Radio National Transcripts:
The Religion Report
Wednesday, 29 October, 1997.
Intro Music: And I am healed, and I am still healed today, and I'm witnessing Jesus Christ....
Lyn Gallacher: Healing in all its various forms is a much sought after mystery. For religious leaders it's a dilemma: should they pray for a cure or share the suffering? I'm Lyn Gallacher and this is The Religion Report. Health and safety in the workplace is now firmly on the church's agenda. Today the Reverend Pam Kerr, the Uniting Church leader in Victoria, is speaking at a Workcover rally for thousands of striking unionists, and last Sunday there was a service of remembrance for those killed in industrial accidents. The Reverend John Bottomley, from the Churches and Trade Unions Committee, says workplace death should be more honestly acknowledged.
John Bottomley: In Australia the number of people who are killed from work-related causes each year is larger than the national road toll. So I think that our culture is death-denying, and that's particularly so in the workplace where economics say 'What's of value?' and so people who are injured at work are being devalued, their families find they get very little compensation, even though if that sort of death occurred in another context, it would be a criminal case in the workplace. So what we see is that the whole culture of the workplace denies death, and in denying death it actually denies life as well.
Lyn Gallacher: What do you mean by that?
John Bottomley: Well it doesn't value the lives of the people who work there, it simply treats people in economic terms for their productive benefit, so that in one case that we looked at in 1995, a corporation that was found negligent in causing a death in the workplace was fined $15,000 and another corporation that was found negligent in a worker having a broken arm was fined $20,000. So you've got these sorts of economic values being given to people's lives which are quite outrageous, they just diminish the value of life.
Lyn Gallacher: It's kind of ironic, because we actually worship the healthy body and you're almost saying that that denies a healthy lifestyle.
John Bottomley: Yes, healthiness has to embrace the place of death and suffering, not push it out to the margins so that the healthy body becomes an escape from death and from suffering. Healthy bodies have to be able to live with loss and not treat normal responses to death as if it's an illness. So we find that bereaved people are treated as if they are in some cases mentally ill, because they're depressed or they're angry or emotional.
Lyn Gallacher: And so that's why you think a ritual where we remember those who died is important.
John Bottomley: Very important, and it's important because it normalises grief. It allows those feelings that people have been told are problematic to be expressed.
Lyn Gallacher: So your understand of what's involved in a healing ministry is for people to face up to their pain rather than pray for some sort of miracle cure.
John Bottomley: That's right. I think that God comes to us as a suffering God and the story of Christ is about how God suffers with us in our human condition, and so that the test of faith is to walk into that shadow of darkness knowing that God will walk alongside you and give you the strength to endure, not necessarily take the pain away, but that you will endure and that there will be a new birth come out of that, a new possibility for life. And I think we're seeing that with the formation of an Industrial Deaths Support Group born out of a woman in Sydney and another in Melbourne who have suffered the death of loved ones in the workplace and who've committed themselves to working for other bereaved families to provide that support and companioning through the dark days of grief.
Lyn Gallacher: Are you sympathetic though with the workers who don't want to face up to death and just get back to work and get on with the joy of living, rather than - I mean I can understand how some people would find the idea of a suffering God not necessarily attractive.
John Bottomley: The experience of grieving people is that nothing takes away the pain of grief, and for example the annual remembrance of those who died in the Westgate Bridge collapse. So here we are, 27 years after that disaster, Australia's largest number of deaths from industrial accidents, and people still gathering at the Westgate Bridge site to remember loved ones and workmates who died there. So whatever our culture has to offer, it cannot take away the suffering that's associated with grief, and people are reaching out to find ways in ritual and in ceremony and in shared suffering, to live with their sense of loss and find a new purpose for living.
Lyn Gallacher: The Reverend John Bottomley. The ongoing debate about nursing homes and their funding now includes the voice of a Canberra priest. The Reverend Elizabeth MacKinlay is raising questions about the spiritual side of ageing. She asks, are nursing homes failing to care for the soul?
