, who saved him from the kidney stones saga. Besides, if he had taken the very medications that had controlled his blood pressure, he might not be having to contend with the problematic kidney stones in the first place!
And the ultimate question: Why did God give him the kidney stones in the first place????
Faith Healing Vs Science
Quite often, when we take such testimonials at face value, it is easy to be disillusioned and fall for such testimonies. I am not doubting the integrity of Jimmy, or the guy who narrated the story for Jimmy with regards to the testimony: I suspect that huge gaps have been left out to leave readers with the impression that Jimmy was indeed cured by a succession of miracles and not professional, modern medicine.
I think it is very important for people to realize that wishful thinking and miracle cures from imaginary friends cannot be relied upon to save your life: In fact, I seriously suspect that had Jimmy listened to his doctor he would have had his blood pressure permanently checked, he wouldn't have to go through the ignominious suffering from the pain caused by the kidney stones.
Churches like these can be portents for medical disasters, and it is best that folks do not fall for this kind of flim-flam, no matter how sincere the peddlers of miracle bullshit may be.
After all, if God wanted to cure you, why did he make you sick in the first place???
Faith Healing: 100% Failure Rate
-"I can't say that faith healing has never worked or that it doesn't ever work. All I can say is my experience is 100% failure."
-James Randi, skeptic and Founder of the James Randi Education Foundation. He has an award of $1 million dollars for anyone who can scientifically verify purported supernatural claims.
Evangelism And Miracles at My Doorstep: Debunking the Myth of Miracles & Faith Healing