A mega-church in Northern California whose members believe in faith healing through prayer — even to the point of raising the dead — are canceling their hospital visits and urging sick members to stay home over coronavirus fears, according to The Sacramento Bee.
However, Bethel Church has not gone so far as to cancel church services for the more than 6,000 people who attend each week.
“Through email communications, signage, and church announcements, we are actively encouraging health practices and precautions to our whole community,” church spokesman Aaron Tesauro told the Bee in an email. “We believe that wisdom, modern medicine, and faith are meant to work together, and express the value for each in the pursuit of continued health and healing.”
Tesauro also said no members of the church are believed to have contracted the virus.
“Bethel faithful are well known in Redding for approaching strangers and offering to touch them and to pray away their ailments including at local healthcare centers — a practice that is now at odds with public health officials’ campaign to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus,” the Bee reported.
Those who are skeptical of Bethel’s faith healing claims were quick to note the disconnect between the church’s typical stance and its response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Bee noted.
Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic magazine and a professor at Chapman University in Southern California, said of the situation: “It’s clear that when it comes to something really serious like coronavirus, their actions speak louder than their words. So, God is omniscient and omnipotent and can cure diseases if he wants, but just in case: wash your hands!”
Meanwhile, Bill Johnson, the church's founder, says on his website that not everyone who wants to be healed will in fact be healed.
“Many visit Redding weekly, hoping that God will touch them. I am happy to report that many leave well and whole,” Johnson writes. “But many others leave in the same condition in which they came. I refuse to blame God for this, as though He has a purpose in their disease. While Jesus did not heal everyone alive in His time, He did heal everyone who came to Him. His is the only standard worth following.”