A vague resurrection

With books like “Heaven is for Real” on the New York Times bestseller list, it’s no wonder reporters might gravitate toward stories of death, resurrection, heaven and everything else that touches the topic. A reader sent us a piece that neglects to mention quite a few details in trying to retell a resurrection-like story.

A local Knoxville television station reports on a man who died — or appeared to have died — in a church service but woke up 10 minutes later.

On January 22nd, Fred McAfee attended a morning worship at Covenant Life Worship Center in Lake City. He got out of his chair to give an offering, and collapsed suddenly.

“No breath, no heartbeat… just completely collapsed,” remembers Pastor Tony McAfee.

Several people attempted to revive Fred McAfee, and an ambulance was called. While the congregation waited, they prayed.

“Its an amazing story, really, about the power of prayer,” said the pastor. “And that miracles still do happen.”

The reader who sent it in also sent a list of questions the story left her with:

Has this ever happened in the history of the church? Is this a church or denomination that typically looks for miracles and charismatic events?
How has this experience affected the man’s faith? How has it affected his church?
Is the pastor related to the man who collapsed? They have the same last name.

You would think these kinds of questions would come up in the editing process. Otherwise, the story is rather thin on substance or background. The reporter took the time to interview some doctor (not the one who practiced on the man) to explain the science behind it, but didn’t bother to take the time to explain some of the underlying religious themes.

The pastor told the reporter, “It isn’t unusual for people to be healed, but it is unusual for people to be resurrected from the dead.” Could the reporter have asked, “What do you mean when you say people have been healed?” Does he mean spiritually, literally, or something else? Could he provide examples?

The reporter finds a cutesy way to end the piece without bothering to dig for more of the details. “He had been participating in a religious fast. His wife assured me, it could be his last.” So what is this religious fast, you ask. Too bad, the story’s over and the anchors moved onto something else.

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  • Marie

    The pastor told the reporter, “It isn’t unusual for people to be healed, but it is unusual for people to be resurrected from the dead.”

    I didn’t see this quote in the story. Did I have to watch the video link? Either way it seems to me that this pastor doesn’t even Get Religion. Being raised from the dead (think Lazarath) and being resurrected (Think Jesus) are not synonymous concepts. Those that are raised from the dead are still mortal while the resurrected are raised to a state of immortality. If I am wrong and this is a religious understanding that is specific to particular branch of Christianity please let me know.

  • Northcoast

    Somehow the sound wasn’t working when I played the video. If viewers of this TV station don’t already know that the church is pentecostal, they can find out in a minute of so at the web site, http://www.covenantlife.biz.

  • Mike

    I firmly believe in the power of prayer. That said, this was a trivial story about a trivial incident and the missing religious elements did not concern me. If the man’s heart did stop beating, the CPR he received can certainly be credited with saving his life. My prayer would be one of thanks that there were members in the congregation who were trained in CPR and rushed to assist him. He was not dead in pure medical terms and was therefore not brought back to life. If anything, his life was saved before he died.

  • Mark Baddeley

    Feel free to cull this if it off-topic.

    Re: Marie no.1.

    I don’t think that the distinction between raised and resurrected would be as firmly grounded in popular evangelicalism as it would be in, say, the Orthodox churches with their greater appreciation for the concept of divinization. One of the reasons why N.T. Wright’s writings have been significant in NT studies is for the way he offered some theological weight to the resurrection beyond it simply being a sign that the cross had ‘worked’.

    Given that, it might be a little harsh on a journalist to criticize them for not getting that distinction – unless they were reporting a story from a branch of Christianity where that distinction really is critical to their understanding.

  • Martha

    Sarah, it just struck me (because I was going to google Covenant Life Worship Centre to find out what kind of denominational/non-denominational background they have, if the man was engaging in a “religious fast”) – do you think news stories are skimpier on the kind of detail you would traditionally expect, because they assume if someone is interested, they will Google the details?

    Perhaps not the print media as much, but I could definitely see television and radio news being told to pare down any unnecessary details and if people really want to know more, they can hit the station website and/or Google.

  • William

    I’d love to see modern newspaper coverage of the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira from Acts 5:1-11.

  • Martha

    “Prominent philanthropist couple snubbed by fundamentalist preacher”, William?
    :-)

  • robert landbeck

    It could very well prove to be that history has completely mis-understood the significance of the Resurrection of Jesus?

    The first wholly new interpretation for two thousand years of the moral teachings of Christ is published on the web. Radically different from anything else we know of from history, this new teaching is predicated upon a precise, predefined and predictable experience and called ‘the first Resurrection’ in the sense that the Resurrection of Jesus was intended to demonstrate Gods’ willingness to real Himself and intervene directly into the natural world for those obedient to His will, paving the way for access, by faith, to the power of divine transcendence.

    Thus ‘faith’ is the search for this direct individual intervention into the natural world by omnipotent power to confirm divine will, command and covenant, “correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries.” So like it or no, a new religious teaching, testable by faith, meeting all Enlightenment criteria of evidence based causation and definitive proof now exists. Nothing short of a religious revolution is getting under way. More info at http://www.energon.org.uk
    http://soulgineering.com/2011/05/22/the-final-freedoms/

  • http://!)! Passing By

    Re: #7 -

    “Pope a suspect in double murder”.

    It’s ready-made for The History Channel.
    ;-)

  • matt

    #8 That’s some new-age flakiness you got goin’ on. It’s also preposterous and completely unfounded. Thanks for another mis-representation (in a long line) of the (true and clearly understood for 2k years) significance of the Resurrection of Jesus.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Folks, please stay on topic. Martha, I felt like the TV report could have trimmed here and there to make room for more details. Like why quote a random doctor (or cut it down)? Sometimes google can’t answer all the questions.

  • Mike O.

    Sarah, from the time the field reporter starts until the end is two minutes even. Of that, 20 seconds is spent with that doctor or about one-sixth of the report. His is the only voice that suggests a reasonable explanation for the events at hand. I’m not suggesting that he should have gotten equal time as the folks in the church, as the story was centered around this gentleman and the people of the church. But it would just be odd to take the medical perspective entirely out of the report since that is the most probable cause of events.

  • Martha

    Sarah, sometimes I do feel (watching things like Sky news over here) that they want to drive people to their website (where they can pay for content or at least be exposed to all the adverts) for a fuller treatment of the story.

    There’s so much flash (scrolling ribbon with headlines on bottom of screen, station ident, montage of newsroom and/or bank of monitors showing images of breaking/top news stories) that trying to winnow out what is going on is increasingly difficult.

    Or maybe I’m just too old for the modern world of communications media :-)


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