Pentecostals and charismatics have not forsaken their touchstone of healing, but they are broadening the concept to include conventional and especially holistic medicine. This trend has emerged over the past several years but is especially evident in the current issue of Charisma magazine (January).
The issue is devoted to “God and your Health,” but there is hardly a word about supernatural and miraculous healing. Instead, the seven pillars of “divine health,” according to one article, includes taking nutritional supplements, eating “living food” with natural rather than artificial ingredients, “detoxification,” meaning cleaning toxins out of the body through healthy living and fasting, and stress reduction, which can be done through practicing “mindfulness“ (living in the present) and meditation on the scriptures.
This change of emphasis started in the mid 1970s when Pentecostal healer Oral Roberts started a medical center combining supernatural with conventional forms of healing. But it has only been in the last few years that Pentecostal and charismatic leaders have appeared on the scene advocating a “deliberate transformation and `Christianization’ of secular forms of healing,” according to Joseph Williams of Florida State University.
Williams, who presented a paper on this development at the November meeting of the American Academy of Religion, cites such leaders as Reginald Cherry, Don Colbert, and Jordan Rubin as having attracted a large Pentecostal and charismatic following to their teachings that blend conventional, holistic and supernatural healing.
Their views are widely disseminated in the Christian media (such as the charismatic Trinity Broadcasting Network), bolstered by the claim that their approach is in line with scripture; Cherry says he has deciphered ancient biblical dietary laws for healing. These leaders–especially Rubin–tend to critique the over-reliance on prescription medicine and invasive medical procedures and champion holistic techniques and remedies. At the same time, the trio claim their teachings are validated by scientific and medical research.
The charismatic interest in home and natural healing methods is also evident among such prominent figures as Pat Robertson (who has his own natural health milk shake) and Benny Hinn (those in the “word of faith” movement still tend to stress supernatural healing at the expense of natural and even conventional methods).
Williams adds that with its focus on alternative health, the new breed of charismatic and Pentecostal healing comes across as less “dualistic” than Oral Roberts’ call to bring supernatural healing into the doctor’s office. He concludes that “by opening themselves up to unprecedented changes in one of its core anchors of Pentecostal and charismatic identity–divine healing–adherents have discovered broad new inroads to influence the wider American culture.”
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