news by word of mouth
The offer of prayer on request over the telephone by volunteers is an innovative facility offered through twenty-four hour prayer houses where people with their head phones ‘ON’ sit through night and day in anticipation of distress calls from the sick and the suffering, from far and near, just to pray for them. They are called “jeba veerar” in Tamil, (possibly derived from Salvation Army terminology ). Great. One organisation has planted its volunteers in Bombay, Madras, Madurai, Thirunelveli, Trivandrum, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and God knows where else. Your owes are dutifully listened to by them and prayed for with tears pleading with God for redressing of the problems on hand. It is based on the belief that God in heaven is constantly listening to the messages from these prayer houses dealing out cures for the sick, jobs for the unemployed, promotion in jobs to the overlooked employees, and most significantly removing instantly cancerous growths from patients minutes before being wheeled to the operation theatre, to the utter amazement of the surgeons and confusion of the operating team. But the distressing thing is that the prayers are followed up, I am told, with requests (or demand) for money as contribution . It is quite likely, I have no first hand knowledge.
There are a couple of evangelists who when raising their prayers to God before the mike and a million strong congregation, cry with tears rolling down their cheeks to let the TV watchers see how deeply they identify themselves with human suffering and plead with God with burden and agony in their souls. The opening sentence of a book by a Parsi author who was a war correspondent in the Far East during the Second World War runs, “Men do not cry, not men like me.” He had been eye-witness to many a tragic war deaths and wanton destruction. But our evangelists are different.
Miracle and prosperity oriented evangelists pray for almost identical problems, repeatedly again and again. They have in stock memory a list of human ailments pertaining to the heart, the lungs, brain, blood, the circulatory system and the like which they refer to in turn, one or two at a time which they combine with requests for the gift of babies for long barren couples, early marriages for long awaiting boys and girls for their spouses, building new houses for those in need of one, wiping out of burdensome loans and restoring domestic harmony where the home is divided and in conflict. These prayers are impersonal, general and may apply to hundreds and thousands under similar circumstances world over. Praying for a named person for his or her specific needs is understandable but a general request to remove the brain tumours from all the patients all over the world is ridiculous. Had every prayer of theirs been granted there should be no sick person on this planet and all hospitals closed and the doctors and nurses thrown out of jobs.
The Bangalore crusade of pastor Benny Hinn was dedicated to bless India. There was a significant slant towards pleasing the Karnataka Govt. and local politicians while at the same time being challenged by the BJP activists who asked, “Who is this man from the US to bless us?” A number of ministers of Karnataka government including the Chief Minister and high dignitaries and officials were invited and welcomed personally on the dais. Indian national anthem and Vandematharam CD by A.R.Rahman were played full length t please the politicians. On the third day of the crusade the people were asked to bring Indian national flag with them to be waved at suitable points during the meeting,
It is well known that Dinakarans went on a pilgrimage to Delhi to meet Kanchi Sankarachariar who was camping there for the favour of his recommendation with the then BJP Govt. at the centre to grant the status of deemed university to Karunya Institute of Engineering, for which the acharya was presented with a silver Hindu puja vessel in which the holy ash (vibhuthi) is kept .
This mixing of Christian evangelists with politicians, government officials and Hindu saints for favours does not speak well of them, to say the least, whatever be the motive or compulsion that drives them into such situations.
These observations of mine may be dismissed by many as negative, frivolous, mischievous and at worse, irreligious. Good, bad or indifferent, evangelism has caught up worldwide and is spreading like wild fire to every corner of the planet making use of the most modern means of communication and technical excellence made available for man through advancement in science. We have come a long way from the days of Jesus who advised his disciples ,”Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bags for the journey; or extra tunic or sandals or a staff ….” and from the days when the crowd that followed Him was perhaps not more than five thousand individuals whom he addressed not through mikes and loudspeakers but by his own gentle voice. And what a difference between then and now!