I’ve been sort of dead to the world lately because I’ve been sick. One of those normal, seasonal-change-related, upper respiratory deals, but it wiped me out enough to keep me home from lab last week and asleep more than half the time. Coincidentally, I was also involved in a conversation about the practice of faith healing on Facebook in which one of my friends told me that he thinks sickness is caused by demonic influence. I’m going to quote his comment here (unedited):
The one side of healing that most people don’t like to talk about is the Devil. Let’s clarify. Having traveled and seen some of the darkest, most evil things that are going on in the world today, I would have to say that I believe there are demons and there is a devil. Most American’s simply want to blame chemical reactions or manipulation, but this is a shallow understanding of the world we live in by simply denying the existence of the spiritual realm around us.
For me, I see that the devil has the power to bring illness into a person’s life through the choices that they make. Since God loves people and wants relationship, He gives freewill rather than forcing Himself upon us, even when it could benefit us. He rather allows us the choice to come to Him or not. By finally coming to God for relationship, healing is one of the side benefits of the relationship. But also the choices and agreements that have been made to the demonic are broken and this is when the majority of people receive healing.
I wonder how this guy would have responded if he knew I was sitting at my computer with a box of tissues and a cup of hot tea, coughing and sneezing as I typed back to him. I decided not to mention it.
The notion that the devil causes illness in those who have turned away from God, while God heals or preserves the health of those who worship him, is certainly a nice, neat picture of the world. I see why it would be satisfying to believe that. But it raises so many more questions than it attempts to answer. Why do faithful believers (of whichever is the one true religion) ever get sick? Perhaps you could explain that away as momentary lapses of sinful choices, but … why aren’t nonbelievers (of that one true religion) sick all the time? How could my friend go on to say in a later comment, “Plants, nutrients, medicine, all have their place and are wonderful” — wouldn’t mainstream medical treatment in this mindset amount to enabling sinners to sin without consequence, thwarting God’s desire that humanity come and worship him?
I don’t actually worry about the answers to these questions, of course. In all of my experience, and aggregating all the evidence that I’m aware of, I understand that sickness generally happens when your immune system is weakened and you’re exposed to germs. For three weeks before I got sick, my frequency of sinning (in the evangelical Christian’s definition) was no different from usual. However, I was working long days, busy right through the weekends, eating whatever crappy food was available in order to save time, and racking up a huge sleep debt. Ignoring all this and invoking the supernatural as an explanation seems to me to be the real “shallow understanding of the world.”