“Mundus vult decipi” (“the world wants to be deceived”)- Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Cutter: “Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it because you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know the secret… You want to be fooled.” – from the movie “The Prestige”
Over the last month and a few weeks I’ve been watching something unfold that has shocked me, depressed me, confounded me and, to be honest, left me wondering about the present future of the part of the Church – “charismatic” for those keeping score – of which I am a part. In part it’s why I posted the videos by Derren Brown.
Over 17 years ago I was working in a church down in the States. One of the families that I worked with had put the ‘funk’ in dysfunctional. The teenage boys were all in various stages of crisis and instead of therapy they took turns being shipped off to military school and being put on various drugs to modify their behaviour. Getting to know the family I learned that the biggest part of the boys lives, prior to getting into the context where I met them, had been spent at a church where the pastor told them, literally, what to do, when to do it and when to stop. They signed over loads of cash, changed their clothes if they didn’t meet with pastor’s approval and followed his injunction to be generous toward their children with the “rod of discipline”. As their story was unpacked I was shaken by the facts and that two reasonably intelligent people could, in the name of faith in God, unplug their brains and subjugate their God given wills and common sense so they wouldn’t miss out on “God’s blessings” via their pastor and his wife.
For the last 12 years or so I’ve been a tongues carrying member of what’s called the charismatic – or charisMANIAC…c’mon, you know you were thinking it – part of the Church. Being ‘Spirit led’ hasn’t diminished the number of stories like the one I first ran into in the States. Lately, they seem to be on the increase.
One couple I know were approached by their pastor for a serious talk. The Lord had ‘told’ him that this couple – who wouldn’t say ‘shit’ if they had a mouthful – had some serious sin in their lives. He asked to see their financial records and when he located a deposit for an amount that was bigger than a bread box he pointed to the ledger and said, “there it is.” (I kid you not.) This was, he explained, an idol in their lives they needed to repent of by writing out a cheque for said amount and donating it to the church – of which he was both depositor and cheque writer for – and off he went with their ‘sin’ in his pocket until he could get to the bank the next day.
Another couple I know was told that having children was a requirement by God and you don’t stop ‘til God shuts off the tap. So they had many, many children (to stay in God’s blessing) and love each one but now find themselves wondering why their pastor had only a couple kids and why the church never stepped up to feed the hungry mouths and help the tired hands that such a large family produces.
I could go on but I won’t because it’s just too sad.
What I’ve been watching over the last month or more has been an “Outpouring”. It’s been happening in the U.S. and is either Charismaniac or Charismanic and I own it, this is my family. Recently the ABC news show “Nightline” did a report on the event. The leader had been yelling (and yes, I do mean yelling, check the tapes) at the video camera almost nightly for the media to get there and to do a story on it. Thousands, he said, tens of thousands, had been healed and they had the medical verification to prove it. Over 20 people had been resurrected from the dead. Again, with medical proof. Among the most startling things (to me) that he said was this, “Lord, why can’t I just move in healing and forget talking about all that other stuff? He said, ‘Because Todd, you got to get the people to believe in the angel.’ I said God, why do I want people to believe in the angel, isn’t it about getting the people to believe in Jesus? He said, ‘The people already believe in Jesus, but the church doesn’t believe in the supernatural.’ The church has no problem believing in Jesus, what we don’t believe in is the supernatural. We don’t believe in angels, we don’t believe in the prophetic, we don’t believe in what’s going on, and I’ll tell you what, we need to have an awakening.”
So back to ABC. They ask for details on 3 medically verifiable healings. He tells them he has thousands. They say, “give us 3.” They can’t give them one. They give them ‘inspiring stories’ but not one where someone has been sick, been there and been healed and was willing to go to the doctor, verify and then share their story publicly. If I had E.D. or haemorrhoids (word tells me that’s how to spell it) I might hesitate but c’mon. You know what I’m saying? The AP asks the same question and get 15 names and numbers. Some numbers are wrong numbers, some won’t talk to them and finally a couple people talk but won’t o.k. their doctor to talk to them and verify anything. And I’m reading and hearing all this and thinking, “surely the guy who can now see out of his glass eye would be willing to step up.” But sadly, apparently not.
I talk with other Christians in this part of the family and what I am greeted with 80% of the time is that I’m opposing the move of God. That I have a religious spirit. That I don’t have faith. That I’m part of the last move of God so I’m opposing the new move. But then another 10% want me to sign the petition to have the guy leading the thing declared the anti-christ. No thanks. He’s just a brother who’s lost his way.
And now the spin will begin. It already has. We all know that the devil controls the media and they just set out to make the “Outpouring” look bad. O.K., let’s say that’s true. Why in the world then did the “prophet” leading this whole thing not hear from God, since he apparently has the hotline, to AVOID the publicity rather than call out NBC, ABC, CNN and Larry King? How I wish he’d included the Oprah in his shout outs.
My friends say, ‘the healings and miracles validate the whole thing.’ Great. Except Jesus said the opposite and Moses got water from a rock by hitting instead of speaking and suffered for the disobedience but still got the miracle. And now, according to the complete lack of evidence supplied, apparently there aren’t even any healings or miracles to validate it all. How could you call out CNN and not have one medically verifiable healing in your file? I’ve been healed of an ulcer after prayer and it was medically verified by my good doctor. Not hard. A doctor in our church saw one of his patients healed after prayer by a friend of hers and his. Instant, complete, verifiable. And I don’t even have a big staff to follow up on these stories.
Right now on the broadcast of the “Outpouring” is another ‘prophet’. The founder has taken some time off because the ‘revival’ has been exhausting than reviving for him. The ‘prophet du jour’ is the same one who was here in the Maritimes about 12 years ago who prophesied over a friend of mine that the church he was leading here in our city would multiply by a factor that would have meant a church of 500. About 11 years ago that church closed and my friend moved away with his family. A few years ago this same ‘prophet’ was out in western Canada and had a ‘word’ for our province. He asked, “is there a place called Prince Edward Island?” and then gave this great ‘word’ about what God was going to do here in this place he’d never even heard of. People here were pretty excited he had a word for someplace he’d never even heard of. Except of course he’d been out here and had prophetic words back 12 years ago for Prince Edward Island and the church that would become 500 that fell about 450 short before it ceased to exist.
So how can stuff like this keep happening? ‘Cause nobody will tell the Emperor he’s buck naked.
So, what do you think? Am I taking crazy pills?