Many Christians believe that they possess an inexplicable aura that both confuses and bedazzles non-Christians. This entrancing glow is their Jesus Aura, but it doesn’t actually exist. Similarly, many Christians believe that they can work magic through their faith in Jesus. This magic is their Jesus Power, but it also does not actually exist. Today, let me show you how Christians imagine Jesus Power works, why it doesn’t, and what they do when it fizzles out.
Hello and welcome back, everyone! This is Captain Cassidy of Roll to Disbelieve. It is May 17, 2022, and we are now halfway through May. Ideally, in a couple or three weeks here I’m going to be in the Pacific Northwest proper. It’s finally hit that yes yes yes, we are moving soon. We’ve started to sprout boxes in strange and divers places.
Princess Bother Pretty Toes is seeing the library door open for the first time since she was a kitten, and it distresses her hugely. She keeps meowing piteously at me from the open doorway, then leaving to go wherever I am right then, then going to the doorway again and meowing piteously. I know she wants explanations, and I try to tell her in great detail what we’re doing. I just don’t think she understands quite yet. She’s never moved, so this is all very new to her. I reckon life looks really confusing when one is just a little orange cat.
A few folks have asked just how far I’m going, and the answer is it’s a fair piece. It’s definitely not an easy day move. We’ll have actual movers helping and it will be a haul experience. But it’s not a big cross-country or intercontinental move. I just hate moving in general. I mean, almost everyone hates moving. We may like picking up and going to a new place and getting to know it and hopefully love it. But the process itself is generally taxing and stressful to us.
Change, change, change
And friends, I used to move a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I grew up a military brat, so my family moved quite often. It was not at all unusual to move every year or three. That kind of barely-purposeful peregrination doesn’t lend itself to growing roots anywhere.
Some places I loved. I flourished in Northern California. Others, like Mobile and South Texas, I didn’t like much at all. When I grew up, I still moved around a lot: Texas to Japan to Portland, Oregon, to San Antonio, to Vancouver BC, to a town in central Kansas that almost nobody knows about unless they are megafans of American History, to Atlanta, and now to here in Idaho.
And for a long time, everything I had, I could fit into bags I could carry with me. A backpack, a couple tote bags, a brimmed hat and coat for bad weather.
I remember when I began to put down some roots in Kansas. In a home-goods shop, I saw a mortar and pestle I liked. As I bought it, I realized: If I had to move tomorrow, I wouldn’t take this with me. As small as it is, it wouldn’t fit into my traveling setup. At last, I was setting up a home. I did end up moving a year later, but it was a real move, with a trailer hauled behind me and my then-boyfriend, and a couple of crates for our cats. As for that mortar and pestle, we wrapped it up and carefully nestled it in a box labeled “Kitchen Stuff.” I still have it, and it’s going to make its next move soon.
I miss moving like that. It was so easy. But now, I’ve got a library. A DVD collection. A nice lot of kitchen stuff. Maybe I’ve learned that wherever I go, there I am. There I still am. Paring out everything I own and taking off with a few bags feels light and easy, but it’s still me under it all, ultimately.
When I get where I’m going, that’s where I’ll still be. In a way, that’s very comforting. All through changes, I’m still me.
Before we start the meat of today’s post, let me thank my patrons and supporters! Your help makes everything happen. Thank you so much. And welcome to the new patrons! I appreciate it. If you’re listening to this and aren’t yet a patron, I’ll set out some links at the end of the writeup about how you can get started. Thank you all, and now, let’s gently zero in on some beloved Low Christian folklore.
Jesus Power: An introduction
Almost all Christians believe that they possess the power to do magical things. Of course, this isn’t ickie, off-limits magic. This is magic powered by their faith in their god. It’s more like a superpower he grants them just for being such powerfully faithful Christians. I nicknamed it Jesus Power a while ago, and dang if it still doesn’t fit to a tee what Christians believe it is and can do.
Jesus Power resurrects the dead, regrows limbs, restores vision and hearing, and cures the incurably sick. It also makes normies listen to sales pitches, heals acne for a gal’s wedding day, and sprouts $20 bills on the sidewalk when a Christian is dead broke.
Only the truest, rightest, most fervent, and most devoted followers of Jesus can possibly summon and channel this power.
It’s no joke.
Unfortunately, it’s also not real.
Jesus Power in the wild
Rick Renner perfectly demonstrates Christians’ belief in Jesus Power in a post about “the power of miracles.” First, he writes about some preaching he did in Russia. He claims a great many miracles there, which he attributes to all the conversions, exorcisms, and baptisms that resulted from his preaching. Renner writes:
In those five days of meetings, we preached Christ to 32,000 people, and the people literally “gave heed unto” the things that we preached. As a result, we saw miracles that week — including the expulsion of many unclean spirits that cried out as they were expelled from people by the delivering power of Christ. [. . .]
Then, he compares the occasion to Philip’s preaching in Samaria, as related in Acts 8.
This was not a light-listening moment in Philip’s ministry in Samaria — those people were listening with 100 percent of their hearts and souls!
No wonder Philip’s crowd experienced so many miracles!
