Sunday, November 29, 2009

Deya Vs. Darwin: Demystifying Miracles

I have got to blame insomnia for my this latest outburst. I have not been having the best of nights and my late research has availed me time to reconsider otherwise not uncommon events. One Rose Atieno, pardon, Rev. Rose Atieno, disclosed after a stint in prison that Gilbert Deya’s miracle babies were after all not miracles at all. Really? That bubble burst years back! In fact, we have been waiting for the United Kingdom to get over its beaurocracy and hand this religious criminal back to the country for incarceration. It’s about time one con man, in the name of Jesus, was shown what Kamiti looks like. But my sleeplessness does not allow me only a glimpse into this situation, it has granted me complimentary tickets to the movie and I have been watching it in shock.

It is a Sunday morning and every station on TV is showing a program of one or another preacher. In one, demons are being cast from patients writhing in pain and rolling on the floor. In another, the prophet is telling the patients exactly what their problems are and granting their prayer requests like Santa Claus. In yet another, the preacher has become a Nobel worthy doctor granting ‘HIV Negative’ certificates to AIDS patients and demanding that they run up and down the isles to demonstrate their healing. Good drama!

After one show ends and another begins, I begin getting second and third opinions from other men of God. These ones do not have drama packed performances and only speak the word with motivating conviction. I am surprised that one even ridicules the colleagues who employ physical tactics to invoke divine intervention. For him miracles are practical events that even silent prayers and obedience to God would suffice to summon. This does not help my insomnia. In fact, I forget any morning nap ideas and decide that maybe I need to settle it once and for all.

What are miracles? Giving birth to a baby? Surviving an accident? Getting a job? Healing from sickness – or is it being cured? Living to 120 years? Waking up every morning?

According to Wikipedia, a miracle is a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature such as can be attempted to be explained by divine intervention and is sometimes associated with a miracle worker. That sounds very scientific. Since science and miracles have not been best of friends I refer to a less biased definition. A miracle may casually refer to a statistically unlikely but beneficial event or even one regarded as wonderful despite its likelihood. Even less sleep.

The Bible, Torah and Qur’an are replete with examples of miracles performed by various personalities most of which are shared in these monotheistic religions. Moses dazzled the Pharaoh into releasing the Israelites with snakes and sticks. Noah, with only his family for manpower made a ship that saved all of the animals but obliterated the rest of humanity in the great flood. We must therefore all be descendants of Noah. Elijah created a jar of oil that never ran out. No wonder there’s so much oil in the Middle East. Even Muhammad is said to have split the moon and Buddha to have walked on water! But there has never been any evidence of these events especially because they seem not to be as prevalent today as they were then.

And of course Darwin! The bastard! After scientists claimed that the world that God made flat was after all round, how dare he portend that Adam and Eve never existed. How on earth does he imagine he came to be! Evolution? What blasphemy! God created man. End of story. No one ought to question that. He created all animals male and female. Then created man only male – then added as an after thought female in a surprisingly similar design as the females in all the other mammals. Our existence is a miracle and no one should pretend that genes define us as opposed to being designed by a higher deity.

But even within religion, why is there a controversy as to what is miraculous and what is not? Is it only becoming an egocentric battle of my “God is bigger than yours!” or “I am more gifted than you!” How are the millions of believers expected to act in the wake of new brands of miracle workers every day? Is there no way that we can reconcile really convincing scientific methods to our divine events? I discover that the Catholic Church is way ahead of me and am impressed by the steps that Vatican has made in this direction.

The Catholic Church has validated a number of miracles in the recent, nay, far past. The Sacred Host in 700AD, The Miracle of Calanda in 1640 and the Miracle of the Sun in 1917 are a few examples. Miracles do not have it easy in this Church. They are vetted to determine if the miracle went against the laws of nature e.g. raising a dead person to life or outside nature meaning no natural force may have caused the same effect. It ought to have taken place instantaneously without the means or processes which nature employs. So maybe waking up in the morning is not such a miracle.

The Vatican was forced to employ such strict criteria so as to manage the embarrassment of endorsing a miracle only to be explained later by over zealous scientists. The pagans! Protestants initially denied the existence of miracles after the Apostles. They are today the most ardent followers of the miracle revolution. But they are also preaching left right and centre about the imminent coming of false prophets who will not be easy to tell apart from the genuine servants of God. So I am hesitant in accepting some of the miracle workers in TV ministry for those two reasons. That they themselves have warned me that fake ones may exist that are too close to the originals and that I am unable to ignore the more than elementary science I have studied to explain otherwise simple events through religion.

Thomas Paine opined, “All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for impostors to preach and fools to believe.”

Ethan Allen also said, "In those parts of the world where learning and science have prevailed, miracles have ceased; but in those parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, miracles are still in vogue."

These American revolutionists and philosophers may have been atheists. They could even be accused to be sinners and pagans bound for hell. But they held a compelling position. I am concerned for the profession of miracle working. It is possible that just like Bishop Deya, many people will come about claiming to be men of God and collect tithes and offerings only to be declared fraudsters. In the United States, Marjoe Gortner in 1971 made the documentary, Marjoe, that revealed how his early life healing ministry had been a hoax orchestrated by his father and mother in their church. So the Kenyan born UK preacher is not unique. There are other crooks. The only way we can tell the real miracles apart from the fake ones is through a scientific investigation in the catholic model. Before we pay for anointing oil and gifted handkerchiefs we may want to verify that we are getting value for money.

In fact, I suggest that the miracle workers in the country form a Miracle Workers Association that can standardize the service. It can license the real practitioners and check that they do not proceed to perform miracles, or purport to, if the spirit at any point leaves them. That way we may have some order. We may even organize a day that they can storm Ward 10 at Kenyatta Hospital and heal all the HIV patients right where they need it. We can test them later to prove they are healed. Science and Religion working together. Deya and Darwin united.

Maybe then I will get some sleep.

The Tin Man.

1 comment:

  1. Now there is a badly kept secret! That we keep paying to feel good about believing in something that we are sure is untrue. :(


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