Elizabeth MacKinlay: When people are reaching this stage of life, it seems to me that they are seeking for 'Has my life been worthwhile? Why have I been here? Have I made a difference in my life journey? What are the things I need to do now before I leave this life?' And this just seemed to be an area where neither nursing nor clergy were able to really meet that very real need of these frail, elderly people.
Lyn Gallacher: And you feel that should be part of what nursing is, or part of what ministry is?
Elizabeth MacKinlay: I think it's both; I think there's a role there for both. We talk a lot about caring and I believe that a lot of what we say about caring is really that spiritual component. And in recent years, of course, we've put so much emphasis on the scientific aspect of nursing, the high tech areas, but we have perhaps been slow to develop the area on caring as such, which I see as the area which is addressing the spiritual.
Lyn Gallacher: One of the problems, it seems to me, that elderly people face in nursing homes is that they're on the verge of death.
Elizabeth MacKinlay: Yes.
Lyn Gallacher: Is that what you're suggesting be confronted more openly?
Elizabeth MacKinlay: I think so. It was really surprising when we went in with the first study I did, which was 1992/93 and a number of the registered nurses who were conducting the survey with me found that people they had known - or thought they knew - and they started asking them questions from this survey we were using, and it was like opening the floodgates. Suddenly someone had sat with them and asked them the questions, and they just wanted to talk.
Lyn Gallacher: And how do you expect nurses to be able to deal with that without going barmy?
Elizabeth MacKinlay: Well that's the problem. I think that nurses need to learn to be much more aware of their own spiritual needs before they can address spiritual needs of others. It's fairly obvious I think. I went out to six different nursing homes round the ACT and to New South Wales a couple of years ago, assessing the spiritual awareness of the nursing staff. It was really interesting that a number of the nurses who came to my sessions acknowledged that they were agnostics or they certainly had anything to do with church attendance for years. But they were very, very interested and they were willing to recognise that the people they were caring for may well have spiritual needs that perhaps they hadn't thought about, and I think if we are not very aware of our own spiritual beliefs, then we may end up just projecting our own beliefs onto other people, without finding out where they're at.
Lyn Gallacher: What if that person is on the verge of dementia, and they're losing their mind? Is it possible to understand what the meaning of life is when you're senile?
Elizabeth MacKinlay: That's a very complex one. I believe that with dementia, except in the very, very last stages where it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate with people, I suspect that we can probably do a lot better than we've been doing, particularly in the spiritual dimension. In some instances I have been as a Chaplain into a nursing home environment to take a service, and sometimes staff will say, 'Oh I wouldn't bring So-and-so to the service because they won't know what's going on'. But in fact, people who seem not to be able to communicate or know what was going on outside themselves, when they have been brought to a church service have sometimes been able to respond in ways that have been quite surprising to those who've seen them in everyday action. It seems to me that the spirit is certainly the last to go. I think we need to try to connect more with people with dementia, even when perhaps they can't respond appropriately to us.
Lyn Gallacher: The Reverend Elizabeth MacKinlay, who's a Chaplain and a senior lecturer in nursing at the University of Canberra.
Healing Rally -
A. A. Allen: This is what you would call a withered arm. Let us× your Glory in the name of Jesus, give life to this paralysed arm in the name of Jesus. I believe in God! I believe you! I believe in Jesus. Ah ha ha ha - Do you see what happened?
A. A. Allen: What?
Woman: Thank you, Jesus.
A. A. Allen: Amen. I believe it. Amen. I believe it. Amen. All you need is some faith. If you've got faith, God'll heal you of anything. It's gone, it's gone.
Lyn Gallacher: Preacher A.A. Allen at a Revival meeting in Miracle Valley, Arizona. For some, spiritual healing means physical results. The idea of a soul at peace with fleshy vulnerability isn't as appealing as a miracle cure.
