Has the outbreak of the coronavirus marked an end to faith healing practices in Nigeria, Africa and the world? This question has become necessary because traditional, Christian and Islamic faith healing claims have been rampant. And they include claims of healing persons who are suffering from all sorts of illness, the blind, lame or those with HIV/AIDS. Faith healing is huge business enterprise.
Surprisingly, following the Covid-19 crisis, individuals and institutions that claim to possess faith healing powers have been silent, surreally silent. Before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, a Nigerian faith healer said that he would go to China and spiritually destroy the virus. However since the virus came to Nigeria, nobody has heard from this prophet of God. He must be self-isolating or socially distancing himself to avoid being infected! Not only him, but other acclaimed faith healers in the country and across Africa have also been so quiet and have refused to make any direct or indirect claim to heal any infected person. Why? What went wrong? Is it because faith healing is no longer effective? Or that faith healing cannot apply to the coronavirus? From T.B Joshua to Enoch Adeboye, from Rev. Oyedepo, Pastor Mboro and Shepherd Bushiri, the celebrity faith healers have gone underground; they are unable to invite infected persons to their churches or worship centers for deliverance. Instead, they are complying with the ban on religious gatherings. So what happened to their acclaimed faith healing powers?
Healing has been part of the religious enterprise. It is one of the mechanisms that religions have used to legitimize themselves and mobilize and maintain followership. It is claimed that religious healing powers are drawn from the deity and channeled through a human instrument, a prophet, messenger, priest, rabbi, imam, guru, etc who applies it to the sick and the infirm. By a special connection with the divine, such religious personalities are designated as holy and believed to have the ability to get rid of any disease. Incidentally, religions are known to dispense a special type of healing, a miraculous form of healing. This form of healing is counter-intuitive; it is a cure that defies commonsense. The main characters of the various religions are believed to have had healing powers; they cured persons with various ailments during their lifetime. Believers are of the notion that these prophets could still heal people from wherever they are at the moment. Thus the healing abilities of the divine messengers and incarnates have not ceased and will never cease!
Religious healing powers have been transmitted and handed down to their successors and subsequent representatives of the divine or their messengers. Thus every religion is a healing system, a faith-healing system. Every religious center is a faith clinic and every religious leader is a faith doctor. Religious healing formations exist and are in active operation in traditional, Christian, Islamic and mixed strands. Also, Hindu, Confucian, Buddhist, Jewish, Bahai healing enterprises abound.
The question is: why have these religious healing facilities been impotent and ineffective in the face of the Covid-19? Why are faith healers and faith healing not reckoned with in the management and containment of the coronavirus?
Faith healing is often seen as a demonstration of supernatural benevolence or an affirmation of the transcendental capacity of the deities, spirits, and ancestors. So what happened to these supposed abilities of these superhuman agents? Do these deities exist or are they figments of various cultural imaginations? Why have faith healing potentials failed to manifest as the world grapples to contain the pandemic?
Traditional faith healing enterprise claims to draw its potency from the ancestral spirits. It dispenses remedies that the ancestors have revealed, certified and handed down to their chosen human agents. What happened to this healing enterprise? Why has it not advanced a remedy for the coronavirus? Are traditional faith healers also searching for a cure for Covid-19? Is there a break down in communication and transmission between the ancestors and their earthly agents? If the traditional religious healers have no magical remedy for the virus, what does that say about the traditional religious healing formation? Is it a scam? Is it a scheme that self-styled healers use to defraud and exploit desperate gullible folks?
Christian and Islamic faith healers also make wild claims about curing incurable diseases, and performing miracles. So where are the miracle mongers as the coronavirus is ravaging the world? Christian healers such as TB Joshua and Shepherd Bushiri have made fortune out of faith healing. They use the Bible to minister to the sick in Jesus' name. Christian faith healers claim to heal people by stretching their hands and speaking in tongues, by administering holy water, holy oil, and holy handkerchief. They claim to exorcise the demons that are responsible for various diseases. Faith healers compel sick people who are undergoing treatment in hospitals to abandon the recommended evidence-based medical procedures for faith healing rituals. They claim that the Christian God is the ultimate healer, that Dr. Jesus is better and superior to earthly medical doctors. Islamic mallams and marabouts also make wild faith healing claims. They invoke the name of Allah and use verses of the Quran to perform rituals that they claim could heal the sick.
So where are the faith healers of the various religious traditions as the world is trying to find a remedy for Covid-19? Why can’t they command as they do during faith healing sessions that the coronavirus be dead and never infect anybody in Jesus or Allah’s name? Or have they stopped working and performing miracles? Have they ceased dispensing divinely orchestrated healings? Are faith healers, like scientists, also in their labs trying to ascertain a cure from the gods?
Or better, are we seeing an end to the faith healing enterprise?