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Jesus heals cancer in New Zealand

There is a church in New Zealand that has a genuinely repulsive billboard: it boldly claims that “JESUS HEALS CANCER“. It’s a lie, of course: they have no evidence of such a power. In an interview with the smiling, cheerful, blithely fuckwitted pastor, he openly admits that the congregants who were “healed” were receiving modern cancer therapy, and that he tells them to stay on it while receiving their magical pretend healing, and not to get off it until the doctors actually verify that they are in remission — so it’s another case of doctors doing the real work, while Jesus just steals the credit.

Do watch the whole video. The television announcer is actually good and critical, which is such a surprise to see for those of us accustomed to the glib gladhanders of American TV. He brings on someone from an organization called Consumer NZ, though, who is a bit slimy and evasive and keeps making excuses for the church.

Oh, man, and at the end of the video, the idjit pastor is doubling down and adding a tally of cures to his billboard.

Comments

  1. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    Typical Christian bullshit. Let others, who have been trained to modern standards and use equipment and techniques developed by scientists and other researchers and tested for effectiveness, do the actual work and then step in at the last moment and take credit.

    [WARNING: NON-TET FIRE STORY!!!!]

    I was at a fire in Idaho back in 2000. It was a fucking huge fire (it was at 120,000 acres when I got there and, when I left to weeks later, it had grown to 180,000 acres). And it was threatening the water supply of a town of about 8,000 people. So the fire hired a whole passel of feller-grabbers and cleared what they called the Custer line — it was the absolute last line of defense. Between the Custer line, hand lines, and some back burns, the team kept the fire out of the watershed. And the headline in the local paper? “Thank God!” Not the firefighters working in 110F heat. Not the firefighters dealing with the yellowjackets (one of the mountain ranges in the fire was the Yellowjacket Mountains). Not any of the 4,000 men and women fighting the fire and providing support services. No. The newspaper thanked an imaginary goatfucker’s deity.

    [FIRE STORY ENDS]

    Sorry ’bout that. I can only draw on my own experience and readings, so I tend to drop back into what I know.

  2. grumpyoldfart says

    Of course the sign won’t be taken down. The authorities wouldn’t have the guts to say harsh words about the church – somebody might get offended.

  3. fistikins says

    To be fair to the consumer NZ rep, she is mostly just pointing out that it will be very difficult to get the billboard removed because of the inadequacy of regulations and because of the special treatment faith groups receive.

    Also, the comments section of that video makes my brain hurt.

  4. peterh says

    “…and keeps making excuses for the church.”

    Can’t speak for New Zealand, but the churches around here need all the excuses they can lay their hands on. Not that it does much good . . . . .

  5. says

    Fistikins: Holy crap, yeah, it’s like an American comments section. There’s a Poe in there, though. Or at least I hope it is.

    Rick
    27 Feb 2012 8:09p.m.

    this is clearly true, cos the sign is there is evidence enough, those who died from cancer after going to this service clearly weren’t praying hard enough. People die for a reason, cancer isn’t random, it’s jesus saying he doesnt want you there anymore. People who want the sign down are homosexuals

  6. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    Well, if we can just start taking credit for other people’s work like that and the church is sanctioning it, heck:

    I invented every electric gizmo in the universe
    Assited in the creation of the polio vaccine
    Marketed every computer operating system after creating it
    Attended Cambridge and taught Hawking everything he knows
    Navigated the first manned trip into space
    Attended Oxford where I penned the Hobbit and LOTR
    Saw the need for seatbelts and invented them
    Saw the need for windshield wipers and invented them
    Had testicular cancer, beat it and won Tour de France
    Overcame diabetes and became spokesperson for Quaker Oats
    Lost to Watson after becoming winningest Jeopardy contestant
    Even became first person to walk on the Moon!

    Oh yeah, I have a fabulous weblog you may have heard about called ‘Pharyngula.’ Check it out sometime. You might learn something about people that give credit to imaginary friends or steal it themselves.

    Now where’s my feckin’ royalty checks and adoring public???

  7. torcuato says

    First sentence in the article: “Around 20,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with cancer each year. Of those, nearly half die.”

    So the other half become immortal? I’d like to catch the kind of cancer that does that!

  8. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    Torcuato: To paraphrase Neil Peart, their immortality lasts only for a limited time.

  9. fistikins says

    @torcuato. It’s not immortality, it’s just that our doctors are so awesome that they cured death. Of course the exception are cases of cancer, we still need jesus for that apparently.

  10. dianne says

    So the other half become immortal? I’d like to catch the kind of cancer that does that!

