A funny thing happened at the Conner Prairie Educator Event. I was there with some of the Morgan's Raid team to show off the game to elementary school teachers. The six of us were standing at our table a little before the event was to begin, when an attractive 40-ish woman and her presumed husband approached our group and asked if any of us were suffering from chronic pain or allergies. Needless to say, we were a little dumbfounded. The mind cannot help but wonder why someone would ask such a thing. The amazing automatic pattern-matching machine in my head figured she was a masseuse with healing crystals or otherwise had some snake oil to sell.
She was quite insistent, and no one in my group was biting. Never one to back away from the unusual, I laughed and said she should see me in the Fall, when my allergies act up. She smiled and told us that she had felt that there was some pain among us, and then she asked if she could pray for me.
This was not quite what I expected, but assuming they were not worshipers of some deranged devil-god, I figured it wouldn't hurt, so I said yes. Their follow-up question, whether they could lay on hands, was the obvious next step.
She proceeded to invoke the Holy Spirit, asking for it to cleanse me of my allergies so that I might never have to take Claritin again, because God had created our bodies to enjoy nature and not to fight against it. Then, the Holy Spirit told her that I was also going have a promotion soon, and she asked for God's grace in this as well. Before and after the clearly spoken part of the blessing, the man and woman whispered what I could not hear but I assume to have been speaking in tongues. At some point, the third in their party---who I assume to be the mother of one or the other of these two---took a photograph, which made me wonder if I'd show up on candid camera.
They were pleased with themselves, and I thanked them for the blessing. They were clearly fervent in their beliefs and felt that they had done a Very Good Thing (tm). Since I'm not opposed to the power of prayer, I then asked them to pray for a friend of mine in need, which they promised to do, and off they went.
This was an interesting experience, which of course got some chuckles from the Morgan's Raid team. As for my allergies, I'll admit that they're annoying, but I would not pray to have them removed. I just don't think that's how prayer works. Allergies are part of the human condition. Everybody has their own problems, not because we're bad or sinful, but because we're here. How about prayers of thanks for modern science, from which comes Zyrtec? It didn't bother me that they were so cocksure that my allergies would never bother me again, although I would not be surprised if I spend 1/4 of the year on antihistamines because I have been for over ten years.
The addition of a promise of promotion, though, was too much. Assuming I stay a professor, I will probably get exactly one more promotion in the rest of my career, and it will only come if I chase it. Given that I haven't considered applying for promotion, I find it very unlikely that the Provost is currently writing a memorandum of spontaneous promotion for me. This kind of unsubstantiated, faith-based claim is not only demonstrably wrong, it is manipulative. I'm cynical enough to be relatively unaffected by it (aside from the inspiration to write about it here), but this kind of behavior can wreak havoc on people with low wisdom, as we gamers might say. Maybe, at this point, I should have called them out, let them know that this "Holy Spirit thinking I will be promoted" was BS. What would it have gained? As it is, I held my tongue and gave myself time to consider and reflect on the experience. I'm not sure which is worse: benevolent charlatanism or cowardice in the face of the same.
I'll be sure to post a follow-up once it's ragweed season to let you know how it turns out.