A guest post by Ian
Recently, my kids turned on the movie Dudley Do-Right and I was reminded of some incidents that have happened during my time in church. I’ll explain why later.
For a little over 3 years, my wife and I attended a church pastored by my father. This church believed in healing as specified by the New Testament. James 5:13-15 says:
“Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
This passage was backed up by the Old Testament story in 2 Kings 1. It is about a king who fell through a roof and consulted with doctors. The prophet Elijah came to him and said he would die because he didn’t call on God. So, this is the background for our version of faith healing.
My wife came down with a sore throat and it drug on for quite a while. Even though we had insurance, I didn’t take my wife to the doctor. Finally, her throat started swelling and she ran a pretty good fever. Finally, I had my dad, being the chief elder, come over to anoint my wife with oil and pray for her. A day or two went by and she was no better, so I finally took her into the emergency room, where she was treated for strep throat. Afterwards, I was told that I was lucky that God didn’t kill my wife because we went in to the doctor after she was anointed with oil. This opinion was expressed by more than one person.
Later, after my first son was born, he became jaundiced. Because of the pressure I faced with faith healing, I snuck him to the doctor’s office to have his bilirubin levels checked. I never told anyone what I was doing because of the amount of grief I would have faced.
As he grew older, he developed a rash on his face. Several people, not from my church, told me it was probably food allergies and that I should take him in to get checked. I brought this up to some church members and was promptly ridiculed. I was told that God had given us all food for nourishment. It was because of sin in mine and my wife’s life that our boy was being punished. Like the good follower I was, I didn’t question this wisdom, even though my son grew worse. He was so bad that his face oozed and we had to make straps to hold his hands so he wouldn’t scratch his face to pieces. (As I write this, almost 13 years later, tears come to my eyes and I feel shame; shame for not doing right by my son.) Only after giving him a bottle of milk and him having a severe allergic reaction did I come to my senses and realize that he DID have food allergies.
Here is what I did for my son. First I gave him a dose of Benadryl. The reason I didn’t call 911 immediately is because it would have taken longer for the volunteer fire department to respond than it would have taken me to get him to a medical clinic. Then, I unplugged and threw away the TV set I had been watching, along with all of our VHS tapes. That is how foolish I was- I believed that watching a PG rated movie was so sinful that God was punishing my son. The Benadryl immediately kicked in and he was fine. (Let me say that I was a Search and Rescue certified EMT, trained before I bought into this craziness. I did have a pretty good bit of medical knowledge and a decent med kit. I was able to monitor his vitals and make sure there was no relapse. I would never recommend that anyone ever do what I did, though, and I would never do that again. Allergic reactions are not to be messed with.) The movie I was watching at the time was Dudley Do-Right. To this day, I still can’t watch it; the emotions associated with it are too strong.
At this point, I stood up to the church and my parents. Little did I realize that this was the beginning of the break with that church. It was less than a year later that I quit going to any church for almost two years, and never back to that one.
I was only years later that my wife told me she was literally days away from leaving me and taking the kids because of my stubborn beliefs. If she had, I would have deserved it. The only thing that stopped her was the fact I realized that our son did have food allergies and I took appropriate steps to help him. Looking back, I realize how lucky I was that no one turned me in to child protective services.
I still held to the superstition of faith healing, although it was tempered with my horrific experiences. I believed that God did the healing but used the doctors and medicine to do so. I was always careful to pray about the sickness before going to the doctor, though. But, I never again withheld medical treatment while waiting for God to heal the sick.
Even though I held extreme views, which were then tempered, I always ridiculed the Charismatic healing experiences. I knew that all of the yelling and babbling in tongues had nothing to do with healing. How blind I was. I had only traded oil and quiet prayer for yelling and laying on of hands. I could have dancing around a fire with a funny hat for all the good it did me.
So, this is my story of healing, New Testament style. Thank whomever you will that I no longer do such foolish things. I now put my trust squarely in the hands of professionals who do this for a living. Of course, there is always a chance that the doctor will perform the wrong surgery…