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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Misadvertising of healing...

A friend just tweeted this. It seems an evangelical church (Revival Fellowship Medway) put out a flyer including examples of people who had been healed by God. One person complained that this was misleading and reported the ad to the ASA, who have upheld his complaint and ruled the church can no longer advertise in this way. You can see the ad itself on his blog.

From the ASA: 
The complainant challenged whether the circular:
1. was irresponsible because it could discourage essential medical treatment for serious medical conditions; and
2. exploited the vulnerable because it invited people to attend the meetings in the hope of receiving physical healing.

And in his own blog he writes:

Finally, it seems to me that this is preying on vulnerable people in society. People with chronic or complex condition are often willing to try anything to be relieved of pain or disability, and this advert suggests that they too can be healed; this may well draw them into a complex religious organisation with all that entails. However, drawing people in with unsubstantiated promises of healing is an unethical way to engage people into a belief system.

In my opinion, the claims are misleading, unsubstantiated and seek to exploit vulnerable people.

Now I accept he is entitled to his opinion and actually probably a lot of people (Christians included) might agree with him. So I ask the question: is it irresponsible to share stories of healing in this way?  I admit if it were me I would not have advertised in this way, but the ad was hardly offensive and personally I don't think it was that misleading either. I mean those desperate enough to come to church thinking they would be healed on the spot, probably need God anyway (well we all do..) and surely would have sought medical advice previously. It's very unlikely that anyone would turn up having not sought medical help and wanting God to heal them unless they already had some level of faith. So it is hardly preying on the vulnerable.

Healing is always a tricky one in the Christian world. I believe God can, and does heal but he doesn't always, and too much emphasis on healing takes away from the central truth. We cannot promise that people coming into our churches will be healed because that is for God to decide, but we can give them the hope of his promises for us.

I will be very interested to see if this stays under the radar or whether the Christian Legal Centre and the Daily Mail will get hold of it...


Perpetua said...

Red, I'm afraid I'm one who finds this kind of advertising wrong. Not that I don't believe that healing is possible, but to put so many extraordinary claims on the same postcard as though they are everyday occurrences does seem misleading and even exploitative. and I agree with the ASA's adjudication.

Alan Crawley said...

I can't lay my hands on it at present, but the CofE has a report (now there's a surprise!) "A Time to Heal" which sets out guidelines, one of which is (and I paraphrase from memory) that we should emphasise that God can respond to prayer for healing in a number of ways, and that physical cure may not be one of them.
A priest I know always used to say at the start of a healing service that healing can take the form of death - can't remember whether that is in the report or not.

Red said...

thanks guys.
@perpetua, yes actually I agree, that implying they are every day occurences is misleading, but I'm not convinced that is what they were doing. interesting to see if this goes further though!
@Alan, thanks sound like an interesting report and I agree about the 'death can be healing' line too - certainly was for my Nan!

Nancy Wallace said...

I completely agree with the ASA ruling. I think the church's advert is misleading. I also think it is unethical, because it potentially preys on the vulnerable. I do believe God heals, but how that happens is not for Christians to dictate or (falsely) promise.