Faith Healing Getting Real Awkward In The Time Of Coronavirus
Bethel Church, a prominent faith-healing megachurch in Northern California, has ceased its hospital visits in order to protect said faith-healers from the coronavirus. They are also canceling missionary trips and advising members of their church — a church where the primary belief is that they can heal people — to wash their hands and stay at home if they feel sick, instead of coming in to the church to be healed.
In fact, they're going so far as to cancel services in Redding that normally attract upwards of 6,300 people who believe that all kinds of illnesses and injuries can be healed by prayer and "laying hands" on people.
Via The Sacramento Bee:
"Through email communications, signage, and church announcements, we are actively encouraging health practices and precautions to our whole community," Aaron Tesauro, a church spokesman, said in an email. "We believe that wisdom, modern medicine, and faith are meant to work together, and express the value for each in the pursuit of continued health and healing." [...]
"Though we believe in a God who actively heals today, students are not being encouraged to visit healthcare settings at this time, and moreover, are taught that even under normal circumstances, they must receive permission from both the facility and the individual before engaging in prayer," Tesauro said in the email.
That seems reasonable! But prior to the church making this announcement, students of Bethel's School of Supernatural Ministry (which I think we can safely assume is exactly like Hogwarts but with more Jesus) were freaking people out and touching five-year-olds without the permission of their parents at emergency rooms in the area:
One Redding woman told The Sacramento Bee on Saturday that on Jan. 31, she was approached by two Bethel students in the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center in Redding. The pair said "they would pray over the people there and put Jesus in their hearts and this would heal us all and we didn't need to stay at the ER and could go home," the woman said in a text message. She asked not to be identified to protect her family's privacy.
She said she filed a complaint with the hospital after one of the students touched her 5-year-old daughter without permission. Mercy didn't return a message seeking comment.
That seems bad!
While this is all well and good and the church should definitely encourage the 2,400 students at the school to not try to faith heal any five-year-olds against their will, and should encourage their 9,000 plus parishioners to wash their hands, it's also a little awkward.
Because we're not just talking about a church that thinks that prayer is helpful in these types of situations. We are talking about a church that literally thinks they can resurrect the dead and tells people that this is possible. Late last year, they tried to resurrect the dead two-year-old daughter of Christian recording artist Kalley Heiligenthal, encouraging supporters from all around the world to litter their social media profiles with #WakeUpOlive.
The response was immediate. The biggest names in Christian music from around the world chimed in on social media with their support, gathering under the banner of #WakeUpOlive. Kalley Heiligenthal is not simply a mother wrecked by grief; she is a well-known Christian recording artist and a figurehead of a powerful Christian movement that holds that all things are possible. That night, Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., a giant in the Christian music industry, began to hold special worship services dedicated to Olive's resurrection. Musicians celebrated the God of the Impossible with Olive's name scrawled on their hands. [...]
And so, a countdown to Olive's resurrection began. Family, friends and scores of celebrity influencers posted reminders that each passing day was "a good day for resurrection." By the fourth day, Olive had been in the grave longer than the Savior Himself. After a week, Olive's family and her church thanked everyone for their prayers and announced plans for a memorial service.
Now sure, we can all identify on some level with that kind of hope, but it is also very messed up to give people that kind of hope to begin with. And it's not the first time this has been a thing for these people either — Tyler Johnson, a former student of Bethel, actually went on to start a "Dead Raising Team." Their website claims that they have "resurrected 15 people to date," but does not offer any additional details.
Since it was started in late 2006, the DRT has comforted families in the midst of grief, as well as having 15 resurrections to date as a result of their prayers. If this is a service that you would like to make use of in the midst of your pain, please contact us as soon as possible.
Bethel students have also been known to engage in a particularly strange practice known as "grave sucking," whereupon they lie on the graves of old revivalists in order to absorb their powers. That doesn't hurt anyone, but still.
In 2006, a man who fell off a cliff in Redding filed a lawsuit against a Bethel student who thought he was dead and thus, instead of calling police, tried to faith heal him back to life and did not notify police until six hours later. That man is now paralyzed and, unfortunately, lost his lawsuit against the student.
Bethel is not the only church that does this crap, it just happens to be a very large and influential church that does this crap. In Idaho alone, more than 180 children have died because their parent tried to faith heal them instead of getting them actual medical attention.
So, with all of this, with the fact that they're basically now admitting that they can't magically heal coronavirus, with all of this evidence that they cannot actually raise the dead, will Bethel be ceasing its faith-healing practices? Probably not, because that's where all the money is.
As of right now, there is no known "cure" for the coronavirus. Not faith-healing, not bleach, not colloidal silver and not cocaine. Wash your hands, don't touch your face, and don't go to any Trump rallies. That's all we can do right now.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse