The United Church of the Kingdom of God was started in 1977 in Brazil. It is now in 176 countries and has been in the UK since 1995, based at what was the Rainbow, Finsbury Park.
They have put the billboard pictured up on Seven Sisters Road, as a member of the NSS alerted us.
The text reads:
My son was born with a heart problem. After a party he started bleeding from the mouth. I rushed him to hospital and the specialist said he had 16 loose arteries. He went into a coma, his heart stopped and both his lungs collapsed. Doctors and specialists expected him to die. At the UCKG I was given some blessed oil to anoint my son with. Now that his heart and lungs are better I thank the UCKG for all the spiritual support I received. Julia Caro.
A slightly longer version of this testimony appears on UCKG’s American website.
Along the bottom edge, in white text on pale cream background, and tucked into the frame, is this disclaimer:
In accordance to the CAP code, point 503, the uckg helpcentre's spiritual advice is to be seen as a complement to scientifically proven [torn - medical treatment?] you are receiving.
This refers to an item in the Health & Beauty Products & Therapies section of the Code of Advertising Practice.
50.3 Marketers should not discourage essential treatment. They should not offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for serious or prolonged conditions unless it is conducted under the supervision of a doctor or other suitably qualified health professional (eg one subject to regulation by a statutory or recognised medical or health professional body). Accurate and responsible general information about such conditions may, however, be offered.
What the hell are ‘loose arteries’? A close reading of this adverts shows that the anointing oil is not directly accredited with the cure, which of course would contravene advertising regulations, but the implication is clear. It was the oil that cured him. How does this constitute accurate and responsible general information?
This is not the only extraordinary claim they have made. Their website has the following testimonials:
I used to suffer with a burning, itching sensation in both my legs. I had this pain for years. I used my faith by using the blessed handkerchief which was consecrated in seven different Holy places in Israel. After rubbing the handkerchief over my legs, I made a prayer believing that I would be healed and the pain immediately stopped.
My son Chris had a skin infection and needed constant treatment. Sometimes wounds filled with pus would spread throughout his body, causing his skin to itch all the time. I used the handkerchief on my son’s head and prayed for him. Four days later, I noticed that the problem was gone! During a doctor’s appointment, it was confirmed that the problem was really gone - it simply disappeared.
The Blessed Handkerchief is another ‘treatment’ they offer. In the first instance, the word placebo comes to mind. In the second, there is no indication whether the sufferer was receiving medical treatment, how long he had been suffering or whether this was a condition that would heal in time anyway. Mentioning the doctor is just a feeble attempt to lend credibility to the hanky. All the doctor did was observe that the complaint had healed. But ‘disappeared’ is so much more dramatic.
There is another example of what the oil can do:
Being told that I had meningitis and knowing that I could die at anytime was the scariest thing I’ve had to live through. It all began when got a sudden stiff neck, severe headaches and immediately went to the doctor after experiencing double vision. A lumber puncture (a process of taking fluid from the spine) confirmed the meningitis and I was immediately given a Hickman line (a tube that goes through the chest into one of the major blood vessels). Every time I was discharged, I relapsed.
It was during one of my stints in hospital that two volunteers from the UCKG visited me.
They returned on a weekly basis to encourage, anoint me with the Holy Oil and pray for my recovery, as a compliment to the medical help I recieved. Now that my vision has returned and the headaches and stiff neck have gone, I am so happy for the support I received. When the doctors discharged me, they assured me that I was no longer in danger of a relapse. They’ve told me that I am free from meningitis.
So, over a process of several weeks in hospital, the meningitis went away. That never happens normally.
The UCKG also offers spiritual cleansing, their term for exorcism.
They do offer a mild disclaimer:
Anyone claiming to have been healed whilst attending one of the UCKG centres is invariably referred to their doctor because UCKG does not recognise a healing unless it has been confirmed by a qualified medical practitioner.
However, this does mean that if anyone gets better, if their illness ‘disappears’, they can claim it as a healing. They don’t expect the doctors to do any more than note that the condition has gone. They will not agree it is a healing because
Many [doctors] do not accept that the church and prayer can heal but tend to conclude that the illness is just not there anymore.
On top of all these insults to science and rationality, I am personally deeply offended that the place I once saw The Buzzcocks is now a temple of superstition and exploitation of the vulnerable. The title of this post is a Buzzcocks’ song.
See also here for a brief addendum.
Update 18 August 2009: Since this post was written, the link at the top has stopped working. The site has been revamped but many of the testimonials are the same. It is now here.