BillyCoffey.com
BillyCoffey.com

Enough faith

February 25, 2013  

The television is largely ignored around our house for most of the day, but like all good rules it is relaxed after dinner. By then a day’s worth of school and play have left my children with as much energy as a bowl of Jell-O. Sitting on the couch and being entertained by Phineas and Ferb is all they can handle.

My daughter is generally Holder Of The Remote when I’m not around, and as my own energy level was Jell-O like yesterday evening, I had mentally checked out in the rocking chair by the living room window, content to watch the mountains rather than the TV.

I rocked as the cool February breeze blew through the open living room window, letting in the fresh air and letting escape the sounds of my daughter’s channel changing.

News: “Unemployment continues to rise across the Commonwealth…”

A preacher on the Christian channel: “…faith can heal you of your greatest pains…”

ESPN: “…spring training in full swing…”

And finally Spongebob: “I’m so cold, I can use my nose drippings as chopsticks.”

Which is where I thought she would stay. My daughter loved Spongebob.

But then it was back to the preacher: “…God loves His children and wants to prosper them…”

I kept rocking, gazing out over the porch to the mountains beyond. A slight smile crossed my face, and why wouldn’t it? My daughter had just passed up Spongebob to learn something about God.

“…He doesn’t want anyone to be sick! Disease is Satan’s doing…!”

Still, it seemed a bit odd. A bit over the top. A bit…

“You’re not healed because you don’t believe!!”

“Dang it,” I said, jumping from the rocking chair and bursting through the door as calmly as possible but not quite. I sat beside her and palmed the remote, changing the channel back to Spongebob with as much nonchalance as I could.

“How ya doin’, sweets?” I asked.

Nothing.

“Wanna watch some Spongebob?”

(nod).

“You okay?”

(nod).

But she wasn’t. I knew that. And I also knew it was too late. The damage had been done.

At bedtime when I went to tuck my daughter in for the night, I could see her tears from the doorway.

“What’s faith?” she asked me.

“Faith,” I said, sitting down beside her, “is believing that God can do whatever He wants.”

“Do you have a lot of faith?”

I’d been father long enough to know that sometimes parents must lie to their children. But I never made it a practice to do so when it comes to matters of faith, so I said, “Sometimes I do. Other times I don’t.”

She looked at me, crying. “The preacher man said I have diabetes because I don’t have faith.”

“That’s not what he said,” I answered.

“He said if I had enough faith, God would take my sugar away.”

I didn’t answer that time. Because again, I couldn’t lie—that’s pretty much what the preacher man had said.

I sat by my daughter’s bed for a long while that night, holding her hand and stroking her hair until the tears left and sleep finally came.

As I gazed down to her I wasn’t thinking about how special she was or how she struggled with her disease. No, I was thinking about how much I would’ve liked that preacher to be there to hear my daughter doubt her faith. I wanted him to see the tears he caused her to shed. And then I would’ve taken him out back and shown him what happens to adults who hurt my little girl.

The whole prosperity gospel movement is still going strong, and there are no signs that it will slow anytime soon. Check the bestseller lists. Turn on your television. They’re everywhere, standing in front of thousands of people in their thousand-dollar suits and pretty smiles, prophesying that God is just chomping at the bit to make you as rich and successful and healthy as they are.

I don’t normally rant, and I never judge. But as I sat there looking down at my daughter, I knew without a doubt that there was a special place in hell reserved for people who manage to contort God’s word to equate faith with wellness and piety with affluence.

I can understand their appeal, I really can. A God who wanted nothing more than to heap material blessings on anyone who paid enough attention to Him makes religion seem a little more palatable. A little more…human. And their theology is mixed with just enough truth to make it seem right.

But if you think it is, if you think that’s how God operates, then I’ll invite you to spend a day with my daughter.

Maybe then you’ll see that God isn’t after our comfort or our health as much as our faith and our trust.

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Comments

14 Responses to “Enough faith”

  1. katdish says:

    “Dang it”? You said “Dang it”? I’m going to assume this was edited for the purposes of publication. I know I would have blurted out a stronger expletive. Most kids put a lot more weight behind what their moms and dads tell them than some slick preacher in a $1000 suit. For that I am grateful.

  2. Billy, I have seen the health & wealth teaching do actual harm in the lives of people. It’s not just bad teaching. It does damage. Thanks for writing this.

    I am suddenly reminded of when I read the biography of Ronnie Milsap, who was born blind. His mom abandoned him because she was convinced that his blindness was a punishment from God. This false teaching is heartbreaking, harmful, and contrary to God’s word.

  3. Please tell your little miss that I’m still in her corner. Us finger-stickin’ girls gotta stay together and pray together…

    Blessings.

  4. karenzach says:

    Billy: Weeping as I read your daughter’s words. She is exactly the reason why I wrote Will Jesus Buy Me a DoubleWide? Because the prosperity gospel is a very dangerous theology. It is a minefield that has crippled and blinded generations of Believers and Unbelievers alike. My heart hurts for your little girl.
    And for you.

  5. Sharon O says:

    Beautifully written. I do think we ‘create’ more hurtful issues around the gospel of Jesus than what was ever intended I am so sorry she was hurt and confused by this person. They really should be held accountable for their words. I was especially moved by your tenderness and your attentiveness to her you are a good dad and she will always know you are there for her.

  6. Barbara Frazier says:

    Bless her little heart! I’ll hold your hat while you kick his butt!

  7. Lindsey Bell says:

    Amen to this post! I can totally relate to your feelings of anger. I’m planning to share the link to your post on my blog Friday, along with this: Be careful when you tell someone that if they have enough faith, God will do such and such. He might…but he also might not. Just because God doesn’t heal someone doesn’t mean they have weak faith.

  8. Cathy says:

    Sorry, B. I am really feeling like I understand the liturgical contemplation of Benedictine monks better than I do the ecstatic excesses of modern Protestant Christianity. It seems we have not really progressed beyond the hucksters of 100 years ago.

    A preacher told my G’ma in the 50’s to take my mom (8 yrs old) off her epilepsy meds, as a show of “faith.” Mom then had a grand mal which nearly killed her.

    Hugs to your girlie. Glad she has you.

  9. I’m with the one who will gladly hold your hat while you do the ass-whuppin’. I am so sorry that your sweet girl’s innocent faith has been roughed up by lousy theology presented in a glitzy package. It is a venomous word, this terrible preaching and thinking. And a dangerous one, too. The one we follow ended up hanging from a cross, for the sake of love. And we are called to do the same. Prosperity? Only in the most metaphorical sense possible. The only sense that matters, actually.

  10. TW says:

    Made me cry for your sweet little girl!!!

  11. Randy says:

    I do not normally reply to people’s blog posts – but this was excellent

    Check out Mark 9:42 for the punishment awaiting those who teach false gospels:

    “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

    I think their punishment is definitely awaiting them

  12. joanne sher says:

    Infuriates me too. Thank u for this post.

  13. carly says:

    Now I can sometimes pray only the Lord’s prayer. Yes. I know God does not always answer what we ask for and since God is God -well that is not my final answe. I had so much faith in God – said with humility and boldness. So now it is a may be a mustard seed size.Just read yesterday that fear and doubts are in our heads and of the devil and faith and trust are in our hearts. Almost lost the the heart part but the devil is NOT going to win.

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