Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heal Thyself

Seeing as we have been looking at all aspects of sickness and health for much of this month, I thought it might be appropriate to look at so-called spiritual healing. Of late there has been a big rumpus surrounding a supposed spiritual healing in my motherland, Australia. About two years ago Reverend Michael Guglielmucci, described as 'a modern prophet', 'a God-anointed preacher' and pastor of the Planetshakers Church in Adelaide, announced that he had cancer. His huge congregation (and his church really is big) were shocked. Over a period of months hundreds of thousands of devote Christians in Australia and throughout the world followed Guglielmucci struggles with the disease and prayed for him. Earlier this year, he released a hit song, Healer, which was featured on Sydney church Hillsong's latest album. The song debuted at No. 2 on the ARIA charts. Since then it has become something of an anthem of faith for evangelical Christians, especially those suffering their own illness and hoping for a miraculous healing themselves.
Anyone familiar with the unseemly twists and turns of Pentecostals churches can probably guess what happened next. It was discovered that Reverend Guglielmucci never had cancer. Day after day for nearly two years he had been standing up in front of huge crowds, tugging at their heart strings, filling them with hope and asking for their prayers while he lied to them. And not only had he deceived millions of people, he had even deceived his own family. 'This news has come as a great shock to everyone including, it seems, his own wife and family,' Hillsong general manager George Aghajanian said in an email to his congregation'. 'Michael has confirmed that he is not suffering with a terminal illness and is seeking professional help with the support of his family. We are asking our church to pray for the Guglielmucci family during this difficult time.' The Australian Christian Church said Mr. Guglielmucci's credentials were immediately suspended once he told the national executive that his cancer claims were false. Since the scandal broke Pastor Guglielmucci has also confessed to having a long-time addiction to pornography.
I don’t think any decent person can rejoice in the fall from grace of a religious leader, or indeed anyone for that matter. Myself, I feel rather sorry for Guglielmucci and especially for the millions who were taken in by his lies. But scandals like this are very common in evangelical and born-again churches and they raise a few questions that cry out for answers. What were the mechanics that caused Guglielmucci to deceive even his own family? Why were so many people ready to believe what are, lets be honest, highly improbable claims? Does giving your life to Christ really change a person or are the changes only superficial or imagined? If this healing was found to be fraudulent (many others have been similarly exposed), should this not make us cautions of healing claims in general? Before we invest so much energy in telling others that we have all the answers, shouldn’t we first spend a bit of time looking into our own hearts? Where in the religious life should galloping optimism and obdurate certainty stop, and discernment and intelligent doubt begin?
I read a lot of Christian literature and I've never seen issues like these honestly discussed, which is probably why one scandal continues to follow another with such regularity. My own feeling is that almost all religious healings can be attributed to either fraud or delusion, neither of which are a good foundation for faith. In 2006 CBC Television aired a program called Do You Believe in Miracles which examined the supposed miraculous healings preformed by the American pastor Benny Hinn. Try to get a copy of it. It should make any discriminating person extremely cautious of Christian faith healers. And if it doesn't, you can't say you weren't warned!
If you are sick go to a doctor, not a witchdoctor, a jeetong or a pastor; whether he wears a bone through his nose, a duto or a cross around his neck. The Buddha reminds us that sickness is inherent in life and it is possible that we may someday develop a sickness for which medical science still has not found a cure. Developing a calm mind now, enhancing detachment now, strengthening acceptance now, will stand us in good stead should this ever happen. Then, if we do get a serious sickness, we will be better able to deal with it in a Dhammic way. As the Buddha said, 'Train yourself like this; "Though my body be sick my mind shall not be sick"' (S,III,2).
Have a look at Pastor Guglielmucci tearful confession at www.neoleader.org/node/761. But I warn you, it's hard to watch without wincing.

7 comments:

Justin Choo said...

He could have scored another point by crediting God for prompting him to lie in order to increase the faith of his followers!

Terrance said...

Check out this site:

http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

Perry said...

Thankyou very much. Unfortunately this is not, of course, the first time evangelist Christian's have been involved in a scandal such as this, and sadly I don't think it will be the last either.

If you have time, I recommend this page...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_evangelist_scandals

Caron said...

See the video here: http://www.justinpeters.org
Mr. Peters is an expert on Benny Hinn.

Dhamma81 said...

I'm surprised that anyone falls for some of this faith healing stuff at all. I feel for this Guglielmucci character since the embarassment of having to face his lie and all the people he betrayed has got to be just devastating.

cpd314 said...

Can you believe this guy even had the b*lls to stand on stage and sing with one of those oxygen tubes in his nose. If you look closely at the pic above, you can see it in the closeup of his face.

I was a part of several churches like this a few years ago. It's ALL about ego and image.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Like they say, 'When you can fake sincerity you’ve got it made.' Thanks for the comments. It led me to your blog which I read and enjoyed.