    Well, it is true that people who have stage I breast or prostate cancer have a better 5-year survival than those who do not, on the population level.

    Yes, the above statement is true.

    No, cancer isn’t good for you.

    The trick is that early (stage I) breast and prostate cancer rarely kill people and almost never within 5 years. But having your screenable cancer found while it is stage I is a marker of getting good medical care. So really all that means is that if your cancer can be found in the early stages you’re probably getting better medical care than the average person.

  11. Sastra says

    There’s a lot of ambiguity in the word “heal” and religion, as usual, exploits that ambiguity to the max.

    You see, a “healing” doesn’t necessarily entail anything physical, anything you could measure or objectively perceive. Oh no. It could be a “spiritual” healing, or a realignment of your chakras, or emotional comfort, or a letting go of resentment, or an elevation of consciousness, or a means of feeling closer to God. God could “heal” you by forgiving you for sin. Anything.

    Oh, they trade hard on the implication that if you’re healed of cancer you’re actually … you know … healed. Your cancer has disappeared, gone into remission, left you healthy and happy and with a long life to live. That’s what’s going to happen. You bet.

    Unless and until it doesn’t. In which case, as a person of “faith” you’re now supposed to remember your standing commitment to spin-doctor the evidence towards the positive and accept that you were ‘healed’ in a different way — a way far more important and profound and deep than a person without faith could ever understand. Win — win. Even death is victory. Everyone wins … except those whose minds stayed so literal.

    It probably goes without saying that they do this in alt med, also. Faith healers come in many varieties. And they can get away with it as long as their marks understand that they’re supposed to be playing along with the game, too.

  12. coralline says

    torcuato, at #11:

    It’s well known that frackin’ crackers are slices of Jesus tumors, and they confer his Jesusy superpowers on those who eat of their cancerous goodness.

  13. eigenperson says

    New atheist billboard idea:

    SCIENCE HEALS CANCER

    It could be one of a series:

    FIREFIGHTERS PUT OUT FIRES

    RESCUE TEAMS SAVE DISASTER VICTIMS

    ENGINEERING KEEPS YOUR PLANE ALOFT

    SKILLED PLAY WINS SPORTING EVENTS

  14. ericpaulsen says

    This doesn’t seem much different than the Mormons posthumously baptizing folks into their religion. Just another case of religion appropriating that which does not belong to it.

  15. rogerfirth says

    Good old Dr. Jesus, always horning in to take his share of the credit for what the real doctors do.

    He’ll take credit for anything but birth control.

  16. anchor says

    “Around 20,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with cancer each year.”

    Hmmm…Jesus Causes Cancer in New Zealand.

    How come we never get to see that other part that attends every “miracle” from Christers?

    Oh no. they must focus on the survivors in which everyone else is killed, from: Plane, train and automobile crashes. Ship and ferry capsizings and sinkings. Fires. Stage collapses. Crowd stampede tramplings. Mine explosions and collapses. Typhoons, hurricanes and tornadoes. Earthquakes and tsunamis. Nuclear disasters. Disease epidemics, etc, etc.

    I guess that “God Giveth and God Taketh Away” horseshit really excites their sense of wonder.

  17. davidct says

    If Jebus is so good, why did these people become ill in the first place? If they were good enough to be healed by grace, why were they sick to begin with. Could it be that god is betting with the devil again the way he did with Job.

  18. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    @1: Well, FWIW, thank you!

    Not fishing, just pointing out another real world example of this idiocy.

  19. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    If Jebus is so good, why did these people become ill in the first place?

    To test them and make their faith stronger.

    Sadly, that is not a joke (despite my usual). That is a quote from a friend’s mother when her sister was diagnosed with uterine, lung, and bone cancer.

  20. dianne says

    If Jebus is so good, why did these people become ill in the first place?

    Inadequate DNA repair.

    To test them and make their faith stronger.

    Unless they’re atheists, members of other religions, gay, etc. Then it’s god’s judgement against them. Paraphrasing Dan Savage, “Why is it that when something bad happens to me it’s God’s judgement and when something bad happens to you it’s God’s pop quiz?” I’ve always wondered how people reconcile that in their minds myself.

  21. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    I’ve always wondered how people reconcile that in their minds myself.

    I always figured it was either well-developed cognitive dissonance, or multiple-personality disorder. Either one.

  22. janine says

    If Jebus is so good, why did these people become ill in the first place?

    The Fall. When Adam and Eve became self aware, everything became corrupted.

