Tag Archive: Healing

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: God Gives People Cancer by John Piper

john piper sleep

What shall we say to these things? Something must be said because sickness and death are threats to faith in the love and power of God. And I regard it as my primary responsibility as a pastor to nourish and strengthen faith in the love and power of God. There is no weapon like the word of God for warding off threats to faith. And so I want us to listen carefully today to the teaching of Scripture regarding Christ and cancer, the power and love of God over against the sickness of our bodies.

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I regard this message today as a crucial pastoral message because you need to know where your pastor stands on the issues of sickness, healing, and death. If you thought it was my conception that every sickness is a divine judgment on some particular sin, or that the failure to be healed after a few days of prayer was a clear sign of inauthentic faith, or that Satan is really the ruler in this world and God can only stand helplessly by while his enemy wreaks havoc with his children — if you thought any of those were my notions, you would relate to me very differently in sickness than you would if you knew what I really think. Therefore, I want to tell you what I really think and try to show you from Scripture that these thoughts are not just mine but also, I trust, God’s thoughts.

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God controls who gets sick and who gets well, and all his decisions are for the good of his children, even if they may be very painful and long-lasting. It was God who subjected creation to futility and corruption, and he is the one who can liberate it again.

— John Piper, Desiring God, Jesus and Cancer, August 17, 1980

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Charged in Death of His Two-Year-Old Granddaughter

jonathan and grace foster

Jonathan and Grace Foster, parents of child who died

Rowland Foster is the pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Believing that God alone heals the sick, Foster teaches congregants to pray and seek God’s divine intervention in their medical maladies. This belief has led to several deaths, including the pastor’s two-year-old granddaughter. NBC 10 reports:

A pastor in a fundamentalist Christian sect that rejects doctors and drugs has been charged in the death of a child — his own granddaughter — from medical neglect. The novel prosecution is raising hopes among some advocates that it might spur change in a church that has resisted it.

Faith Tabernacle Congregation has long told adherents to place their trust in God alone for healing. As a result, dozens of children, mostly in Pennsylvania, have died of preventable and treatable illnesses. Church members reject modern medicine as a bedrock tenet of their faith, even as some have faced manslaughter charges in child deaths dating back 35 years.

Until now, though, no leader in the sect has ever faced charges.

“It could be a new tool to save the lives of these children,” said Rita Swan, one of the nation’s top experts on faith-based medical neglect. She leads the group Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty, which works to eliminate religious exemptions in state laws requiring parents to provide appropriate medical care.

With a routine course of antibiotics, 2-year-old Ella Foster would have almost certainly beaten the pneumonia that took her life in November. But her parents refused medical care, and she succumbed shortly after they asked the Rev. Rowland Foster to anoint her.

Foster, 72, pastor of a Faith Tabernacle Congregation church district in eastern Pennsylvania, was charged with a felony this month under a state law requiring clergy members, teachers and other “mandated reporters” to turn the names of suspected child abusers over to authorities for investigation. The law makes no exception for clergy who happen to be related to the abused child, as Foster was to Ella.

“He was well aware of the fact that this child was in need of medical treatment and he never reported it, nor do I believe that he ever had the intention to report it,” Berks County District Attorney John Adams, whose office is prosecuting Foster, said in an interview.

….

Ella’s parents, Jonathan and Grace Foster, were charged earlier with involuntary manslaughter and await trial. Police have said Jonathan Foster attributed Ella’s death to “God’s will.”

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Nationally, some two dozen religious sects oppose all or most forms of medical care, according to Swan’s group, CHILD. The group has documented more than 300 deaths but says the number is almost certainly far higher because most are not investigated.

In Pennsylvania, more than 25 Faith Tabernacle children have died over the years.

The church operates three schools in Pennsylvania — in Philadelphia, Altoona and Mechanicsburg — that together enroll several hundred students. Teachers at the schools are required by law to report suspected abuse to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine system for investigation, but it’s unclear whether ChildLine has ever fielded a report from the schools.

