Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Life

March 8, 2014

GLOBAL FAITHS: Christians who refuse medical help seek sign of 'superior spirituality'

(Continued)

In the snake-handling case, the Kentucky minister got bitten by a rattlesnake but refused to be taken to a hospital, where emergency room treatment would most likely have saved his life. The minister had earlier been convicted on a charge of illegal wildlife possession of 50 venomous snakes and put on probation. It didn’t deter him from continuing the snake handling practice of his congregation.

His death of snake bite is open to several possible interpretations. One is that God didn’t keep his promise that persons who picked up venomous snakes would not be hurt. (Or did the promise apply to only nonvenomous snakes?) Another interpretation is that this Kentucky minister did not have the requisite faith, which raises questions about his eternal destiny. The opposite interpretation would, of course, be that his picking up snakes and then refusing all medical aid after getting bitten was the ultimate expression of faith, assuring him of salvation in the hereafter.

Believers in divine healing and snake handling have one thing in common, the idea that a sensational and miraculous intervention of God, or a daring risk, is a sign of superior spirituality. It reminds me of the story of a man stranded on the roof of his house during a flood. He prayed to God to save him. A boat came by and offered to save him, but he turned it down. Then a helicopter came by, but he turned it down too, expecting a more spectacular divine rescue. So he drowned. When he appeared before God he asked God why he hadn’t been rescued. God said, “I tried twice. Didn’t you see the boat and the helicopter?”

We seem to keep getting too many people like this in our society.

Marlin Jeschke is professor emeritus of philosophy and religion at Goshen College. In 1968-69 he received a Fellowship in Asian Religions, spending five months at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School and five months traveling in Muslim countries of the Middle East and Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia. His “The American Religious Landscape” broadcast can be heard every Sunday at noon on FM 91.1.

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Poll

Last weekend (July 12) the Goshen Parks Department held its Kid’s Try-athlon to promote childhood fitness and this week (July 18) the new bicycle trail is open to the fairgrounds in Goshen, offering residents a healthy way to get to the annual agriculture exposition. Have you joined the local fitness movement?

Yes, I work at eating healthy and exercising
No, I am happy with my fitness level
Changing my diet and exercise frequency is a work in progress
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