Monday, September 7, 2009

The Faith of a Child (by Billy Coffey)

For those of you visiting here from What I Learned Today, welcome. I typically don't introduce Billy's guest posts because most of you already know Billy's writing and it needs no introduction from the likes of me. Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile know that I have done a few posts about the prosperity gospel. It is one of the few things that makes my blood boil and puts me into full ranting mode pretty quickly. But I have yet to put it into perspective as well as Billy does here:

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 wasn’t around. I had instead camped out in the rocking chair on the front porch, watching the mountains rather than the TV.

I rocked as the cool September 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: “…Red Sox continue their collapse…”

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.


“Wanna watch some Spongebob?”


“You okay?”


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.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.


Wendy said...

I'll go out back with ya. Our girls can stay inside and watch SpongeBob.

Anonymous said...

I feel your frustration and can't believe what some of these 'preachers' are teaching and getting away with.
Great post Billy...your daughter sounds precious!

Helen said...

I am so sorry that she was hurt by that preacher's words. It breaks my heart to hear that kind of thing because of my mom. She can't walk (and she is diabetic). It has nothing to do with her faith. Jesus said these things are the way they are so that God's glory will be revealed. But he didn't say when (Resurrection Day?) or how (giving the "weak" cause to inspire us with their faith in difficult circumstances?) I trust that Jesus meant what He said, but not that He meant what Preacher Man says He meant...

Mom does not like cartoons much, but she will keep an eye on the girls while they watch Spongebob...

Anonymous said...

All I can think to say is, "Amen."

Denise said...

God bless your precious daughter, I am so sorry that she was hurt by the words of that so called preacher. As someone who also has diabetes, I know for a fact it has nothing to do with my faith, our God does not work that way.

Glynn said...

I'm with katdish. The blood boils and the full rant is on.

John Cowart said...

Is it ok to say Damn! ?

Anonymous said...

It really makes me angry when anyone is told that they don't have enough faith and that is why they have a disease. And to say that to a child is emotionally damaging. I have a daughter with Autism and years ago I was approached by a couple who said that my faith was not strong enough and that was why my daughter was autistic. They thought they could do better and heal her with their faith and laying their hands on her. I refused to let them come near my daughter. I never talked to them again. I had more faith than they could have ever imagined. I had all the faith to live with the fact that my daughter was Autisic and that God would give me the strength to take care of her. People can be so ignorant when it comes to faith and healing.

Anonymous said...

God wants the best for all of us, but his definition of "best" rests more in the spiritual realm than the physical one. He's not a marionette that we can manipulate; he won't grant health and wealth at our whim. But he does promise to be with us always. I hope your sweet daughter knows that.

Thanks for a wonderful post. You and your family sound like special folks.

Kelly Combs said...

Ok, good, you didn't kill him because he was on the TV. Got it.

I'm sorry your daughter heard that, but I think you got it right. Good job.

Warren Baldwin said...

Those who preach wealth and prosperity are really just after it for themselves. And along the way they hurt sincere people struggling in their faith to make sense of life. It is a shame.

Sea Glass said...

Apparently this man needs to go back to compassion 101. How dare dare he say those things. He is the one that doesn't get it. Now my blood is boiling. God bless you and your family each and every day.

Sarah Salter said...

I'm rarely speechless. Today, I am... So angry, I'm speechless.

Kenny said...

I assume he also believes that Jesus didn't have enough faith to avoid the cross. GRRRRRR...

Annie K said...

By chance did you catch the name of the 'preacher'? Because I'd really like to know it.

Melissa from the Blue House said...

My 3 y/o has a brain tumor. This post just made me sick to my stomach because I've had several people give me books and CDs that tell me if I have enough faith God will take the tumor away. That I have AUTHORITY over the tumor and I can command it to leave. Well, guess what.... we had another MRI last month and the tumor is still there. All those books do is make me doubt the REAL faith I have and question my own WORTH in God's eyes... if He can heal and WANTS to heal, then why not us??

JML said...