    If they were good enough to be healed by grace, why were they sick to begin with.

    You misunderstand the concept of grace. No one is worthy of the big sky daddy’s love. It is only by the grace of the big sky daddy that one can be saved; actions do not save, only accepting the offer does.

    That said, the pastor and the desperate people that follow him will not follow what their faith calls for; action will not save you yet they still go in for their treatments.

  23. Brownian says

    The trick is that early (stage I) breast and prostate cancer rarely kill people and almost never within 5 years. But having your screenable cancer found while it is stage I is a marker of getting good medical care. So really all that means is that if your cancer can be found in the early stages you’re probably getting better medical care than the average person.

    Survival is like the antagonist in a clever thriller—it’s almost never what it seems at first.

  24. dianne says

    Survival is like the antagonist in a clever thriller—it’s almost never what it seems at first.

    Yeah, I really shouldn’t have jumped out and made a claim that the difference in survival must be because of better care. There are other hypotheses. Cancer isn’t good for you, but maybe tamoxifen is. Or getting cancer may be the “wake up call” that makes people more compliant and therefore more likely to have improved survival. Or, for all I know, maybe cancer IS good for you, i.e. if you get a slow growing cancer (high probability of diagnosis in stage I) maybe it is likely to secrete something that’s pro-survival to the organism. I’d be very surprised if the last were true, but don’t actually have any definitive data saying it’s not.

    Causation is tricky.

  25. Brownian says

    Yeah, I really shouldn’t have jumped out and made a claim that the difference in survival must be because of better care.

    No, no—I wasn’t criticising your example. Better access to screening = better care is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis. I meant that (at least, in my limited experience with survival analysis) those sorts of results that seem paradoxical on the surface are much more common than one might expect. It’s similarly easy to look at an increase in survival over time for a specific diagnosis as due to advancements in treatment, when the increase in survival time is really due to advancements in detection, for example.

  26. dianne says

    @34: I didn’t mean to imply that I was offended. Sorry. I agree with you that survival can be tricky. Also my hypothesis might be reasonable, but it’s only a hypothesis at this point. Maybe later…

  27. wcorvi says

    This reminds me of the breakfast cereal adverts in the 1950′s – “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; give your kids this Sugar Coated Chocolate Bombs.” The gummint objected on the grounds it was false advertising – there was actually no real nutrition, they were just empty calories. They forced the advertisers to point out that cereal wasn’t a balanced diet, so the adverts then showed a breakfast of toast, potatoes, eggs, etc AND a bowl of cereal, with the words “a part of this nutritious breakfast.” The nutrition of the breakfast would be the same without the cereal, but what they said wasn’t exactly false.

    So, Jesus is a part of the cure for cancer. But the doctors do about as well without Jesus, and Jesus fails miserably without the doctors; still he IS a part of the cure. Just an infinitesimal part.

  28. Conor Sans Pantaloons says

    I suppose then that my friend’s dad should take back any thanks he had recently given the doctor who was concerned about the results of some standard blood work and caught the return of his cancer? In what order should he fire his blame, apology and then thanks at ye olde sky beard? Also, it is a good thing the divine saw fit to place him near John Hopkins Medical Center. Such a wise and not at all confusing or insultingly presumptive omni-asshole, may his fictional presence forever slow progress and reason.

  29. Brownian says

    Also, it is a good thing the divine saw fit to place him near John Hopkins Medical Center.

    It’s quite amazing how closely Jesus’ power tracks the availability of resources and skill of the staff of the hospitals in which He works His magic.

    It is said that religion answers those questions science can’t, but paradoxically enough you need to use secular metrics for evaluating health care delivery efficacy if you want to answer the question “How good is Jesus at doctoring?”

  30. zxcier says

    I don’t know the laws and Constitution in NZ regarding free speech rights vs advertizing regulation, but I presume the final interviewee does, saying that this is a private sign on private property and not a public advertizing space. Therefore as stupid and offensive as it is, there isn’t really much that can or should be legally done; they have the right to expose their idiocy and we have the right to be offended by it and laugh at them.

  31. seditiosus says

    About the Consumer NZ woman: I think it’s a bit unfair to say she was making excuses for the church. She was actually correctly pointing out that this situation falls through the cracks of NZ law. Unfortunately that’s how it is. This is a private sign on private land and is therefore not regulated. If it were classed as an advertisement the Advertising Standards Authority could order its removal, but I doubt it would be classifiable as an advertisement under NZ law.

    zxcier: NZ has no constitution, and as far as I can tell free speech seems to be protected largely by apathy. Advertisements are required to be truthful, so it wouldn’t be legal if it was an advertisement, but as I said I doubt it’d be classed as such by the ASA. The problem, of course, is that it functions as an advertisement, which is something I believe the law should consider in such cases.

