In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 10, Jesus gives his disciples some pretty detailed instructions.
5) These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
6) But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7) And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. King James Version
That last verse, the one where Jesus empowers his disciples to not only heal sick people but also raise people back from the dead is the nucleus for the documentary Deadraiser.
I haven’t watched Deadraiser, but when a friend sent me the trailer for the documentary, I was reminded of a section that got edited out of my next book, Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity.
The edited part was about Bethel Church in Redding, California, the charismatic congregation that helped launch the music career of Jesus Culture.
Here’s a part of that edited portion…
My friend calls Bethel Church in Redding, California the “Gold Dust Church.” That’s because members of the charismatic congregation swear that, on occasion, while people are singing or while somebody is preaching, God will begin sprinkling the church’s audience with the finest shavings of gold. Pastor Kris Vallotton, a senior associate at Bethel Church and “noted prophetic voice in Northern California,” says he’s witnessed the “phenomenon” hundreds of times. His first experience being glitter bombed by God happened in the late 1990s at a MorningStar Prophesy conference when, as Vallotton describes it, “the speaker released the ‘glory of God’ in the room” and suddenly God doused every person in the room with a shimmery golden shine. Vallotton tries to downplay these events as the mysteries of God at work. I have no reason to believe the man’s lying. But that doesn’t negate the question as to why God would, on random occasions, cover Vallotton and his congregants with a sudden burst of golden discharge…
…But Redding’s Bethel Church isn’t your average American congregation; for one thing, the church boasts a School of Supernatural Life, which might sound like the name of teen drama on The CW, but in reality, is a curriculum “for those who want to encounter the supernatural ways of God in their normal everyday life.” Topics that Supernatural’s students learn about include angels and demons, the joy of sexual purity, dream interpretation, and how to handle humans. But according Vallotton, one of the extracurricular activities performed by students at the school is the practice of raising the dead. After reading Jesus’s words about “raising the dead” in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter ten, Vallotton says “[the students] decided to go down to the morgue and ‘practice’ raising the dead!” So far, they haven’t been successful. But Vallotton believes their actions showcase great faith, which seems to be the point of Bethel’s Harry Potter School, to empower young people to become everything that the folks at Bethel believe Jesus wants them to be, dead-raising, demon-extracting, future-seeing, prophetic-speaking psychic-like followers of Jesus.
So do we believe everything Jesus said? Are the people of Bethel showcasing great faith? Or are they taking the words of Christ out of context? Should all of us be signing of for classes on how to raise the dead?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’ve never raised anybody from the dead. I did try one time. When I was a kid. But then my father informed me that the person I was praying over had already been embalmed, so it was impossible for Jesus to raise the corpse from the dead.
Nothing is impossible for Jesus, I thought.
Have you ever raised somebody from the dead? Cast out devils? Heal a leper?
Do you believe everything Jesus said?