One hindrance for prosecutors seeking accountability from Faith Tabernacle pastors and teachers is a lack of clarity in Pennsylvania’s child protective services law, which was revamped after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State.

Withholding medical care due to religious belief isn’t considered child abuse under the law, which makes a charge of failure to report in that situation legally problematic, said Adams’ chief deputy, Jonathan Kurland. The DA’s office was able to pursue a charge against Foster because the religious exemption does not apply if medical neglect causes a child’s death, Kurland said.

“If our Legislature is interested in protecting children, that needs to be changed,” Adams said. “Because, to me, it is outrageous that a church teaches that medical care is not to be sought for children.”

Update

April 14, 2017, the Seattle Times reported:

The leader of a Pennsylvania church that rejects modern medicine won’t stand trial in his granddaughter’s pneumonia death, because a judge on Wednesday dismissed a novel case that sought to hold the pastor responsible for failing to report suspected abuse.

A district judge found insufficient evidence to support the felony charge against the Rev. Rowland Foster in the November death of 2-year-old Ella Foster.

Foster serves as pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation, part of a fundamentalist Christian sect that instructs members to eschew treatment by physicians and the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Prosecutors had argued he should have reported the girl’s condition to authorities because state law requires ministers to report suspected abuse.

The church’s stance against modern medicine has resulted in the deaths of dozens of children from preventable or treatable illnesses, most in Pennsylvania, according to an advocacy group that tracks faith-based medical neglect. Their members hoped the pastor’s prosecution might spur change in a church that has resisted it.

“I think there’s just a lack of evidence all the way around,” defense lawyer Chris Ferro said after the two-hour hearing. “This is a grieving grandfather, not a criminal.”

Prosecutor Jonathan Kurland said the Berks County district attorney’s office may re-file the charges.

“The Fosters failed to provide adequate medical care for Ella Foster when it would have been apparent to a reasonable person that she needed that medical care,” Kurland argued to District Judge Andrea Book. “And she died as a result.”

Ella Foster likely suffered from severely labored breathing and a temperature of about 104 on the day she died, police said in charging documents.

The forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on the girl, Dr. Neil Hoffman, called her condition “quite easily or eminently treatable” and said she almost certainly would have survived had she been given antibiotics. He said she would have had severely labored breathing and a bad cough for at least a day before she died.

“The treatment could have been started within an hour or so of death and still had a high likelihood of being effective and saving the child,” Hoffman testified.

Dear Evangelical, Why Don’t We See Any Miracles in Your Church?

One of the thorniest verses in the Bible for Evangelicals is John 14:12:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Evangelicals believe that the fourteenth chapter of John is the very words of Jesus. This chapter tells Evangelicals not to have a troubled heart,  that 2,000 years ago that Jesus ascended back to heaven to prepare a room/mansion in heaven for them. When they die or if the Rapture happens before they die, the Evangelical is promised the keys to brand new home in the sky, This chapter also tells Evangelicals that Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life, proving to the Evangelical the exclusivity of their version of the Christian gospel.

In verse 14 Jesus says, If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. Ponder these words for a moment. Think about all the prayers Christians have uttered over the centuries, prayers asked in the name of Jesus without nary a response. Evangelicals love to say that God answered this or that prayer, but pressed for proof of their supernatural claim, they quickly retreat to the safe confines of faith. (Please see A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God)

Let’s do some Bible math:

If ye shall ask any thing in my name, will do it + He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do = a church that should regularly see people raised from the dead and healed; a church that should be able to feed the hungry; a church whose leaders work miracles, including walking on water, turning water into Welch’s grape juice, and healing the deaf, blind, and dumb.  Add to this, Jesus also said in Mark 16:15-18:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

that those who believe in Jesus would cast out devils, speak in new languages, handle snakes, drink poison and not die, and lay their hands on the sick miraculously causing them to recover from their sickness.

Is it not then fair to ask where such Christians are today? Where can a non-believer go to see Christians doing greater works than Jesus? Why are hospital beds not empty, mental hospitals closed down, and world hunger eliminated? Surely, if as the Bible says, Christians are to do works greater than Jesus, we skeptics have the right to say show us.

