Darlene and I had a fun meeting and interesting lunch yesterday with Frank Turk (the Centuri0n) and his lovely wife. Frank is as intelligent and interesting in person as he is on line, and like me, he married up. For those who really wonder: yes, he does have rays of reflected glory that emanate from his head.
Since he has blogged about our meeting (complete with less-than-flattering photos), I'll just post three pictures of him, and then perhaps I'll reveal more about our top-secret Calvinist Cabal when I get an opportunity next week. Here's the flip side of the picture Frank posted:
And here's the painting of "The Magnificent Seven" on the wall behind hima fitting backdrop for the heroic persona that is Frank Turk.
So, anyway, I'm back in the Tulsa area (where I grew up and went to high school). Historically, Tulsa has been best known for two major industries: petroleum and faith healing.
Tulsa's official city slogan is "The Oil Capitol of the World." Unofficially, it's also "the Oral capitol of the world"home of Oral Roberts University, and launching pad for not only Oral and Richard Roberts, but also T. L. Osborn and Kenneth Hagin. (Hagin operates a college next door in Broken Arrow that is probably the world's most prolific training-ground for hard-core name-it-and-claim it charismatics.) Larry Lea had a home here when an ABC news program exposed him as a fraud. Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen both went to college here, and Kathryn Kuhlman went to meet her Maker from here.
Since about 1969, Tulsa's faith healers have maintained a bizarre and somewhat cynical relationship with the medical profession. The reason Kathryn Kuhlman was here when she died in 1976 is that she had come to seek medical treatmentnot faith healingfor an enlarged heart. (If memory serves me correctly, there was actually a week in the early 1970s when both Kathryn Kuhlman and Oral Roberts were patients together in the same cardiac care unit in a local hospital here. I have often wondered if they even tried to heal one another.)
And then there's "The City of Faith"an embarrassing monument to Oral Roberts' brief dalliance with legitimate medicine. It's a 60-story skyscraper in South Tulsa that was supposed to be the laboratory where faith healing and conventional medicine would be blended together, and a healing force would be unleashed on the earth that would bring multitudes to Tulsa, where all kinds of hitherto incurable afflictions would be cured. Oral Roberts said God had even promised a cure for cancer. Roberts sold the concept to his donors by solemnly declaring that he had been instructed to build the building by a 900-foot-tall Jesus, who had appeared to him in a vision.
A few years later, with donor funds falling short, Roberts warned his constituents that God was going to kill him if donors did not come through with the rest of the cash. A wealthy dog-track owner in Florida wrote a check for millions in the last hour, and Roberts' life was spared.
But the medical center was a massive failure from day one, and for many years, the skyscraper sat almost totally empty, in mute testimony to charismatic audacity. I think Roberts finally sold the building to someone, but I'm told most of the floors in it are still largely unoccupied.
I saw it Monday when we flew ina ridiculous-looking lone skyscraper, many miles from Tulsa's real skyline.
Anyway, when I've been away for a while, I sometimes forget how deeply ingrained all that stuff is in Tulsa's religious culture. Tuesday, Darlene and I stopped into a Tulsa-area grocery store to pick up some things, and my attention was arrested by a spinning rack of charismatic books, most of them promising healing through "Bible Cures."
Here, for approximately $5.95 per volume, you can learn "biblical" remedies for cancer, high cholesterol, PMS, ADD, and a host of other evils.
Inside each book, you'll find the following disclaimer:
This book is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice and treatment from your personal physician. Readers are advised to consult their own doctors or other qualified health professionals regarding the treatment of their medical problems. Neither the publisher not the author takes any responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medicine, supplement, herb or preparation to my person reading or following the information in this book. If readers are taking prescription medications, they should consult with their physicians and not take themselves off of medicines to start supplementation without the proper supervision of a physician.
How can a book whose title promises a "Cure for Cancer" not be construed as medical advice?
The cancer book opens with "A Bible Cure Prayer for You," which includes this "positive confession": "In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, according to the Word of God, I declare that in Christ I have victory over cancer. The power of this disease is broken."
The books themselves are filled with a mixture of alternative-medicine quackery, homespun remedies, common sense, bad theology, rank charlatainism, and almost no legitimate truth from Scripture. Most of the Scripture verses cited are proof texts that have nothing to do with the supposed "remedy" under discussion. For example, in the Cancer book, there's a section that says, "To stay healthy, you'll have to cut back on the steak and ice cream." Obviously, that's probably good advice whether you have cancer or not. Is it really a "Bible cure" for cancer?
But it turns out the book doesn't offer a cure at all:
You can definitely reduce the risk of cancer by sticking to a diet that includes high proportions of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans while limiting the amounts of red meats, dairy products and other high-fat foods. The Bible clearly recommends this way of eating:Look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.
When we eat the kind of diet the Creator of our bodies intended, we naturally build a strong immune system that defends against cancer.
Does Genesis 1:29 really have anything to do with post-diluvian veganism or cancer-thwarting diets? If so, where do Genesis 9:3 and Acts 10:12-15 fit in?
The chapter continues a few pages later: "Believe it or not, olives can help you fight cancer." And the proof-text that follows a full paragraph on the virtues of olive oil is Deuteronomy 8:7-8, which simply mentions olives as one of the things that grew in the Promised Land.
There's more nonsense in the book than I have time or energy to cull. It's probably sufficient just to show you a few more of the various titles:
Sadly, there's no cure for short-term memory loss or chronic sarcasm, the two afflictions that trouble me most.
Darlene and I are slated to fly home tomorrow morning, and I'll be teaching in GraceLife on Sunday. If time permits, I'll do a blogspotting post sometime during the weekend.