Friday, November 12, 2004

Go to a Faith Healing

LOCATION: P St., between 14th & Whole Foods (but it might not still be there) TIME: Serendipitous EQUIPMENT: Yourself, your wounded soul OPTIONAL: Smelling salts

I visited a faith healing in a tiny church next to the Dupont Whole Foods about two and a half years ago when I was new to DC - but I have a feeling it's been gentrified away. I was grocery shopping with Josh - my roommate and contemporary unhealthy love interest - and we were walking home around 9 or 10 on a Friday night, when we noticed a long line of people spilling out onto the street, in front of a nondescript store front. We joined the line and were welcomed into a room with a crowd of people sitting on plastic folding chairs, watching a solid middle-aged woman with a huge white hat who was holding a young man by the shoulders and chanting at him. Everyone in the room was black, and we were white, and they all seemed to know each other - but people were very welcoming, smiling at us and reaching out to shake our hands.

It became clear that the line of people were all waiting to be healed. Each person would come and stand in front of the woman, and she would hold their shoulders and stare into their eyes for a few seconds. Then she turn her large eyes to the ceiling and intone, "Molly is sick, she has a problem with passion, please help her with the things she cannot control, please help her with her urges, please help her with her addictions..." and continue the catalogue of the person's sick soul for a few minutes, becoming steadily more fiery and rhythmic. Both her subject and the church audience would interject, at appropriate intervals, "Ahh yeah...Praise Jesus..."

At a certain point (ramp-up time seemed to vary) the healer would grab her subject around the temples, and the subject would begin shrieking unknown words - speaking in tongues. Then their eyes would roll back into their head, and they would faint. There were helpers waiting who would immediately rush forward, grab the subject by the armpits, and drag them off into the corner to be revived with smelling salts. And the next person in line would present themselves.

The man sitting in front of Josh and me turned around and smiled at us benevolently. "Do you want to get in line to be healed?" "," we said bashfully.

At the time, my patronizing secular response to the scene was amused fascination. It was so quaint and cute that people could manipulate the religious placebo effect to heal themselves. But maybe what I really felt was envy. I'm sure that at least some of those people that night were genuinely healed of their problems; my sense of the crowd was that the woman had enough of a reputation to inspire the long lines on a Friday night. Me, I've never so caught up with passion as to speak in tongues, and I'm sure if I'd waited in line and let the faith healer talk to me, it wouldn't have worked, because I didn't believe. We mock, those of us who have never let go so whole-heartedly, and we dismiss healing as the placebo effect - but isn't healing miraculous no matter how it happens? How remarkable, to believe in something so strongly that you speak in tongues. How amazing, to be able to cure yourself, just by letting someone touch you with their hands!


Blogger playfulinnc said...

Thank you for this wonderful post! I, too, am in the process of my yoga salvation (this last 7 years), and know "where" you are!
When people ask how I've made the big changed in my life, like a huge move, losing 30 lbs, getting rid of a bad ex...I always say...YOGA.
It's great to hear from people like you! Keep up the good work!

11:08 AM  

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