Smile Politely

Say Two Prayers and Call Me in the Morning

“Are you even a Christian?”

This is one of the gentler responses I sometimes receive from conservative evangelicals who cannot comprehend that a fellow Christian would criticize certain aspects of our faith. I like this question very much because at least it gives me a chance to respond with an enthusiastic “Yes, I am!” Then there are the other responses I get such as, “You’re going to rot in hell.” These I don’t care for much. These responses make me want to ask, “Are you even a Christian?” But I don’t. I just Smile Politely.

Anyone who has read my column here at Smile Politely (or the articles on my blog) usually figures out pretty quickly that I am a liberal.

Yes, the dreaded “L” word! It is a word of powerful magic. Simply whisper it and conservatives run away shrieking. Or else their faces will turn an angry red as they become comically animated and start wagging a finger or shaking a fist in your face. Seriously, try it sometime. It’s fun.

Anyway, that poor little word liberal has really taken a beating thanks to the propaganda of conservative talk radio and FOX News. In fact, many of us on the left don’t even call ourselves liberal anymore because of the mental instability it causes in some minds. Instead, we’ve begun to use the much more positive-sounding word: progressive. That is a lovely word, isn’t it? And it’s probably even more accurate than liberal. But I admit I still stubbornly use the word liberal because, well, I’m afraid I may have a few latent conservative tendencies such as futilely clinging to things that no longer work.

Progress is what we are talking about here. It is something the Church and Christians have been fighting against for a long time. For example, when Galileo proved what Copernicus had suggested that the earth revolved around the sun (instead of vice versa), the Church had a big hissy fit. They opened up their Bibles to Psalm 91.1 which says: “The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved.” And they said, “You are wrong, Galileo! The Bible clearly says that the earth cannot move!”

Ah, progress! Here we are 500 years later sending men and women into space to explore our universe. We’ve split the atom. We’ve mapped the human genome. Humanity has come so far! And of course, we Christians have learned our lesson about fighting progress and knowledge. We no longer argue with scientific facts that contradict what the Bible says…

Oh, sorry… I’m afraid I dozed off for a moment and was having a dream.

Of course, there are lots of wonderful examples of how modern Christians reject scientific progress in favor of their medieval biblical interpretations. I’ve already used column space on the issue of homosexuality, so we won’t go there (at least for a while). Then there’s the whole evolution vs. creation debate, but I’m not going to pummel that equine corpse right now either. So how about this week we talk about faith healing vs. medical technology? After all, this is something that affects everyone since, at one point or another, we all get sick.

There are some interesting and diverse religious groups right here in Champaign–Urbana that enthusiastically recommend the healing power of prayer for whatever it is that ails you. Most people are somewhat familiar with Christian Science which has a couple of churches in our community including the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Urbana. They state on their website:

The Christian Science Church was established in 1879 “to commemorate the words and works of our Master, which should reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing.” (Mary Baker Eddy)

One of the most recent healing groups to emerge is called the Champaign-Urbana Breakthrough for Wholeness. The following is from their vision statement:

We are trying to make a place where heaven and earth will meet. We believe that if we do that, God will step in with wholeness for the people of Champaign-Urbana in the places they need it most. We believe God cares for all people—no exceptions, ever! The Bible recorded many different ways through which God healed people. Elisha lay on top of a person; one person was told to dip himself in a certain river; once Jesus made some mud with his saliva and placed it on the eyes of a blind person; Jesus as well as his followers often simply rebuked illnesses. And so on.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have absolutely nothing against prayer. I believe prayer is a very good thing. Prayer can enable us to get in touch with that divine spark within each of us so that we can glimpse a vision of how our lives and our world could change for the better (again, progress!).

But prayer is not magic. There is no relationship whatsoever between someone getting “prayed over” or “getting hands laid on them” and the outcome of their recovery. Seriously, if you think mud and spit can cure blindness, then I’ll make up a few thousand jars and sell them to you for the low, low price of $19.95 each.

Prayer is no substitute for a good doctor or good medicine. Although, prayer is cheaper.

What I would like to see happen in our world is for everyone to have access to good health care. Imagine if everyone who got cancer could get the treatments they needed. Imagine if life-threatening illnesses didn’t bankrupt people. Imagine if every man, woman and child, old or young, rich or poor, black or white could have the best health care available absolutely for free.

Now, that would be a miracle! That, my friends, is something for which to pray.

More Articles