“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes, but there it was…rarely do I come across a sight that could come out of a movie but there it was and just one block away from my house. It was big and bold. It was yellow and white striped and the sign on the side proclaimed Miracle Healing tonight at 7 p.m.
MM insisted we go and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: tacos from Loco Taco afterward. Honestly, I was excited. I had never been to anything remotely like THAT and I had some definite ideas on what would transpire.
I imagined a slick snake oil salesman selling hope to some desperate people. I imagined a smooth talking preacher man who had stacked the seats with old sick people and little kids on crutches who would be instantly cured. Then before I got carried away I reminded myself that seldom in life is anything like I expect it will be and I vowed to approach this with an open mind.
It was a big tent. There was a stage with a drum set, some keyboards and a microphone. It looked like a typical set-up for a band. In the rest of the big tent lay rows upon rows of metal foldout chairs. I had already planned on sitting in the back where I could observe the whole scene but to my dismay others had already thought of that. We sat right smack dab in the middle.
I was excited. I was anticipating a spectacle. I was careful to wear something nondescript so I could blend in. Needless to say MM and I stood out like two sore thumbs. The place was packed with regulars of the “church” whose parking lot we were sitting in. A few of them promptly introduced themselves. They seemed very friendly and quite normal.
The place was full in no time; People of all shapes, colors and sizes. The all-female band (very cool) started to play. A heavy-set Hispanic man took to the stage and started singing. Everyone was clapping and singing along to a song they all knew except MM and I. It was pleasant enough. Everyone sang a few songs and I admit at this point my clappers were getting tired.
Just as abruptly as the music began it stopped and a tall man with glasses who resembled an accountant took the stage. He seemed nice enough but not what I expected. Let me explain that I was raised as a Catholic. If you have similar experience then you know this was a bit different from the sort of sedate service I had attended in my very young youth.
The accountant guy introduced another guy and this guy was a good-looking man in his 40’s. He was wearing gray pants, a gray vest and a yellow shirt that matched the stripes on the tent. He was all I expected; he was charismatic, he was charming and he apparently was the one who was going to heal people here tonight in this very tent, just off a busy street right behind the bus stop and only one block away from my house.
The crowd was ecstatic! This was the man they were waiting for! He started out slowly. He carried a well-worn bible and began to quote verses. It was Luke, this John that. I admit my Catholicism is what some call lapsed. I recognized much of what he was saying but not all. He told us God would be coming down to join us but first we had to show that we were worthy. A collection bowl soon appeared and was passed around. It was quickly filled and to his credit, it never showed up again.
All during this a fly was buzzing around. I couldn’t take my eyes off it and it couldn’t stop buzzing around the couple in front of us. I mean no disrespect to God or anything, but I imagined that fly was God flying around to see what the fuss was all about.
The guy, who I’ll call Barry, was personable. He obviously was an accomplished speaker. He used all the right hand gestures. He made sure to make eye contact with each and everyone in the audience. He cracked wholesome, corny jokes and he held our undivided attention while he spoke of God and Jesus and miracles. OK. I will tell you now; my beliefs are more on the naturalistic side. I am more spiritual than religious. I don’t make judgment calls, believe what you will. I believe God is everywhere. My “church” is the outdoors…and miracles, in my opinion; well… let’s just say that I do believe in the power of positive thinking and that what we believe tends to come true. I also think there are things out there that are in-explainable and I try not to discount anything.
The time had finally come! Barry was about to do some good old-fashioned healing. He asked for volunteers; anyone who needed saving, anyone in pain who needed to be healed. A smattering of people came to the front. Most looked expectant but wary. I had a quick notion fly through my mind to join them, but aside from minor gum disease, I am fortunate enough to be what MM would call a healthy rascal. I held myself in check and waited with the rest of the crowd to see what would happen next. He spoke briefly to all of the “contestants”, quietly and in soothing tones. He went to each one. I could see them explaining their ailments, pointing to this body part and that. Most of them seemed to be relieved to be telling someone about how they felt; A someone who didn’t roll his eyes or tune them out. Barry was intent on hearing it all.
This got me thinking about the power of prayer and the power of loving care and understanding between people. I thought perchance I could have prejudged this whole thing. Maybe there was more to it. He asked us all to pray for these poor souls in pain. I am a very empathetic person. I imagined how it would be to be sick and desperate for a cure. Facing one’s own mortality is a scary thing. It is isolating. I admit tears welled in my eyes. I sent out all the positive vibes I could to this poor inflicted group, whose numbers included some elderly folks and even a couple of children.