  32. says

    They forced the advertisers to point out that cereal wasn’t a balanced diet, so the adverts then showed a breakfast of toast, potatoes, eggs, etc AND a bowl of cereal, with the words “a part of this nutritious breakfast.”

    “When served with bacon & eggs, it has all the nutrition of this bacon & eggs breakfast!”

  33. phoenicianromans says

    What is it with New Zealand and Australia? Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, now this piece of shit.

    Oh, please. NZ is a fairly secular nation – the PM before this current one was a noted agnostic, and she was elected to Parliament 10 times. One yahoo sticking up a billboard on his own property does not a nation make.

    zxcier: NZ has no constitution, and as far as I can tell free speech seems to be protected largely by apathy.

    This is incorrect.

    http://gg.govt.nz/role/constofnz/intro

    The Bill of Rights Act 1990 (http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1990/0109/latest/DLM224792.html) states:

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”

  34. phoenicianromans says

    I haven’t been able to watch the video, but the law being discussed would probably be the Fair Trading Act:

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1986/0121/latest/DLM96439.html?search=ts_act_Fair+Trading_resel&p=1&sr=1

    which is the usual source for “thou shall not lie in advertising” disputes.

    Section 13 says:

    “False or misleading representations

    *No person shall, in trade, in connection with the supply or possible supply of goods or services or with the promotion by any means of the supply or use of goods or services,—

    [utter whoppers]”

    Which would suggest that woo from someone who doesn’t stand to profit from the woo isn’t advertising, no more than your granny who swears homeopathy cured her angina can be prosecuted for saying so.

  35. Conor Sans Pantaloons says

    It’s quite amazing how closely Jesus’ power tracks the availability of resources and skill of the staff of the hospitals in which He works His magic.

    Too true, He slings medical miracles minus the malpractice. Do I see this Jesus Christ MD about my ridiculously high deductible as well? Or does the holy ghost cover that? Or his dad? Being that they’re all the same…ish, I just don’t know how to handle the paperwork. Ack.

  36. dougmackie says

    Surely the point is that this billboard is so dumb the media thought it newsworthy? If a ‘merkin church had a billboard like this would it make even state level news? (NZ’s population is somewhere between Kentucky and Oregon).

    Speaking of breakfast cereal: A few years ago the media reported
    on the wife of a candidate (a breakfast cereal magnate) for the mayoralty of Auckland (NZ’s biggest city) at a church meeting writhing and speaking in tongues. Much laughter ensued.

    The candidate, named Hubbard (no relation), had centre-left (by NZ standards) policies and went on to win over a far-right (by NZ standards) also very xian candidate. Media and public comments at the time said there should be separation of church and state and that prayer should be private.

    I have generally felt that in NZ being churchy for a politician is like being gay was in the US military: Don’t ask and don’t tell but if you come out then it may count against you.

  37. phoenicianromans says

    Thanks for the correction, phoencianromans! Sorry zxcier, I put you wrong there.

    De nada – I’ve run into Americans before who have mistaken the lack of a single written constitution for having no constitutional arrangements at all. Commonwealth countries have to make interesting distinctions between the Crown, Parliament, the people, and whatever royal twit happens to be head of state at present.

    Interestingly enough, you also just demonstrated the difference between wingnuts and normal people – On another board, I’ve just had wingnuts screaming and insulting me personally for daring to point out where they are wrong…

  38. brokendrum says

    Now, here’s some simple back-of-the-envelope epidemiology:

    Given the Cancer Society’s figure (http://www.cancernz.org.nz/divisions/auckland/about/cancer-statistics/) of 18,610 cancer diagnoses in NZ in their last annual figures, and the Statistics NZ figure of 4,428,063 people in NZ (http://www.stats.govt.nz/tools_and_services/tools/population_clock.aspx), we can work out an annual cancer-diagnosis rate of 0.004203 for each member of the populace.

    A congregation with 150 members should therefore expect 0.63 cancer diagnoses/annum, assuming demographic parity with the population as a whole. The pastor is vague on the exact time-scale of the cases, but let’s say a year – they attracted his attention as being close together. Let us further (conservatively) assume that there were no additional cancer cases to the six mentioned (i.e., there were no deaths in that time period, nor ongoing cancer cases that he didn’t want to talk about).

