Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Stand Up And Be Healed (Again)

Well, I've obviously struck a nerve. The Stand Up And Be Healed post has had more than 3,200 hits in less than 24 hours. Presumably a lot of those visitors have been disappointed to find that the post was not prescriptive but rather humorously biographical in nature. Sorry.

So, continuing on the theme of spiritual healing, let me tell you the story of my first proper encounter with the phenomenon. In my late teens I went to see an American evangelist called Dr Morris Cerullo at the Colston Hall in Bristol. I had seen evangelists before, one of my best friends father was one after all, but nothing, nothing at all, had prepared me for Morris. The hall was packed to it's 2000 seat capacity. Thunderously loud praise music played and we were led in an hour of worship by skilled musicians and singers, fronted by a slickly professional master of ceremonies. The audience was whipped into a charismatic frenzy until finally Morris Cerullo himself came on to the stage. Morris shouted a series of apparently rhetorical questions. Did we LOVE God? Yes! Did God LOVE us? Yes! How much? Er... Quite a lot! How much? Lots and Lots! Being British it took Morris a while to wind us up to the state he wanted us in. Who is king? God Almighty! Who's his son? Jesus! What did Jesus do for us? He died for us! What did JESUS give to us? Eternal life! (We were getting the hang of this.) What did Jesus give for us? Everything! What did Jesus GIVE for us? Everything! WHAT did JESUS give for US? EVERYTHING! What must we give back to him? EVERYTHING! What MUST we give back to him? EVERYTHING!... Let us take up a collection. The stewards will pass among you with the collection buckets.

The Spirit of the Lord descended on Morris and told him that there were people in the congregation who were being led to give £100. . . No! £500. . . No'. . . £1000. Yes that was it. The Spirit was saying there were 3. . . 7. . . no. . . 11 people here today that the Lord was especially blessing by receiving their cheques (made out to Morris Cerullo Inc) for the holy sum of £1000. The buckets passed among us for the next 20 minutes until Morris was satisfied that we had expressed sufficient gratitude to God for his lowly servant.

Next came the address. We sat mesmerized as Morris regaled us with stories of how as a young Jewish boy he had been taken up and shown around heaven before being commissioned to go out and tell the world about Jesus. Morris was a man on a mission and that mission was to kick Satan's bottom. Satan, Morris told us was at the heart of the worlds woes. Only Satan had been defeated by Christ on the cross and now he was due a good kicking and Morris had his steel toe-capped devil kicking footwear on. Satan manifested his evil through sickness and disease – were we going to allow that? NO!

We were invited to stand and pray. Morris led us in a lengthy exhortation to God to bring about healing as a way of showing Satan who was boss. A great many hallelujahs later those of us with Satan inflicted infirmaries were invited to approach the stage. People flooded forward, limping and shuffling towards hope. Morris welcomed them all. He questioned them and prayed for them. “Do you want to be healed?” Amen! People were slain in the Spirit right, left and centre, being caught deftly by experienced helpers before they hit the floor. A tumor here, a migraine there. Shortened left legs, aching backs, partial sight, Satan was taking a beating. A few were lifted from their wheelchairs and were encouraged to dance across the stage in defiance of their arthritis. Praise the Lord. The one or two very obviously severely disabled people there never quite made it to the stage I noticed, but were taken aside and prayed for quietly in the corner, separately.

I was watching all this from a position high in the balcony. When Morris had asked us all to stand I had obeyed. But that was more than half an hour ago and my weakened back was aching and my legs were trembling with fatigue. I found myself caught on the horns of a dilemma; I was too self-conscious to show weakness and sit down and I was too tired and in pain to make my way all the way down to the stage to receive God's promised healing. I watched in two kinds of agony, spiritual and physical. Was this my chance? Was I missing out on something wonderful? l didn't know. As Morris spoke with silky sincerity into the microphone, his tone matched by an organ, rising and falling with his voice, I knew I'd missed out on whatever it was he was offering.

As we filed from the hall I felt strangely empty. For all the talk of the Spirit moving among us I had felt nothing except a lot of pain caused by standing so long. And looking around me I sensed I was not the only one who felt a little let down. Bemused looks almost rivaled ecstatic looks. Before I'd left I had filled in a little form, giving my address, so Morris could send me a free book so maybe I could learn more from his written word.

For years to come I received regular letters from Dr Morris Cerullo, endlessly offering me various paths to salvation and books promising biblically assured financial security. If I had faith enough to make a small donation to God's work I was promised abundant living and a 'free' set of Morris's latest tapes, books or especially blessed pieces of cloth.

To be continued...