That Time I Performed a Miracle
and how science requires faith too
Growing up I was always fascinated by healing miracles performed in the name of Jesus. I was obsessed. So I acquired hard to find books by Kathryn Kuhlman, Smith Wigglesworth, Charles Finney and many others. I wanted to learn how to channel the power of god and for periods of my young life I dedicated myself intensely to fasting, studying the Bible and hours of prayer. And then one day it happened in the mountains of Peru. I healed someone. Or as those in the church would say, god healed someone through me. Now, over 20 years later, I would tell you I don’t believe in god. This miracle though, I still think it actually happened.
I grew up religious. Maybe that's an understatement. I was named Josiah Paul Zayner, after Josiah King of Judah and Paul the Apostle. I was born on February 8 and Josiah became king when he was 8 years old. I was brought up to be proud that Josiah means "god has healed/supported". I attended church service or bible study 3 days a week and 3 times on Sunday. I read my Bible everyday and studied Greek to be able to read the original writings of the New Testament. I wanted to be a preacher. I work as a janitor at the church and when everyone left in the evening I would stand in the pulpit and deliver sermons to the empty seats.
My religious zeal fluctuated through high school but by the time I graduated I went all in and decided to head with a missionary to the mountains of Peru to heal the sick and bring Jesus. If you aren't familiar with modern Christianity understand there are more interpretations of the Bible than Pringles flavors. Most people are familiar with Catholic and Protestant but shit, there are like 100 more. I grew up in church's that fell on a more mystical type of Christianity where people could perform miracles and speak in tongues and other crazy shit. The sect I was a part of went by the denominational name of, wait for it, "non-denominational" which is a denomination no matter how hard they try and pretend it isn't. To this day my Uncle runs a “non-denominational” mini-mega church — meaning they have a few thousand members show up for Sunday service. He connected me with Lonnie Jarvis, the missionary who I went to Peru with.
Going to Peru was my first time out of the US. I did travel to Canada before this but that obviously doesn't count. We landed in Lima, Peru which was pretty tourist friendly. There was a Billabong shop on the beach. Calm down, it was the 90s. We didn't stay in Lima long and quickly caught a bus up into the mountains. Seven hours later with stops to pee on the side of the road and we arrived in Tarma. The colors, the architecture, the way the city lit up at night. It felt like a Spanish city stuck in time. I went out on the town one night with some locals and ate hamburgers, chicken hearts and dog meat. I also got pretty violently ill the next day #streetfood. Still, I wish that I had taken it in more and appreciated my surroundings. I was so focused on trying to be a good missionary I missed so much. I would love to go back.
I was on a mission to bring Jesus to people and I did. I hung out with orphans. Preached to men in jail about love. But that was all just prep for the main event, the miracle crusade. For those not in the know, basically you invite the whole city to some large event space and preached to them about Jesus which was followed by people singing about Jesus and then the missionaries prayed for all the sick people to heal them. We planned on performing miracles. Ordained by god of course. To me now that sounds ridiculous. Who plans on performing miracles?
Miracles in Christianity are strange because they are never obvious. No one pulls a Yoda and moves an x-wing out of a swamp using only the power or prayer. I've never seen physical objects move or be repaired or change structure. I have never seen a miracle actually take place but I have seen the indirect results. I've seen people who appeared to be completely deaf be able to hear after being prayed for. I have watched the blind see. These events still give me goose bumps when I think about them. The logic goes something like Jesus gave power to his apostles to heal the sick and they were just human. So the rest of us humans should be able to do miracles also.
And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Matthew 10:1, King James Translation
I get it. These "miracles" are easy to dismiss. I have never seen a scientific or medical analysis showing a healing. People have come up with all sorts of explainations, some very harmless and others calling these miracles fraudulent. Miracles can't be easily verified and so we must just take everyone's word for it. We must have faith. Faith is so important in religions we see it as something inherent in religions only. But the truth is that faith is just as common in the scientific system. Oh no, here comes the ambulance to pick up all the academic scientists dying from rage at the shots I just fired. But let's be honest, the majority of science IS built on faith.
Let us hold fast to our unwavering belief in the data For he would collected the data is trustworthy Einstein 3:16, New King Josiah Translation
In order for the scientific system to work we must have faith in things. First and foremost the scientists themselves. We must have faith that scientists are viewing the world accurately, making measurements correctly and reporting them in an unbiased, truthful and error free way. We must have faith in the publishing system who decides what science becomes "facts". Faith in the scientists who interpret the conclusions of that data for everyone else. We need to have steadfast faith because we know that scientists are human, fallible and greedy. They hunger for fame and attention just like everyone else and are willing to lie, cheat and steal like everyone else to get it. The suggested rates of data fabrication in science range from around 2% to 10%. Suffice it to say these numbers are probably a drastic undercount because they are based on only what has been found/admitted. These numbers don't even include accidental errors made by scientists in data collection or analysis, data artifacts, uncalibrated or broken equipment &c, &c. The reality is that we don't really know how much of science is real. But even if we stick to the lower end at least 1 in 50 scientific papers is wrong! Let's not even start with how often medical diagnoses are wrong. Spoiler!! around 1 in 20. Wrong diagnoses kill around 50,000 people a year in the US alone. Yikes!
I get it, in the end we know it's correct because of the consensus. Over 6 billion humans can't be wrong about their faith in religions? Right? ………Right?
So there I was praying on my elbows and knees on some dirty floor in the mountains of Peru. Reliving those memories in my head I have never done anything with more heart and fervor. Two hours passed praying in the tongues of god and humans. And when I awoke I walked towards a woman with crutches who was struggling to walk to the front and was taking a break in a chair. My body tingling with what felt like electricity, every hair tickling and standing on end I put my hand on her shoulder and shouted, "In the name of Jesus rise up and walk." It felt like an explosion had erupted from my body and shot into her. She looked up at me and took my hand. She stood up hesitantly and reluctantly, tested her footing and at that moment surprise engulfed her face. She started walking and then dancing and crying and hugging me. Honestly, I was probably in just as much shock as she was. What the fuck just happened? Hundreds of people there were cheering. I was crying. She was crying. Did I just perform a healing miracle?
She stopped by the house we were staying the next day without crutches. We communicated through my broken Spanish I learned in high school and she told me her name was Marisol. She gave me a stuffed animal as thanks. A dog that appears to be dressed in some sort of Scottish outfit. I still have it 20 years later.
We exchanged addresses and I wrote her one time when I got back to the states. I never heard back. Maybe she never got the letter.
I’m not trying to convince myself that I performed a miracle. I am trying to convince myself somehow that what I experienced was wrong. There is no way for me to verify whether she was actually healed of anything. I need to have faith that her actions were genuine and truthful. But why would she lie? Why would she dance and cry? Why would she buy me a stuffed animal that would cost her a significant amount of money?
You weren't there. You didn't experience what I did. It was real. It happened. Still, you might tell me that humans have a variety of reasons to lie and mislead. That without raw data we will never know if a miracle happened.
And so, I will say, I've never seen the raw data for a scientific paper either.
Science and religion both require faith
How much faith you have in either is solely dependent on you
Both can be impossible to prove
Even when you did it yourself