    The conclusion is that this congregation has a cancer rate approximately ten times the expected rate, given its size. I’m going to be kind here, and say this is probably a case of stochastic variation – but that pastor is a religiously-thinking man. He should start giving some consideration to the possibility that Jesus causes cancer.

  39. amblebury says

    As a New Zealander, I am deeply, deeply ashamed. You never used to see this sort of tripe.

    I blame America.

  40. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    Amblebury: I think half of America blames itself as well, but the other half takes it as some sort of congratulatory, invisible hand-of-Gawd indicator of ‘We love your work! Keep on going!’

    Evangelical America: the asshole who keeps dancing at your sister’s wedding long after everyone has gotten tired and wants to go home.

  41. Ichthyic says

    Surely the point is that this billboard is so dumb the media thought it newsworthy?

    yup.

    and as to Comfort et al…

    that’s 2, ok 3 if you count Brian Tamaki, over 3 decades.

    shall we look at the US over the same 3 decades and see who wins?

    yeah.

  42. Ichthyic says

    btw, religion isn’t the problem in NZ; the only issue is the religion Islanders bring with them when they come here (fucking missionaries), and that’s what people like Tamaki take advantage of.

    no, the problem in NZ is a lack of skepticism regarding homeopathy and “natural” healing.

    you should see the crap in the local chemists (that’s pharmacists in USian.)

    entire shelves are sometimes devoted to homeopathic remedies.

    most of which is made in Australia, btw…

    no, we have just as many gullible folk here as there are in the States. It’s just not that religion has taken off as a way of organizing RWAs, because nobody here ever thought it was worth the effort to try it; there was never any serious political motivation to do so. The States, OTOH, has had HUGE incentives to do so, and thus, you have a gigantic and ever growing evangelical fundy movement.

    We’d appreciate it terribly on our end, if you would just avoid exporting that facade down here, and maybe arrest Thomas Weeks for fraud again? He’s the one who funded Tamaki down here.

  43. phoenicianromans says

    I blame America.

    Yes, but that’s the national pastime. Religious cretins? Blame America. Global warming? Bloody Americans. Cthulhu rising from sunken Ry’leh and laying waste to Christchurch? Why did those bloody Americans wake him?

  44. alistairk says

    I was disgusted when I read this in the newspaper this morning (I am a New Zealander). The billboard is at the very least misleading and has the potential to be very dangerous. I feel I have to point out that this is atypical of NZ, which is a very secular country. Nutjobs like this are a small minority. I would also like to apologise for Ray Comfort and Jonathan Sarfati. For a small, irreligious country we seem to have a disproportionate amount of prominent creationist apologists.

  45. alistairk says

    @phoenicianromans

    Our current prime minister is also agnostic. New Zealand hasn’t had a religious PM since Shipley in 1999.

  46. mtcf says

    I’ve had the unfortunate experience of spending time with Jonathan Sarfati. He’s a misogynist of the first level and wasn’t as well behaved as the 8 year old who was also in our group. For want of anything more intelligent I now refer to him as Safarti. (Said it wasn’t intelligent)

    Thank you Australia for taking him.

  47. phoenicianromans says

    I’ve had the unfortunate experience of spending time with Jonathan Sarfati.

    I used to play chess with him when we were staying in Vic House back at university. He beat me continuously of course, since I was only mediocre at best and he’s a champion player.

    But I remember on one of the very few times that I won, and this was right in the middle of one of the common areas, he stared at the board for a few seconds, and then tossed it up in a rage scattering pieces all over the place. And everyone stared at him as he stalked out of the room.

    Wingnuts can sometimes talk a good game, but they’re really really brittle.

  48. Ichthyic says

    Cthulhu rising from sunken Ry’leh and laying waste to Christchurch? Why did those bloody Americans wake him?

    wait, Cthulhu was in Christchurch…

    AND I MISSED IT???

    *headdesk*

  49. bethy says

    I would also like to add that New Zealand is a very secular country I think it is very telling that complaints were made against this billboard and that it was considered newsworthy, and John Campbell did a great job on this story.
    Thankfully we have very few of these nutbars.If you want to see one, check out Brian Tamaki, who campaigned strongly for straight people beating children and gay people not having children at all. Nice guy. I’m pleased to share this tidbit from wikipedia:
    “In May 2007 the Reader’s Digest “Most Trusted People”‘ poll AGAIN ranked Brian Tamaki as New Zealand’s least trusted of 75 prominent persons.”
    I’m proud to live in a country where pretty much our only prominent xtian is seen for the scum that he is.