Several new friends that I have are practicing what is essentially faith healing. But it is New Age faith healing. And they are charging money for it. Something feels decidedly wrong about this. Not just the practice, but charging money.
Now, we have these words from Jesus in Luke 10:7
7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. (RSV)
But he also says in Matthew 10:8
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay. (RSV)
So are we or are we not supposed to get paid for faith work? In the first part, we are, but it seems like the “wages” are food and drink, not money. In the second, it looks like we aren’t supposed to get paid at all because we didn’t pay anything to learn what we do. Being able to heal is a gift from God, not something that has to be learned.
But then are they talking about God? Do they think their gifts are from God? Do these above statements even apply to them?
I say new age because they do not use the name Jesus or God, or even Father. They use the ambiguous term Source or Spirit. Are they being politically correct, to not offend those who have been turned off, turned away from, or turned out of the Christian church? Is Spirit or Source a more inclusive name for God, in that it isn’t owned by any one faith tradition? Or is it something else entirely?
They all say that they are into the feminine side of divinity, and while I feel it is appropriate to balance out the representation of God that our society uses, I think it is important to make sure we are still talking about the same thing.
At a certain point a definition can stop being a definition, stop defining, stop having a limit. At a certain point the walls of meaning fall down and a word stops being a word and starts being a random collection of letters. They stop being a container for meaning.
Jesus says that anything we ask for in his name we will get. Jesus gave his followers the ability to heal the sick. Not some ambiguous Source, or Spirit, or Goddess.
And where are they, really? Did any of them come down to earth in human form to live and die as one of us? Or are they just stories? If there is no proof, it isn’t real. A disappearance isn’t a murder until the body is found. So a story of a god isn’t real unless there is some evidence.
They will play their drums over you or sing through their drums at you. Why drums? I don’t know. They are using frame drums, and because they are unusual, perhaps that adds to an air of mystery. A little of something unusual helps in the suspension of disbelief.
Suspension of disbelief helps in telling a story. It helps in getting a person to believe that a made up story is a true story. In other words, it helps people think that what they are being told is the truth, even if it isn’t.
But it also works in the placebo effect, and maybe that is what is going on here. Belief in a cure sometimes is the cure itself. Sometimes you have to give people a sugar pill in order to get them to get over their belief that they are sick. You have to “sell” it to them, make them believe that what they are getting is the real deal, or it won’t work. When I say “sell”, I don’t mean money, but money is part of it.
Carny men know about “selling”. They have to convince people of the value of what they are buying. With a normal purchase, you exchange money for a product. You can see what you get. There is no ambiguity. A real, physical object is in your hands. With healing, there is nothing there. Healing takes time. But that is part of it.
People are starting to realize that a lot of healing doesn’t come from the doctor, but from the patient. The doctor does what is necessary to get the patient to heal herself. Some of that involves a little sleight of hand, a little head game. A little suspension of disbelief.
Terry Pratchett used the term “headology” in his Discworld books. His character Granny Weatherwax used it to explain her work as a witch. “Witch” in this sense doesn’t mean that she casts spells or put hexes on people. “Witch” in this sense means wise woman or elder. She had authority by virtue of her knowledge and ability to stay calm in a bad situation. She kept her head about her when others were losing theirs. She said she used “headology”, rather than magic.
Perhaps this is “headology”. But perhaps this is deceit. If people are being healed, isn’t that all that matters?
Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe they are deceiving people as to the source of the healing. Maybe they are leading people astray. Maybe they are leading themselves astray.