Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Bend Bulletin, June 14, 2005, with the headline, “Prayer Shawls Envelope Patients in Spiritual Energy. Andrew and Sarah Luccock battled a chill that would not ebb. The parents sat bedside with their daughter, Sophie, a nine-year old girl in a coma. Suffering from a skiing accident, it was uncertain if she would live. In those terrifying days, a new program at the hospital gave the Luccock family comfort and warmth. St. Charles chaplain Bill Danaher brought the family a large, red shawl. Someone in the community crafted it by hand. The maker knitted each stick with intention and spiritual energy, knowing that it would go to a person in need. In the prayer and the yarn, the Luccock family recognized the thread of hope. ‘The human words just didn’t give us the comfort like that did,’ Sarah Luccock said. ‘It’s the symbolism of being covered in prayer.’
‘The idea of prayer shawls isn’t new,’ said Bridget Nigen, publications coordinator at St. Charles. ‘The concept started on the East coast in the late 1990’s. While St. Charles has Catholic beginnings, the hospital embraces all manners of faith,’ Nigen said. Those interested in participating in the prayer shawl ministry need not be Christian, they just need to knit with good spiritual intentions for the recipient. “This isn’t just a craft, it’s a spiritual craft,” said Nigen, who also knit a shawl for the program.
Sophie Luccock, now called ‘our bonafide miracle’ inside the hospital, has improved rapidly in recent months. When she arrived, some wondered whether she would live or be permanently disabled, yet Sophie has exceeded all expectations. This day, she was doing jumping jacks for the ER doctor.”
Tom: Dave, I just think it’s wonderful that people, you know, there are so many volunteers out there, people who are thinking of other people and wanting to do some good and so on, and to make a prayer shawl, or to make a shawl, to make something that comforts somebody and call it a prayer shawl. I think the parents of this young girl - it seems to me in reading the article - we just have excerpts of the article here, but in reading the article, they were encouraged that people were praying for their daughter and the circumstance. Doesn’t say it in what we presented, but she had multiple fractures, part of her skull was removed and then they had to put it back, so it was really a complex operation and so on - and they were encouraged because that’s the way they viewed the shawl, according to the article: that people were supporting them in prayer…on the one hand.
On the other hand, we can take a good thing and push it way beyond what, I think, was intended by many people, and that is spiritual energy. Dave, how does that work?
Dave: Well, Tom, I don’t know whether that’s pushing it beyond what the person who knitted it intended. It says it was knitted with good intentions and spiritual energy.
On the one hand, Tom, I agree with you. Praise God that there are people who are sympathetic and concerned and so forth, but a prayer to a false god or to some force, or the idea of spiritual energy, not once is it taught in the Word of God. If we could activate spiritual energy - and unfortunately, that was the view of Norman Vincent Peale, who was commended by Christian leaders. His books were bestsellers in Christian bookstores, yet he said, “What is prayer? Well, prayer is releasing spiritual energy. Just as we can release the energy in the atom, so prayer is a religious technique for releasing spiritual energy.”
Well, then, you don’t have to know God, you don’t have to believe in Jesus Christ, it’s just like releasing atomic energy. You don’t have to be a Christian to do that. You don’t have to be a Christian to fly an airplane.
So now we have this delusion out there, Tom, that there is some kind of a universal force that we can tap into and activate it somehow to our benefit - not a personal God who holds us accountable for our sins. That’s what’s appealing about a force. You can use a force if you know how. You know the rules, you know the science behind it…that was Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science - that’s the whole idea of that. If you know the rules and how this force works, then you can use it to your own end. Darth Vader could play the dark side of the force just as well as Luke the light side.
So that’s not biblical, it isn’t rational, and it certainly is going to lead people away from the true God.
Tom: Dave, it reminds me of 2 Timothy 3 where it talks about a “form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” That is, the true power of God to answer prayer and to intervene in somebody’s life.
Now, this goes beyond that. In reading the article, they were referring to a website - this is a ministry that has developed, really, in the late 1990’s. Let me read you something that I found from the website. This was written by one of the women… Actually, the ministry was started by two women, Janet Bristow and Victoria Gallow, and Janet Bristow writes, “Shawls, made for centuries, universal and embracing, symbolic of an inclusive unconditionally loving God. They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace, mother, hug, shelter, and beautify. Those who have received these shawls have been uplifted and affirmed as if given wings to fly above their troubles.”
Now, these two women give some more information. They’re graduates of the 1997 Women’s Leadership Institute at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut, and they gave birth to a ministry as a result of their experience in this program of applied feminist spirituality under the direction of Professor Miriam Therese Winter. And it goes on to say, “Whether they are called prayer shawls, comfort shawls, peace shawls, or mantles, just to name a few, the knitter begins each shawl with prayers and blessings for the recipient. Intentions are continued throughout the creation of the shawl, and when the shawl is completed, it is offered a final ritual before being sent along its way. Some recipients have continued the kindness by making one themselves and passing it on to someone in need. Thus the blessing is rippled from person to person with both the giver and received feeling the unconditional embrace of a sheltering, mothering God.”
Dave: Well, Tom, it all sounds very good to people who want to believe in that, but there is no mother God out there; this is goddess worship. Feminist spirituality is not true, it’s not biblical, and you mentioned that “they have a form of godliness, denying the power thereof.” The Bible says the gospel is the “power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” If you believe that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be, who the Bible says and who hundreds of prophecies prove that He is - God Himself; the second Person of the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - who came to this earth, became a man through the virgin birth, paid the penalty for our sins on the cross that His own judgment required, rose from the dead, offers salvation, forgiveness of sins, and a home in heaven forever - [if] you believe that, you are born again; you are a child of God; you belong to Him. You don’t believe that, you can get some benefits - placebo effects and whatever it may be, or demonic effects to lead you astray - but you have missed out for eternity, and that’s our concern.