News from the BBC today that evangelical churches catering to the African migrant community in Britain are touting the power of prayer as a cure for HIV (among other things).
At least three people in London with HIV have died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.
The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.
This is particularly frightening in Britain. Depending on who you believe, between 29% and 42% of new diagnoses of HIV in Britain (in heterosexuals) are among African migrants, despite their being a population that accounts for less than 0.8% of British residents. And it’s an astronomically growing problem – The rate of new diagnoses among African migrants grew by a factor of 100 between 1995 and 2006.
The Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) is singled out by the BBC for special mention:
The church is headed by Pastor T B Joshua, Nigeria’s third richest clergyman, according to a recent Forbes richlist.
The church’s website, which was set up in Lagos, Nigeria, shows photos of people the church claims have been “cured” of HIV through prayer.
In one example, the church’s website claims: “Mrs Badmus proudly displays her two different medical records confirming she is 100% free from HIV-Aids following the prayer of Pastor T B Joshua.”
“HIV-Aids healing” is listed on the church’s website among “miracles” it says it can perform.
“Cancer healing” and “baby miracles” are also advertised.
The church’s UK website promotes a monthly “prayer line” for which it says: “If you are having a medical condition, it is important you bring a medical report for record and testimony purposes.”
If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering why? Why would any church kill off its own congregation with terrible, terrible advice and false promises? Well, we’re getting to that part.
[SCOAN] has posted videos on the internet showing its services in south London, in which participants who claim to have arthritis, asthma and schizophrenia say they have been healed after being sprayed with “anointing water” provided by the church.
Ding! There’s the money!
T B Joshua even has a blog, which proclaims the wondrous powers of his Anointing Water, with testimonies that make the medical professional part of me cringe.
The SCOAN website does say that “the Anointing Water is not for sale! Healing, salvation and all of God’s blessings are free gifts of God”, but I find the pretense that it’s not all about the Benjamins very hard to believe. The church itself features a big-screen that could put the Super Bowl to shame; it’s every bit the megachurch. Then there’s Emmanuel TV, which (if you can bear to watch it) contains no shortage of admonitions to hand over your money (because God can heal your cancer, but he can’t lend his own anointed prophet a bit of cash). This continues as far as the website, which contains the usual barely veiled inference that in order to receive God’s healing, you must first pay into God’s coffers, as well as advertising premium-rate telephone numbers, upon which you can reach “Prayer Warriors” who will presumably FedEx your prayer straight to God and smack him with a stick until he personally answers it.
The only conclusion that I’ve been able to reach is that T B Emmanuel knows very well that he’s not healing anybody, but he also knows that if people think he is, then those people will throw money at him in the hope that he’ll heal them too.
SCOAN’s own website describes T B Joshua as a “prophet”, though given that he is Nigeria’s third most wealthy evangelical pastor (estimates of his personal wealth range up to $15 million, not including the value of his church or its assets), I wonder if that might be a spelling error.
This ramble off into the shady aspects of the church’s and pastor’s finances should not detract from the most important part of this, however: People are dying because they believe what their church tells them. Whether it’s deliberate profiteering or self-deluding stupidity, the result is the same.
I must confess a morbid curiosity about something. This post will leave several track-backs to SCOAN affiliated websites – Will we get a comment or discussion from T B Emmanuel?