Ella Gordon: When I was eight months pregnant with my eighth child, the doctors gave me eight months to live, and they told me that if I didn't have surgery that I would die. And then I heard people in the open air in Charleville reaching about how Jesus could heal, how he could save and how he could set free. And when I heard about the healing - because the Bible says that by Jesus stripes we are healed, and he was the same yesterday, today and forever. And so I went to these people and I told them what the doctor had told me, that I had only eight months to live and that I was dying with cancer, and I was on my own with seven children, and God in his mercy and love and his grace, healed my body. I had a miracle. My son is today living in Bundaberg, he has two children of his own and so God is a miracle-working God today.
Lyn Gallacher: Three-thousand Christians rallied at Parliament House in Canberra last week, and Ella Gordon, whose story we just heard, was one of them. Ella's a Brisbane-based evangelist and a tribal elder, and the occasion was the Praise Corroboree, a chance for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians to share in worship and bush tucker on the lawns of Parliament House. Senate President, the Hon. Margaret Reid, was one of the guest speakers, and she told Claire Booth how the Corroboree could help the process of reconciliation.
Margaret Reid: I suppose in some ways it's hard to know exactly what it does, but any contact between human beings where they get to know each other better, where they get the opportunity to understand each other better, has to be part of the healing process. And frequently it's perhaps a long time before you can look back and see the real impact of an event.
Claire Booth: Do you think the concept of healing is something that some people don't have a sense of? That perhaps they don't feel a need for it?
Margaret Reid: I'm absolutely certain that some people have no idea what we're talking when we talk about healing. The concept of the spirit being who have had their land stolen from them, have actually put curses on the land because they didn't want the white people to enjoy the land. And our western rationalism says well that's a lot of hoo-ha. I don't believe it is, and we can see the results of various things that have happened spiritually, which have caused a lack of productivity, a lack of fruitfulness, a lack of beauty in the land. And that's the sort of thing that requires that healing of the land. The Bible also talks about the shedding of innocent blood pollutes the land. And there've been the massacres and the things that have happened. And there is a spiritual impact on the land. And so healing of the land requires something that as Christians we say it's the blood of Christ, it's Christ's giving of himself, in a pure and holy way that is able to bring about that whole process of healing the land.
Claire Booth: So healing relates to land and people inextricably it seems.
John Blacker: They're all tied up together, and I believe many in our government have not understood the relationship between Aboriginal people and their land.
Lyn Gallacher: The most difficult healing of all is the healing of society, and that's the challenge of reconciliation. Pat Dodson, Chair of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, recently spoke to the Good Shepherd Social Justice Network at a family service. He reflected on what it means to be a participant in this broader communal healing process.
Pat Dodson: There is a real opportunity for us to take this nation into the next century, which is only three years down the road, with the stamp of reconciliation upon the nature of our relationship, despite the attitudes of governments and officialdom, it's something that we, the people, are capable of achieving. People who are in need experience their society as uncaring and unloving and unresponsive to their needs, then it's very difficult for them to have any gratitude or any sense of bigness in their hearts towards matters of complexity and difficulty like Wik, or Native Title, or Cultural Heritage Protection, or the Stolen Generations, or other issues that the indigenous community is so caught up with in trying to get the hard-heartedness of the government and the meanness of its approach, to actually respond to these matters in a just and respectful manner, and one that is capable of bringing the lot of us to some kind of resolution, some kind of reconciliation to the wounds and the hurts of that past. So that we walk into the next century fully equipped and with some pride and dignity, but in the same way as we bear the burden of those who are in need in our society, those who are discarded and cast off because others haven't got the time of day, or couldn't be concerned to what it is that their needs are, or who blame them for their own predicament, then we too need to heal this society by virtue of our own integrity and our own activities.
Lyn Gallacher: Pat Dodson. Canon Jim Glennon has been a healer for 28 years. He believes that healing comes from within, but what if it doesn't? What about people who don't get well?
Jim Glennon: Plenty of people don't get well. If they are drawing on the healing ministry of the church, it isn't just their faith, it's the faith of the people who are believing for them. Jesus said, 'All things are possible to him who believes.' He said where there wasn't hearing, it was because of little faith. But he said the responsibility for faith lay with those who prayed from the outside. The Bible says is any among you sick, let him call the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil and the prayer of faith will raise up the sick person.
