The Dark Side of Prayer for Healing

My latest journal article, “The Dark Side of Prayer for Healing:,” Pneuma 36, no. 2 (January 1, 2014): 204–25, has just been published by Brill. if I can be forgiven a boast, I received the following response to the paper:

I have to say that in the twelve or more years I’ve been copyediting Pneuma, this is the best article I’ve ever read. Nancy de Flon, PhD

To give you an insight into its content, the abstract reads:

  • This paper explores the relationship between disability and pentecostal theologies and practices of healing. First, it draws on the testimony of people with a disability, describing the challenge of being the “elephant in the room”: the obviously unhealed in a social space in which supernatural healing is understood to be connected to the gospel, a reward of faith, and a central part of a life and ministry of the church. Second, it deconstructs pentecostal theologies and practices of healing, identifying their potentially alienating effect. Finally, it proposes an alternative orientation, replacing the emphasis upon divine healing with a focus on well-being. To this end, it draws on the holistic intention of the pentecostal Full Gospel and relates this to the virtue tradition, with its concern for long-term flourishing in the midst of the hardship and fragility of life.

I know that journal articles are not everyone’s cup of tea (especially in this era of five-minute attention spans), but I do hope that some of you take the time to read it– available here. I’m certainly happy to engage in any discussion/criticism in the comments section below.

Providence?

Last week I wrote a blog entry describing problems with my bowel and “small moments of grace.” As I reread that blog from a different vantage point today, it really does seem like the author is a super spiritual sanctimonious twot. Isn’t he wonderful, such a man of faith in the face of hard times? Vomit.

The author of this current entry (perhaps an alien has exchanged the brain in the body that looks like Shane Clifton) cannot see any grace in the midst of godforsakenness. He spent three days last week in bed and thought the issue was over. Monday, he went to Prince of Wales (outpatients visit with Dr, physiotherapy, MRI, x-ray – nothing like a day at hospital to turn the skin green). Tuesday he went to college, taught a class in the morning, but at two o’clock in his office his tummy rumbled and out came the poo. Off he went to the train, but missed it by 15 seconds. Another half an hour wait on the platform, and for good measure his bum opens again. Gets the next train, and of course the movement brings more crap – which manages to find its way onto the floor of the carriage. He stinks to high heaven, and like the toddler who covers his eyes and imagines he is alone, he pretends that the carriage is empty. He makes it home eventually and his carers turn up at 5 for a horrendous cleanup.

Wednesday (today) he is woken, taken to the toilet, showered and put back into bed. Two hours later he is on the phone to his friend and, surprise surprise, the body leaks. Another surreal experience, a phone poo.

Providence? Faith? Moments of grace?

And as he finishes another appalling blog post (sorry if it hits your inbox when you’re eating), he asks again, why is he writing and publishing this? I suspect he just needs to vent, to shout into the void. So don’t pity him and don’t kid yourself that he is anywhere near being an inspiration. Just pray a quick prayer (Daniel and Bianca, you can light a candle). He doesn’t have the faith right now to hope it will make much difference, but he likes to be prayed for. There is something comforting in the thought of friends in prayer, whatever its connection to the providential workings of God.