By Dave, the WM
I'd just moved into an apartment in Japan. My daughter was two-and-a-half years old, could talk in full paragraphs, and entertained my wife and I by singing all the words to every chorus sung at the English-speaking Assembly of God church we attended. We were far from home, but the joy of the Lord was our strength, and the oddness of our surroundings only helped solidify our church family relationships and our faith. We believed we had been sent to this far country to represent the one true god.
I was up every day at 4am for an hour of intercessory prayer, followed by a solid hour of in-depth Bible study and memorization. Then I was out the door for a morning run before reporting to work. The Air Force was inflexible in its scheduling requirements, so I was never late.
In a short time my family and I embraced a mission to be part of the evangelical effort in Japan. The military may have assigned us here, but we believed there was a higher purpose to finding ourselves in the land of the rising sun, where only 1% of the population claimed belief in some form of Christianity.
We dove into English evangelism at a nearby non-English-speaking church. Evangelical churches in Japan frequently hire "native speakers" to teach proper English pronunciation to interested Japanese people. Everyone in Japan takes years and years of English in school. As a result, most people can read English quite fluently, but because Japanese are teaching English pronunciation to Japanese, the general population speaks broken English, sometimes derogatorily referred to as "Japlish."
Since English is the international language of commerce, many Japanese people desire to speak it correctly. And the only way to be sure of speaking correctly is to hire someone who natively speaks the language. When I was in Japan, a considerable number of military members, and/or their spouses, taught English to private students. They had weekly "conversation lessons" with Japanese who would pay liberally just to have someone talk with them in real English.
This practice was so popular among the Japanese adult population, that churches offered the service, hiring committed Christians from English-speaking churches . Of course, the church versions of "English class" would heavily flavor the lessons with stories from the Bible. Sometimes the English students would convert to Christianity. That's why it was called English evangelism.
When I wasn't working, or praying, or teaching English, or attending church, or participating in a home cell group, or traveling with mission trips to northern Japan, I was in the train stations of Tokyo, passing out tracks.
This introduction is to help show that I was very active and believed that I was indeed, a "True Christian."
And that's why when I had a miracle, I was extremely grateful, but not overly surprised. My god was a mighty god, after all, who reigned from heaven on high. Miracles were a normal part of my theology.
My daughter was running/toddling around our apartment, and in her clumsy exuberance, crashed headlong into the pointed corner of our coffee table. Her half-dozen teeth were crushed backwards into her face, blood was gushing everywhere, and her two young parents were hysterical. Her face was a wreck.
At the hospital, the doctors told us there was nothing anyone could do. Her teeth would probably fall out. All they could offer, they said, was something for the pain and to stop the bleeding.
So, with our now deformed-mouthed little girl, we went home, laid hands on her, and prayed to the Lord of Hosts to heal our whimpering baby.
The pain medicine made our daughter groggy, so we put her to bed. When she awoke the next morning, her teeth were perfectly straight, and except for a small scar where she'd bitten through her lip during the fall, she was completely healed.
It was a miracle. God had healed our daughter. We spread the news far and wide, and used that experience to testify to the living reality of our God.
That was 15 years ago. About seven years ago, I started to severely question my faith. I eventually left Christianity and started this website.
So, what about that miracle?
In the last couple of years I've noticed that when our daughter sings, her face lacks symmetry. This doesn't seem to affect her ability for music, but it is somewhat distracting to the people watching her sing. I took her to an orthodontist for an opinion and found out that one side of her jaw is longer than the other. The only way to correct the problem, he said, was to break her jaw and re-set it. When it healed, hopefully, the two sides of her face when singing would appear more symmetrical.
I asked what would have caused such a problem. He replied by asking if she'd had a hard fall when she was very young.
"The coffee table!" I thought.
The doctor explained that what probably had happened was that my daughter had damaged the jaw during the fall, which stunted the growth on one side. He assured us there was nothing anyone could have done, and there was no way to know the extent of the damage until our daughter grew up.
We told him about her teeth being bashed into her mouth in the fall, and how the teeth had straightened over night. He said that things like that were not uncommon. The healing powers of the body, especially a young body, were amazing at times.
What is my point with this little personal introspection?
Many Christians hang on to their faith based on some personal experience that they consider to be miraculous. I know Christians frequently do this, because I was one of those Christians. Typically, the so-called miracles are fairly minor events, events that could be easily explained by any number of natural causes. I know this, too, because my miracle mentioned here is a prime example.
For those Christians who are sure that Christianity is true because someone was healed of a backache, or someone babbled in an unknown tongue, or some old lady left her wheel chair for an hour or two, or something equally routine, I challenge that person to ask why amputees never grow new limbs. Ask why people who have lungs removed, never grow new ones. Ask why all the so-called miracles of healing by Almighty God are so easily mimicked by the natural healing powers of the body.
Believing is nice. It gives a wonderful feeling of being watched over and protected, but it's all a lie.
I was simple believer. I didn't think I deserved a miracle, I didn't expect special treatment, I was just living out my faith in the best way I knew how. Along the way, I saw what I believed were miracles from time to time, performed just for my little clan, or other Christians, by the great and wonderful god of creation. Since leaving Christianity, I've come to realize I was wrong. For those who are so afraid to admit to being wrong, let me assure you, it's not shameful to admit to being wrong.
Christian, I was wrong. I have since come to realize that everything I believed to be real in Christianity only contained the reality of dreams, crafted in my imagination.
And finally, if the gift of tongues is real, how come every English speaking evangelist in Japan had to learn the Japanese language the hard way?
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)