Lyn Gallacher: So do you see healing ministry as a way of sharing the suffering around?
Jim Glennon: Yes that's right. It's very much a corporate thing. The person who is in need comes into a corporate situation, and their faith is important, but it is the faith of the group that is important. In that sense, yes, the suffering is being shared around.
Lyn Gallacher: And do you do things like laying on of hands?
Jim Glennon: Yes. The laying on of hands means it's an outward sign of what we're inwardly doing. We anoint with oil, that's a sign of a person's consecration to God; those outward things are important.
Lyn Gallacher: And is it an incredibly emotional type of thing?
Jim Glennon: Oh no.
Lyn Gallacher: No?
Jim Glennon: No.
Lyn Gallacher: It's not?
Jim Glennon: Not as far as I am concerned. It's very low key. I don't like any form of sensationalism, that's why I'm hesitant to talk about results of the healing ministry. It suggests you're looking for the sensational. That does happen. But because the mountain is big - of sickness - and faith is small, even with a group, most certainly the person who is sick, most healing that happens is progressive. The Bible makes provision for that, and for that reason it is not so apocalyptic.
Lyn Gallacher: So you have to be in the business a long time and be patient?
Jim Glennon: Yes, I think that is so. There's nothing wrong with that. You've got to be patient to do anything. You've got to be patient to bake a cake, drive a car. The same with prayer, the same with healing.
Lyn Gallacher: But we do live in a community of instant gratification.
Jim Glennon: Yes, and that's one of the distractions. People want to just have something that's a quick fix, and it doesn't work like that.
Lyn Gallacher: And what's the meaning of the title Your Healing is Within You?
Jim Glennon: That's a good question. It comes from words and Scripture, Luke 17 21 Jesus said the kingdom is within you. And part of the kingdom is healing. Jesus said, 'Seek the kingdom and its righteousness, and all your needs will be met and added to you.'
Lyn Gallacher: And what keeps your faith going? How has your healing ministry affected your life and your faith?
Jim Glennon: Because I'm responsible for people, they come to me and I accept responsibility for them. I have to be concerned about my own faith.
Lyn Gallacher: And have you witnessed miracles?
Jim Glennon: Well of course.
Lyn Gallacher: I just wonder when you go into pray for someone in that sort of situation, how much confidence do you have that it will work?
Jim Glennon: As time has gone by and my faith and confidence has grown, I find that more things happen now than happened at an earlier time.
Lyn Gallacher: And do people shop around? Try different sorts of cures and solutions, and different sorts of religions even?
Jim Glennon: Oh yes, I think that is so. People who come to us are sometimes church people, not necessarily Anglican, and we welcome them irrespective of denomination. And not infrequently, they have no denominational attachment at all. And we welcome them just as they are.
Lyn Gallacher: What about other sorts of healing, say in Buddhism and Islam? Do you think that there is a kind of crossover with what you're doing and what other traditions are doing? Or is the Christian healing thing entirely based on Jesus, and is it therefore different and distinctive?
Jim Glennon: Well I would say the Christian position generally is very distinctive. We are Christ centred, we are credal centred. I don't comment on what people draw on from other sources. All I would want to say is that as far as we are concerned, we're orthodox Christian church in our ministry.
Lyn Gallacher: So what is it that makes your ministry distinctive?
Jim Glennon: Every Christian should be involved in this. The Bible says all who believe will hands on the sick and they will recover. It involves you too.
Lyn Gallacher: And you think the community would be a healthier place if people like me went around and laid hands on everyone?
Jim Glennon: Not necessarily. It's important to do it as a member of the church. It's what the church is doing, that provides the cheques and balances, that's most important. I'm not suggesting anyone individually should just go round laying on hands, but I say that we should all be involved.
Lyn Gallacher: Canon Jim Glennon, the key speaker at a four-day healing mission held at St Paul's Southern Cross Anglican Church in Melbourne. Spiritual healing isn't, of course, limited to Christianity. Coming from a different is Sir Param Eswaran. He's trained in the ancient Indian art of Para-Tantric healing massage.
Param Eswaram: I actually don't heal anyone. You have within you the power. I have nothing.
Lyn Gallacher: So why do people need this?
Param Eswaram: We forgot who we are. So what we do is we're not living the way we should live. I mean everybody likes a quick fix. I have a headache; I have a panadol. Instead of saying I have a headache maybe because my system, my stomach is not healthy, maybe I should wash my stomach, maybe I should fast for one or two days, then I won't get my headaches any more.
Lyn Gallacher: But you're not claiming it to be any kind of miracle?
Param Eswaram: Oh no, no, there's no miracles. The miracle is within you. The power is within you.
Lyn Gallacher: What if it isn't? What if people are still sick?
Param Eswaram: Then they have not wanted to heal themselves.
Lyn Gallacher: But people still do get old and die.
Param Eswaram: There's a person who's about 300 years old still living in India.
Lyn Gallacher: Are you serious? Three-hundred years old?
Param Eswaram: I am very serious.
Lyn Gallacher: So how long do you expect to live?
Param Eswaram: I don't know. As far as I'm concerned, once the Centre's running, I'm happy to go.
Lyn Gallacher: How important is the healing side of things to people's spirituality?
Param Eswaram: I think you have to be healthy to know the God within you. This vehicle that you carry, that carries your energy, has to be healthy for you to do healing.
Lyn Gallacher: Part of what you do is massage?
Param Eswaram: Yes I do the message. Massage is basically to sort of move the energy. Like sometimes you have a lot of blockages in your spine. So what I do is I clear the path, otherwise you go to a place sometimes you sit down and visualise, you bring your energy up and then you come up to the solar plexus and it gets stuck there. And then visualisation is another thing that you do a lot of.
Lyn Gallacher: Explain that.
Param Eswaram: You visualise each centre. You know about chakras. OK. You visualise each chakra and then keep saying the word 'Om' if you want to say 'Om' in Hinduism, or you can use the word 'Amen' or humm any of those sounds. If you keep saying that sound and go deep into until it gets to that point of your centre and from there you can say OK now you rise, and you can visualise it's rise. And you go to the next centre, and you keep charging it, and then you move it along. And then you blow it out completely. Breathe in with your nose and then blow it out with the mouth.
Lyn Gallacher: In your experience, what are the most common problems that people have?
Param Eswaram: With women - unfortunately it's like menstrual problems. Men you find lower back problems and around the solar plexus, which is a lot of emotions. Basically emotion problems.
Lyn Gallacher: Can you say more about the sexual problems? I'm also interested in that.
Param Eswaram: Sexual problems I think is again, we have lost this, we don't touch each other. So basically we do not know how to communicate with each other. The only thing we know is how to have sex, so you find that you never get satisfied. That's why you never, even in a relationship, you never get contented because it is not - something is missing, the energy's not there. All you have, the energy's from here. You find after making love instead of getting feeling Oh, I feel energetic, you know, I could actually run the block, they feel tired and they want to go to sleep.
Lyn Gallacher: So how do you deal with those kind of problem? Do you have to do it with couples?
Param Eswaram: With couples, with singles, it doesn't matter.
Lyn Gallacher: If it's a communication problem though, you would have to have both.
Param Eswaram: Yes. If it's a couple sometimes you have couple that come, sometimes you have each individual one coming because sometimes you have to have them separate, and then you can bring them together again. And some of them have always had problems having a relationship. See the God in them, in each other, rather than that vehicle and how I can use the vehicle, rather than see the God in that person and start appreciating the God in that person. Once you can appreciate the God within your partner, then you learn to respect, then you learn to communicate, not with words, but with your hands.
Lyn Gallacher: Sir Param Eswaran, from the Interfaith Fellowship Centre, with a totally different type of laying on of hands. That's it for today's Religion Report. Thanks to the production team. Next week, John Cleary will be back. I'm Lyn Gallacher, thanks for joining me.
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