Why am I writing this? I have a unique viewpoint. I have been to SCOAN as a visitor and have been entranced by it. I have watched many videos and I have watched Emmanuel TV. I was for a long time a sympathiser, never deeply involved but certainly deeply affected. I have known disciples (very well) both before, during and after their involvement and I want to bear witness to the truth, to share my story. I will also share my perception of the psychological and spiritual processes at work.
Why did I go?
I am one of probably many thousands of visitors to SCOAN in Lagos. Why did I go? I went because I had heard from people I knew of the wonders God was doing there. I knew people well who were very involved and had great admiration for them. I felt I just wanted to see for myself. I was curious, needed a little faith boosting and I was disillusioned with the “Christianity” I saw around me. ( I now know that I was living my faith through the experience of others and this certainly looked like it was going to be one big experience)
I thought that by going I would see “evidence” and that it would boost my faith. I am intelligent and well-educated. I thought I was discerning. I now know that I was spiritually very naïve and not grounded in Scripture.
What was it like?
I did have an incredible week. I went with a small group of visitors from the UK. We were all in search of something. Most of the others were going to be prayed for for healing. I was simply interested and intrigued. I wanted to see for myself.
From the moment we arrived we were treated like celebrities. We were driven back to the SCOAN in Lagos by a team. People were lovely and so friendly. We were shown. There was Christian worship music playing. Our days were spent together, watching incredible videos and speaking with the group leaders in preparation for the two big meetings we would attend. We were shown around the huge complex and told about all the work that SCOAN was doing. We were even taken to “prayer mountain” which was the place where TB Joshua would go to pray. We had a ride on his speedboat. I remember thinking how lovely he was. How kind he was and how humble to be taking some time out of his busy schedule to spend time with us. I was in awe of him. At the end of the week, each visitor even had an audience with the prophet himself. It made you feel special (special to God even) I thought that if TB Joshua had a “word for me”, it would prove that God knew about me and loved me. I now know that this “celebrity treatment” and attentiveness is common in cults and is known as “love bombing” It gets you to lower your guard and it achieved that with me very well.
The videos, some of which I had seen before, showed miracle after miracle. I was hungry for more. I was excited and enthused. I remember reading the book of Acts in my dormitory bed. My experiences were shedding a whole new light on my Christian faith. I could see why so many were coming here.
In the meetings I saw more miracles and incredible supernatural phenomena. I saw one man literally be hurled across the room whilst being prayed for. I saw TB Joshua identify people in the church (with a “prophecy”, having incredible knowledge about them that astounded) It was exactly how I imagined the early church (in Acts) would be.
Meanwhile, back in the visitor room where we were watching videos, we were also given slips of paper to keep with our Bible/notes. I don’t recall them all. Some were Bible verses. Others were “quotable quotes”, phrases coined by TB Joshua and used alongside scripture by the disciples. I remember two distinctly. One was a short phrase about “doubting the doubt” e.g. when doubt comes “doubt the doubt”, the other was to do with accepting God’s prophet and receiving a “prophet’s reward” for doing so. The quotable quotes seemed to illuminate scriptures that I had previously known to mean something slightly different. To me, in this context, seeing all these amazing healings and miracles, the quotable quotes made complete sense.
The psychology of seeking healing and denying treatment
Looking at the context in which these quotes/teachings were given (i.e. most people were seeking healing prayer) I can see very much why people feel compelled to stop their medication. There was a huge emphasis on faith and that without faith it is impossible to please God. There was a huge emphasis that you have to claim your healing by pressing on in faith. There was a huge emphasis on “doubting the doubt”, on the fact that God has healed you and that Jesus died for your healing, all of it (a twisting of scripture….not all are healed!) Some were apparently healed. For those that weren’t, it was very much implied (though not stated explicitly) that it was their fault. So not only did they have to cope with the disappointment that they were not healed, they had to cope with the “failure” that they didn’t have enough faith. That somehow they weren’t deserving. This is very much how it feels and it is devastating. I had prayer for a small matter and I experienced it to some degree. I have seen people go through it and die with this burden. In my group, there was a person with a chronic illness who had to take life saving medications. They stopped their medications towards the end of the week and became visibly extremely ill. The disciples kept praying for the person and claimed it was the “demons coming out”. I never had the courage to find out what happened to that person. I imagine they ended up in hospital as they got off the aeroplane. There was a lot of denial of what was actually happening. It was all this “doubting the doubt”. Accepting reality was seen as a lack of faith.
I have known people declared healed. Some stopped their medication as a result and some didn’t. In the group I was in there was no command to stop medication, rather an insinuation that if you believed your declaration of healing, you could claim it by “acting in faith”. They (the leaders at SCOAN) were however careful to say that it is up to the individual and I know some were actually told to go and see their doctor when they got home. (Note from the editor: This describes Hattie’s experience, others have had differing experiences as will be reported in future posts)
I suppressed some of my queries at the time. It was so awe-inspiring that it wasn’t hard for me to put myself down. I thought “who am I to question?”
Follow the link to read part 2 of Hattie’s story “Returning to the UK“.