Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The suffering God accepts you.

Arni Zachariassen recently posted a video of a group of people claiming that a deaf man was healed (again, I don't approve of the captions inserted by the person posting the video)

A couple of days later he posted some further thoughts, part of which I want to quote here:
What I find deeply distasteful is how in some of the churches where divine healing is so focused upon there is a perverse undercurrent of spiritual alienation for those perceived to be in need of it - those who are sick, but most profoundly, those who are disabled. Not only the obvious problem of why, if God wants everyone healthy, the sick and disabled remain sick and disabled, but the deeper problem of sick and disabled not being accepted as they are and always being (kept) a few steps away from full acceptance. Acceptance by God, by the church and by themselves. The bitter irony is that far from being actually healing, this conception of divine healing is deeply destructive.
I know this is true, not only because I spent the first 25 years of my life as a Pentecostal, but from experience with my Dad. For the last several years of his life he suffered from Hepatitis C, then died as a result of complications arising from a liver transplant. He had many people praying for him in all those years. He went forward for prayer in the times set aside for the anointing of the sick. None of it worked - and not due to any lack of sincerity or earnestness on his part or on the part of any of the people who lovingly and consistently prayed for him.

For a number of reasons Dad always had trouble believing God loved and accepted him - a feeling that was exacerbated by the sickness of his final years. He believed that his sickness was punishment sent by God for his past sins and, further, that God was refusing to heal him because of some continuing, unknown sin. I and others would talk to him about the grace and love of God and he'd feel better for a while. Then the dark thoughts would return.

I don't blame anyone particularly for my Dad's spiritual torment. And I know that no one wants to claim that the sick and disabled are somehow second-class Christians. Nevertheless, the emphasis on and the expectation of the miraculous - and, crucially, the requirements laid on those who need a miracle - inevitably leads to this sort of despair. I wish that churches who emphasize the miraculous could learn what Arni goes on to say, "Maybe God loves disabled bodies, as they are, and the acceptance of that love is the only healing needed."

I don't know what I believe about the miraculous, let alone why some experience miracles and others do not. Frankly, over the past few years I've run screaming away from any claims of healing or supernatural action. Now I find myself more willing to accept the idea of the mysterious action of God. (I am, for example, trying to keep an open mind as I've been reading about the saints and mystical theology lately.) I cannot and will not, however, accept the idea that if a person is not healed the fault lies with them. That is indeed damaging theology, as I have experienced firsthand.

The Gospel is far more important than any miraculous claims. God is not dangling carrots in front of you. God is not playing games with you. God loves you and accepts you, whatever the state of your health. If it is your lot to suffer then the God who suffered on the cross will be with you and somehow bring good out of evil.

2 comments:

  1. Hey Jeremy. Thanks for a good blog. Haven't read it until now, because I've been, somewhat appropriately, in the hospital for more than a week. Hearing about your father's experience makes me really sad. It's a very good example of just what I'm talking about. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. I'm sorry to hear you've been in the hospital. I hope you are better soon - and thanks for stopping by.

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About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.