Most Christian sects come up with elaborate schemes to explain away the normative meaning of these verses. The works of Jesus and the early church were sign gifts, the Evangelical says, and once the canon of Scripture was completed these sign gifts were no longer necessary. I wonder if Christians who say this ever consider that what they are basically saying is that Jesus was lying in John 15/Mark 16 or that there should no longer be the expectation of  verifiable miracles. (I use the word verifiable to turn away those that want to appeal to all sorts of subjective experiences that they say is proof of  God working a m-i-r-a-c-l-e)

In the delusional world inhabited by Pentecostals, snake handling Baptists, and those who subscribe to CHARISMA magazine, greater works than Jesus are being performed on a regular basis. When asked for verifiable proof of their claim, appeals are made to faith or the Christian mutters, I just KNOW that God is in the miracle-working business. Funny business God is in…no advertising or place of business, yet non-Christians are expected to believe the business exists. I know there is a McDonald’s right here, says the Charismatic, because a book I read tells me there is.

Here’s my challenge to Evangelicals. Please pray that God supernaturally heals me from my physical maladies. If she does, I will believe and recant every word I’ve ever written about the Bible, God, Jesus, and Christianity. Wouldn’t it be a great testimony to the miraculous power of almighty God and the veracity of the Christian narrative if God healed an atheist like me? Instead of praying for God to kill me, why not pray for God to heal me? Even a little healing like miraculously removing the cancer on my lower lip so I can stop Fluorouracil treatment will be enough to convince me. I’m waiting.

Songs of Sacrilege: Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones

This is the thirteenth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is  Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones.

Video Link

Lyrics

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the Tsar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
(Woo woo, woo woo)

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
(Woo woo, woo woo)

I shouted out,
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me
(Who who, who who)

Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
(Woo woo, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
(Who who)
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
(Who who, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
(Woo woo, who who)

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint
(Who who, who who)

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
(Woo woo)
Use all your well-learned politnesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah
(Woo woo, woo woo)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah
(Who who)
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down
(Woo woo, woo woo)

Woo, who
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah!
(Woo woo)

Tell me baby, what’s my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what’s my name
I tell you one time, you’re to blame

Oh, who
Woo, woo
Woo, who
Woo, woo
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Oh, yeah

What’s my name
Tell me, baby, what’s my name
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name my name is rick I say

Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who rick
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Oh, yeah
Woo woo
Woo woo

 

Songs of Sacrilege: Thank You God by Tim Minchin

This is the twelfth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Thank You God by Tim Minchin, a British-born Australian comedian, actor, and musician.

There is a comedy bit for the first 5 minutes. the song begins at the 5:25 mark.

Video Link

Lyrics

I have an apology to make
I’m afraid I’ve made a big mistake
I turned my face away from you, Lord

I was too blind to see the light
I was too meek to feel Your might
I closed my eyes; I couldn’t see the truth, Lord

But then like Saul on the Damascus road,
You sent a messenger to me, and so
Now I’ve have had the truth revealed to me
Please forgive me all those things I said
I’ll no longer betray you, Lord
I will pray to you instead

And I will say thank you, thank you
Thank you, God
Thank you, thank you
Thank you, God…

Thank you, God, for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s mum
I had no idea, but it’s suddenly so clear now
I feel such a cynic, how could I have been so wrong?
Thank you for displaying how praying works:
A particular prayer in a particular church
Thank you Sam for the chance to acknowledge this
Omnipotent ophthalmologist

Thank you, God, for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s mum
I didn’t realize that it was so simple
But you’ve shown a great example of just how it can be done
You only need to pray in a particular spot
To a particular version of a particular god,
And if you pull that off without a hitch,
He will fix one eye of one middle-class white bitch

I know in the past my outlook has been limited
I couldn’t see examples of where life had been definitive
But I can admit it when the evidence is clear,
As clear as Sam’s mum’s new cornea
(And that’s extremely clear! )

Thank you, God, for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s mum
I have to admit that in the past I have been skeptical
But Sam described this miracle and I am overcome!
How fitting that the sighting of a sight-based intervention
Should open my eyes to this exciting new dimension
It’s like someone put an eye chart up in front of me
And the top five letters say: I C, G O D

Thank you, Sam, for showing how my point of view has been so flawed
I assumed there was no God at all but now I see that’s cynical
It’s simply that his interests aren’t particularly broad
He’s largely undiverted by the starving masses,
Or the inequality between the various classes
He gives out strictly limited passes,
Redeemable for surgery or two-for-one glasses

I feel so shocking for historically mocking
Your interests are clearly confined to the ocular
I bet given the chance, you’d eschew the divine
And start a little business selling contacts online

Fuck me Sam, what are the odds
That of history’s endless parade of gods
That the God you just happened to be taught to believe in
Is the actual God and he digs on healing,
But not the AIDS-ridden African nations
Nor the victims of the plague, nor the flood-addled Asians,
But healthy, privately-insured Australians
With common and curable lens degeneration

The story of Sam’s has but a single explanation:
A surgical God who digs on magic operations
No, it couldn’t be mistaken attribution of causation
Born of a coincidental temporal correlation
Exacerbated by a general lack of education
Vis-a-vis physics in Sam’s parish congregation
No it couldn’t be that all these pious people are liars
It couldn’t be an artifact of confirmation bias
A product of groupthink,
A mass delusion,
An Emperor’s New Clothes-style fear of exclusion

No, it’s more likely to be an all-powerful magician
Than the misdiagnosis of the initial condition,
Or one of many cases of spontaneous remission,
Or a record-keeping glitch by the local physician

No, the only explanation for Sam’s mum’s seeing:
They prayed to an all-knowing superbeing,
To the omnipresent master of the universe,
And he quite liked the sound of their muttered verse.

So for a bit of a change from his usual stunt
Of being a sexist, racist, murderous cunt
He popped down to Dandenong and just like that
Used his powers to heal the cataracts of Sam’s mum
Of Sam’s mum

Thank you God for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s mum!
I didn’t realize that it was such a simple thing
I feel such a dingaling, what ignorant scum!

Now I understand a prayer can work:
A particular prayer in a particular church
In a particular style with a particular stuff
And for particular problems that aren’t particularly tough,
And for particular people, preferably white
And for particular senses, preferably sight
A particular prayer in a particular spot
To a particular version of a particular god

And if you get that right, he just might
Take a break from giving babies malaria
And pop down to your local area
And fix the cataracts of your mum!

Mark Hall Lead Singer of Casting Crowns: Miraculous Healing or Luck?

casting crowns

Casting Crowns 2013

A few years before I left the ministry, the music group Casting Crowns were one of my favorite groups.Songs like Does Anybody Hear Her?, Who am I, American Dream, and If We are the Body spoke of the dysfunction and incest I saw in Evangelicalism. Both Polly and I cried many a tear as we listened to Casting Crowns. Their music had a way of working its way down to the pain and emptiness that had engulfed us. While I think they have, in recent years, become enamored with their success, I do appreciate the help and encouragement I found through their songs.

I said all of the above so I could hopefully blunt any criticism over what I am going to say next.  Mark Hall, the lead singer for Casting Crowns, was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of kidney cancer. Hall went though surgery to remove the cancer and now the Evangelical community is abuzz with reports of God miraculously healing Hall.

Charisma News, a news site that reports as fact the most ridiculous of miracles, had this to say about Hall’s miracle:

Mark Hall, the lead singer for Casting Crowns, asked his fans for prayer earlier this month when doctors found a solid mass on his right kidney.

God answered those prayers. The doctors successfully removed the cancerous growth and he’s heading back home again.

