Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Alpha Course: Week 10, Faith Healing! Holy Crap!

Faith Healing? That's fucking awesome!

This is the tenth official installment in the Alpha course series, in which I recall my experiences as a Jewish-raised dude and now a Gnu Atheist who took the Alpha course with his Christian wife. Names have been changed to protect privacy.

The course is starting to wrap up, and it feels that way. Tonight's class is a treat, though, because we'll get to see the magic healing power of Jesus. Enjoy....
  • Broccoli Chicken Ziti, and Oreos for dinner. Pretty awesome.
  • A guest spoke up with a promo for the church's men’s group.
    • Apparently this is a well-attended group in the church.
    • They are looking for men to have a not-gay relationship with Jesus.
  • Two songs: “Here I Am to Worship” and “Amazing Love”
  • DVD on “Does God Heal Today?”
    • Gumbel insists he was “very cynical” about healing at fist.
      • What a strange use of the word “cynical.”
      • I expected to hear “skeptical,” but he repeatedly used the word “cynical.”
    • Says healing is part of God’s character. Yes, he means faith healing, as in people are sick and suddenly get well as a direct result of prayer.
    • Talks of healing in the OT but Jesus of course is healer-in-chief.
      • Good part of M-M-L gospels is healing.
      • Apostles and disciples charged to go out and heal.
      • Stories of healing helped build the church, as I know from Bede.
    • Talks about the process of healing, the “how to” bit.
      • Showing love to the person needing healing.
      • Healers sometimes get “words of knowledge” in which they pray and then get revealed messages. Then they announce the messages and call out to see if anyone matches.
      • The prayer over the person to be healed asks God to relieve the discomfort of the person and looks to mention underlying “spiritual” causes.
      • The theory of pain here is that people will present physical ailments if they are not spiritually healthy
    • Points out that not everyone gets/feels healed.
  • Someone in our group came up: she had received words of knowledge: 
    • A headache.
    • A bone in the leg.
    • A hole (or was it a hole in the heart/chest?).
    • Purple.
  • In small group, we had at least one person who said he or she could identify with a word. 
    • Purple, for example, was recognized by one person as referring to her recent vein surgery and the post-surgery pain. 
    • One person mentioned that her bone had hurt her since childhood. 
    • One person had a headache.
    • Someone had gout. 
    • Etc. 
  • Each person with an ailment sat in the center. 
    • The group gathered around and put their hands on the person. 
    • They all shut their eyes. 
    • One person started off by saying prayers. 
    • Not everyone spoke up, but usually the group leaders did. 
      • Clearly, they had been coached/trained on praying in a certain way. 
      • They would pray to God to relieve the pain and then talk about connected areas. it would be like, “Dear God, please heal ABC’s bone. Help this bone in her leg feel strong and comfortable. You have made our bones and made us. You have made us strong to serve you and to live in your honor. Help ABC to take strength in your power...etc.” 
  • After the prayers, people would sit back down and the person prayed upon would say that s/he felt the power of prayer and that s/he felt better. 
    • I did not participate in the prayers. I observed. 
      • Again, it was interesting to be the outsider. 
      • I felt self-conscious, sure, but I couldn’t believe that a group of grown men and women were standing around making incantations for magic cures to health problems. 
      • One person prayed in this entranced, whisper, made all the more creepy with invocations that the Holy Spirit should “fill” the woman being prayed for. 
    • If I was supposed to be impressed, I wasn’t. 
      • When my wife and I were in birthing classes before our first child was born, we learned about ways to relax and to manage pain. 
      • For example, I would suggest that my wife relax her face, then her neck, then her arms, and so on. Other times, we would hold an ice cube and, with closed eyes, focus on the sensation in our palm. 
      • My point is that the mind is powerful and can be trained to help minimize and manage some ailments. 
      • Now, healing an amputee would be pretty darn good. Repairing burns (unaided, of course) would also be decent. What about reversing male pattern baldness? 
  • At the end, one of the participants apologized to me in front of the group. 
    • He said he had been defensive many weeks ago. I guess he felt I had challenged him. 
    • It was awkward. I mean, I had no recollection of the specific incident, and I never registered any offense on my part. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if people were offended. 
    • In any case, I accepted the apology, and moved on. 
    • Seriously, I don’t care about defensiveness or hurt feelings. If we’re going to argue, let’s just do it and we’ll all get whatever bruises occur.

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