Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Prayer Power

People remain intensely interested in the power of religion to heal. It's the most childish, grubbing aspect of religion, but religions that forget it will become dead as philosophy. Several have done so in our lifetimes.

In crude and ancient temples of Apollo amid the woods of Arcady, archaeologists find little clay models of arms, heads, breasts -- people hung them there while beseeching the god to heal them where it ached. They go to church to this day with the same prayer.

That is the power of miracles. Miracles are at the root of Christianity. You and I may not believe in them, but you cannot read the Gospels or the Church fathers without realizing that people in the ancient world did believe in them. And they regarded the miracles wrought by Christ and the Apostles as powerful and convincing. It was the supernatural power, not the dogma, that won over the Romans to Christianity. Christ healed the sick first. Then, when he had the crowd's attention, he preached.

When a church admits, "you cannot control a god by prayer; nothing you can say can change his course. If he can be controlled by a formula of prayer, he is not a god," then the spell is broken and the religion shrivels to a carapace of platitudes. And the people will find themselves a new one.