“The pathology report is in and the news is just as we expected and also an answer to the prayers we have all prayed,” said Melanie Hall, Mark’s wife. “The pathology report confirms that the tumor was indeed kidney cancer but it was fully encased. The findings of the report confirm that the cancer had not spread to the kidney or anywhere else. Glory Hallelujah!!”

Melanie said the cancer was classified as the nuclear level 3 cell type, which is aggressive. That means it was active and ready to spread to other parts of Hall’s body.

“This just makes all of this even more of a miracle,” Melanie said. “I wish that I could explain in words how much of a miracle it was, but it would take too many words. And to be honest, I am too tired.”

Melanie pointed to three circumstances that allowed doctors to find the tumor. First, Casting Crowns is normally never off in March—but was this year. Hall was not experiencing any tumor-related symptoms—gastric problems took him to the doctor. And doctors don’t routinely order CT scans with contrast for physicals.

“God was at work in this before we had any idea. He is good that way. We are thankful for His mercy and grace. We are thankful that He chose to answer our requests in this way,” Melanie said.

“I know that not everyone’s stories have the desired ending. But I also know that God desires us to trust Him with it all anyway. Even still, He says He will work it all together for our good. Thank you again for your continued prayers. For us, in this, the war is won but we still have to fight the recovery battle.”

Is Mark Hall’s successful cancer surgery a miracle? Where’s the miracle component? A competent, qualified radiologist performed the CT scan, a competent, qualified anesthesiologist put Hall asleep, a competent, qualified surgeon removed the cancer, and a competent, qualified nursing staff assisted and took care of Hall before, during, and after his surgery. Pray tell, where’s the miracle? Just because countless Christians prayed doesn’t mean that the Big Man upstairs stopped filling out his March Madness Bracket so he could answer all these prayers and “heal” Hall.

The fact is, it is trained doctors who successfully treated Hall. But, But, But, the Christian says, WHO gave the doctors the skill to successfully operate on Hall?  By all means, please prove to me that you can know the Evangelical God gave the doctors their skill? Which is more likely: a deity giving someone a particular skill set,  or hard work, training, genetic disposition, upbringing, education, and desire giving some a particular skill set? I’m going with the latter.

There’s no miracle to be found here. Hall was lucky. Let me deconstruct Mark Hall’s wife’s explantion of the miracle.

First, Casting Crowns is never off in March and Melanie Hall sees this as providential. Providential, as in God giving Mark Hall aggressive kidney cancer so he could then miraculously “heal” him? Providential, as in God having Casting Crowns take the month of March off so he could miraculously “heal” Mark Hall? Isn’t amazing that any string of events and circumstances can be strung together as “proof” of God’s providence.

Second, Hall went to see the doctor for gastric problems and he was not showing any signs of having a tumor. Yet, the doctor supposedly ran an unneeded CT scan and viola! found the cancer.  Here’s the problem with this scenario. Doctors do order CT scans for gastric problems. How do I know this? Last December, I went to the doctor for gastric problems. What did the doctor order? A CT scan. What did they find? Enlarged lymph glands, a lesion on my pancreas, and a gallbladder filled with stones and sludge. I then had an endoscopic ultrasound. My doctor feared I had pancreatic cancer. Fortunately, the lesion was benign, but I will soon have my gallbladder surgically removed. There is nothing miraculous about a doctor ordering a CT scan on a 45-year-old man complaining of gastric problems.

So then, miracle or luck? Luck. A miracle would have been a CT scan showing Mark Hall’s cancer and then when the surgeon cut him open the cancer was gone.

Melanie Hall’s parting comment to those hoping to be healed like her husband reveals the bankruptcy of praying for miracles:

“I know that not everyone’s stories have the desired ending. But I also know that God desires us to trust Him with it all anyway. Even still, He says He will work it all together for our good.”

You see, most Christians who pray for divine healing from cancers, illnesses, and diseases find out that their God, who supposedly never leaves or forsakes them, is on vacation and can’t be bothered with their petty requests. For every Mark Hall “miracle”, there thousands and millions who will die without their God ever giving them a thought. In their dying hour, they find out that the Great Physician is anything but.