Oh how the realities of life can be so cruel, I thought. My humanity was radiating and my empathy was shooting out in all directions. He asked the first person who was an elderly Asian woman to take the stage. She was accompanied by her daughter, who helped her climb the steps. He asked her what was wrong. She proclaimed that her shoulder hurt. He touched her shoulder and started this God this, Jesus that routine. He implored us to pray for her which we did. He implored God to “heal this woman!” He touched her again and asked if the pain was gone. The crowd hushed. We all waited in suspense to hear her reply. She started to laugh and say yes she did feel better. Everyone clapped.
Then it was on to the next one; A man with a bad knee. We were prompted to pray as before and Barry did his spiel. He touched the man and asked if he still felt the pain. The man looked confused. He hemmed and hawed and sheepishly uttered, a faint; “a little”. Barry laid hands upon him again. The crowd rose to their feet, arms in the air and at this point the murmurs began.
I suppose I am being coy here; they were not just murmurs. This was something I had never heard in real life. They were what would be best described as the speaking of tongues. The man directly in back of me was a pro and I was impressed by the way he rolled his R’s. It sounded much like Arabic…or something?
To each is own. I honestly don’t get it, but if this sort of thing helps people who am I to judge? I must say it got a little getting used to. The sort of praying I do is quieter, more solitary. It is a personal thing that I don’t talk about. It’s mostly of the thanksgiving variety than asking for something per se.
Barry went to the next person; A pony-tailed woman who suffered headaches. He started with his praying and the crowd started with theirs. When he was finished and asked if the pain was gone, we all waited for her reply. She said she didn’t know; that she wasn’t sure. He did his thing over and over until she was “cured”. A pattern emerged. Barry would ask each person when they were “saved” and what church they attended. Barry would than pray, the crowd would pray. Each time this would get louder and louder. There seemed to be an enormous amount of social pressure for these people to proclaim they were out of pain. I could tell they wanted to please Barry and the crowd but they also were hesitant to tell an untruth. There was a dispassionate man with an expensive camera snapping shots of the whole scene. I could feel flashbulbs on my face time and time again. I really started to feel uncomfortable and I thought about leaving. I could see a few in the crowd do that very same thing. Even the elderly woman in the green dress, who seemed so into it before, appeared uncomfortable by this time. Each person who left incurred stares of daggers from the array of younger men who had formed a circle around the parameter. I kept gazing outside, the sun was setting and beautiful colors were streaking across the sky. I regretted missing such a beautiful sunset. When the service was finally over it was dark.
We couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I had no appetite and we went straight home. I felt strange. I remember a service I had attended at a universal church last New Year’s Eve. Afterward I felt so wonderful. I felt nothing like that now. Honestly, I was creeped out. I made a few jokes about it and put it out of my mind. The rest of the evening was uneventful. I decided that I would write about my experience but really didn’t know what my take on it would be.
“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?” ― John Lennon
That night I had a dream; a nightmare. I was being chased by cultists. I was being held prisoner in this gargantuan mansion. Every time I would escape and find someone who I thought would save me, they would turn out to be another; People on the street, workers, all kinds, everyone. Whoever it was would just calmly smile and promptly return me to the scary mansion. I escaped one last time. I figured out they could be tracking me through my cell phone. (shades of NSA) I threw my phone into an alleyway and made it to a group of homeless people where I was saved after all. The song Karma Police played over and over during this “adventure”. Yikes! I awoke in a cold sweat, my mouth dry. It was three in the morning. Obviously my experience had affected me more than I realized.
It’s been a few days since then and I have let the whole experience soak in…And I still don’t know what to think. Conflicting ideas cross my mind. I expected one thing and was presented with something different but not as different as I had hoped. I guess maybe I too was looking for a miracle and found others looking for the same thing. Did we find a miracle? Who’s to say? One could bring up the concept of faith and the power of belief. Conversely one could bring up the subject of the power of social pressure and giving false hope to desperate people. Sure, I personally was creeped out but maybe others were comforted by the very things that disturbed me. All I can say is; for me the search continues…
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
~ J.M. Barrie
I Need a Miracle by The Grateful Dead (YouTube)