Have you had enough of pain or illness? Have the doctors given up on you? Come to Doctor Jesus.
So says the flier being spread around Manchester at the moment by the Body of Christ International Ministries. Thanks to James Robinson for alerting me.
It also says:
A lady diagnosed with an enlarged heart was miraculously healed after she prayed for a couple of times. Hallelujah Jesus healed her!
This lady had suffered from hip arthritis for many years. The doctors said that it was due to old age and that nothing could be done. After prayer, she felt the pain leaving her. The next day there was no more pain in her hips, she could squat, ride her bicycle and walk in high heel shoes without pain.
A lump in the throat of a lady that the doctors believed was cancerous disappeared after she was prayed for in the name of Jesus. Doctors did several examinations and could not find the lump in her throat anymore. Glory to God! Lump disappeared! Cancer disappeared! Operation cancelled!
All three of these claims are possibly in contravention of the BCAP code of practice 50.27:
Marketers should not falsely claim that a product is able to cure illness, dysfunction or malformations.
It could be argued that prayer is not a product and Jesus is not a brand, despite the aggressive marketing. But they don't weasel out that easily because there is the Cancer Act, which would cover the third claim.
Section 4.1(a) 8 of the Act states that:
No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement -
(a)containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof;
(8) In this section the expression 'advertisement' includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper or other document, any any announcement made orally or by any means of producing or transmitting sounds.
There is no conclusive evidence at all that prayer can cure. The US government has spent $2.2 million dollars over 5 years studying the effect of distance healing (prayer). Apparently positive results have proved flawed and in some cases people who knew they were being prayed for did worse - possibly because they thought they if they were being prayed for they must be on their last legs.
At best, acts of faith can have a placebo effect - which has been shown to work on pain but absolutely not to work in curing serious medical conditions. This would explain why the woman in the flier with painful arthritis was (allegedly) able to squat, ride a bike and wear high heels. All at the same time in some sort of circus act, I hope.
As to the woman with the enlarged heart, there is no mention of whether she was receiving medical treatment at the same time, which might just have done the job. For that matter, there's no mention either of whether Cancer Lady was having chemo. Ah, right - that's because Doctor Jesus did it. Hallelujah.
There is never any follow-up of people who have allegedly been cured or evidence of doctor's reports before and after the miracle. Even the Vatican, which is hardly the most scientifically rigourous of bodies, is very careful about accrediting miracle cures at Lourdes these days because they are aware of placebo and of the consequences of making unsubstantiated claims - in terms of bad publicity, if nothing else.
If Jesus can cure, why does he need to advertise? Why does he need the all-singing, all-dancing BCIM Healing Nights? Why can't he just cure anyone who prays to him? Why does he cure some but not others? Best not go there... Yes, let's go there. Because he does not exist and even if he did, anyone sitting at home praying and getting cured would not be fattening the coffers of the BCIM. By the way, if you're not cured, it's because your faith is not strong enough or because your suffering is part of God's Mysterious Plan. Not because the product is faulty. Nice.
This is a dangerous and misleading advert, suggesting that prayer can accomplish what science cannot. It may give people false hope or stop them seeking medical advice - or not until it's too late. People who are seriously ill or have a chronic condition can understandably be very vulnerable to being exploited and misled. That's how a lot of 'alternative' therapies operate.
The flier also says:
The testimonies speak for themselves!
No. Empirically tested, placebo-controlled, double-blinded, peer-reviewed evidence speaks for itself.
As to the 'science doesn't know everything' defence: it's not how much you know, it's how you know it. That's know rather than believe. Facts not faith.
I have reported them to the ASA.
UPDATE 12 October 2009
I also reported them to Manchester Trading Standards who contacted me today to say that MTS has 'advised' the Pastor both by phone and in writing about the Cancer Act and 'advised him not to distribute leaflets with such claims in future'.
We shall see.
See more here on the ASA ruling.