Scary. Matthew 18 and 19 both have some really direct statements about people who get between God and children; there is a consequence to causing a little one to stumble. I'm so sorry that you and your daughter had to experience that, but I"m glad you shared it too, hoping that perhaps the rest of us can reflect on why we believe what we do, and even consider the words that we speak (or type, because they really can have such a huge impact on people.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

I shouldn't criticize TV because it's my bread and butter. (But thankfully, moreso from SpongeBob types than preacher boy). To hear things like this has my blood in a slow boil as well. Your daughter will very soon understand that the gift of your love and God's love is so much sweeter than the angst of her health. Health is all relative in the presence of faith.

Beth E. said...

Hmmm...I think we've got enough people here to form a posse...let's head on out to pay that preacher man a little visit!

I have a very hard time listening to "evangelists" on TV, who speak of faith in one breath, and ask for our money the next.

Blessings upon your precious little girl, Billy. May God strengthen and uphold her (and you) with His righteous right hand.

T. Anne said...

WE can never assume the intentions of our God. I'm disgusted by those people.

You're a wonderful father!!!! I will lift your sweet family before the almighty. He is capable if it is in His will and in His time. Already I've learned so much from you and your DD.

Joanne Sher said...

Makes me cry. And want to spit nails. Physical healing is NOT His promise to us, and no "preacher man" can make it so. Praying for God's reassurance of her faith. Wow.

Bradley J. Moore said...

Yikes. but in some ways relieved that it wasn't a relative, or a friend or someone at YOUR church!! Your own Blog kind of left me hanging there...

My heart goes out to your daughter. I'm sure she will learn a more sober, real, true faith from her mom and dad.

KM Wilsher said...

ouch! My heart goes out to your daughter, BC.

Interesting, our pastor/preacher was speaking to this last Sunday.
Said, "Healing is based on the healers faith, not on the healee." He gave verses to back it up.

Also, it is not our own righteousness and our own good works that qualify - our thoughts are not His thoughts, neither are our deeds :)

You are a gift to your daughter as she is you!

Heather of the EO said...

Thank you.

So yeah...I cried. For your girl and for my not-perfectly-healthy boy and for how sad it is that our kids will grow up being fed this stuff.

Excellent post!

Amy Sorrells said...

Wow. Tears. YOu're killin' me, Coffey. And givin' me a strong desire to flush prosperity preachers down a giant toilet, like those one water slides you see at water parks. There should be one reserved for prosperity preachers. Thanks.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

The prosperity gospel is such a crock.

How folks are buying the line that God wants us to be happy and rich and trouble-free, is beyond me. It's completely anti-Scriptural.

To them I say: Pick up your cross and follow Jesus.

Press on, brother.

FaithBarista Bonnie said...

oooh, my blood is BOILING.

"but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. " Matthew 18:6

Jesus had a certain somebodies in mind when He said that.

My only comfort in swallowing the lump in my throat is knowing you where there to catch your daughter's tears, Billy. Her daddy's voice is stronger and greater than any dumb deceiver's.

Giver her a big hug from all of us!

Marni said...

I really like Kenny's comment. It's actually a great argument against the "lack of faith" messages that don't hold water.

I don't like prosperity gospel either. It's so damaging.

Billy, I'm so sorry your daughter was hurt and made to feel she lacks faith or is being punished because of disease. Next time you give her a hug, give one from me too.

Jeanne Damoff said...

Billy, you know exactly how I feel about this. As upsetting as it is for your daughter's young mind to be exposed to lies and her faith to be assaulted, she is living the reality that God's strength is made perfect in weakness. There's more power in her precious, pure-hearted faith than that TV preacher can even begin to imagine with his materialistic focus. It reminds me of when the Israelites grumbled for meat and God gave them quail, but He also sent leanness into their souls. Far better to suffer in the body and thrive in spirit than to be physically whole yet spiritually grotesque.

In many ways you and your daughter are much to be envied, because you live aware that every breath is grace. I'm convinced that not one moment of your suffering will be wasted.

She is abundantly blessed to have such a tender-hearted father. Grace and peace to you both.