Renner’s takeaway is that if people want to see Jesus Power in motion, they must pay strict attention to all preachers (like himself). As he writes:
If you want to see the supernatural, you must be totally focused on the message that’s being preached, for faith comes by hearing — really hearing — the Word of God.
That was an evangelical, if you couldn’t tell. But Catholics go in for Jesus Power too. In 1987, Pope John Paul II declared that “the call to faith appears as an indispensable and systematic factor of Christ’s miracles.”
Jesus Power is a Low Christian folk belief
For all the other sources that treat Jesus Power like these men do, though, we do have at least one that criticizes the notion. An Episcopal pastor points out the flaws in this beloved bit of Low Christian folklore.
And it most certainly is exactly that. When we talk about modern-day miracles and gods meddling in humans’ lives, we are most certainly smack in the middle of Low Christianity. That’s the more emotional, orgiastic, less liturgical and ritualized end of the religion. Adherents join up for what they can get out of it: miracles, safety from Hell, whatever.
In her post, that Episcopal pastor gently but unmistakably criticizes the mindset that humans can talk their god into anything, or that they can brute-force their way to miracles and cash-n-prizes from Jesus. Most miracles, in her opinion, are likely not real miracles at all. They’re just coincidences or happy-but-rare or unexpected outcomes and events. She tells her followers to focus on their god and not to worry about miracles.
I’m betting she and most of her congregation hang out in the High Christianity end of the religion pool. It’s way more ritualized and scholarly, more intellectual, and often more focused on people besides themselves.
For a book that explores this distinction without using the labels I do, check out The Gathering Storm in the Churches by Jeffrey K. Hadden. Written in 1969, it discusses how various Christian flavors engaged with the Civil Rights Movement. The folks in High Christian groups threw themselves into it. But the Low Christians wanted no part of it. Even if they agreed that Black people needed liberating, they still wanted their pastors to focus on their congregations before thinking about fixing anybody else.
Why so many Christians love to imagine they have Jesus Power
Not long ago, I said that evangelicals are the least “let go and let God” people I’d ever seen. So, there’s a reason why evangelicals tend to be the ones talking loudest about all this magical Jesus Power they think they have.
First and foremost, this belief helps them feel superior to other Christians. As one extremely enthusiastic evangelical site, ErnestAngley.org, tells us:
Many people on planet Earth today don’t believe in miracles because they don’t have that measure of faith. They’ve never given their hearts to God to receive it, and only holy people can receive a measure of faith. That’s why so many churches never expect or experience even one miracle; they teach only a social Gospel, and their members don’t have that measure of faith. People in my church have that faith, and it brings us miracles in abundance. We use so many measures of faith that God can do anything! [. . .]
We’d be shocked to come to church and not see any miracles.
You can almost hear this guy sneering in faux-pity at those poor widdle inferior Christians who lack even one little bitty miracle.
I myself fell into this thinking for a while at my first Pentecostal church, unfortunately. It’s really common.
Jesus Power only goes to Christians who Jesus correctly
Second, this belief helps Christians think they’re Jesus-ing correctly. They know exactly how to Jesus! As Unca Pat Robertson said in a CBN post from, I think, 2017, there’s a trick to channeling Jesus Power. Among other things, he instructs that a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ must:
Have faith in God.
Recognize that God has total authority over everything in this world.
Learn God’s will in any given moment.
Disregard your own inability.
Be fully convinced.
If you’ve seen Somewhere in Time, that Christopher Reeve movie from 1980, you know that last one’s especially important. Don’t put anything in your pockets that correctly states that all of this is just hooey meant to fleece the sheep. If you see it, you’ll faint and wake up non-Christian–and without miracles. Oopsie!
Jesus Power makes believers feel more important than they actually are
Evangelicals, more than any other kind of Christian, like to imagine that their faith confers upon them benefits that normies just don’t ever get. That’s why they get into obvious hogwash like Prosperity Gospel. Sure, it’s just one step removed from its origins in the very wackiest of proto-New-Age metaphysical psychobabble. And sure, it’s about as far as the New Testament’s direct predictions about how most of Jesus’ followers wouldn’t get much at all from Christianity except for a really hard life full of unfairness even from their god–until Heaven, of course.
(In Luke 21, when Jesus praises the widow for throwing in her two little coins, he does not send someone after her to give her a big mansion and a hot new husband as a reward for her faithfulness.)
That does not stop evangelicals like Kenneth Copeland, the weird laughing-but-always-angry Prosperity Gospel megapastor himself, from breathlessly declaring that TRUE CHRISTIANS™ are not just “a spectator” regarding miracles. No no! They are “an active participant!”
An active participant. Teaming up with a god. But not just any god! This one is, according to Christians, the god of the universe. The entire universe. All of it. From soup to nuts, from quarks to the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, this god owns all of it.
And Kenneth Copeland imagines that puny little humans could ever be “active participants” in this vast being’s doings. It sounds to me like a mom letting her just-started-walking toddler help out with housework. He even offers a listicle that runs along the same basic lines as the others, with one marked exception. Dude tells his followers never to “take no for an answer” from this inconceivably powerful god of theirs. Indeed, they must, as he instructs, “fight for what’s yours in the spirit realm. You have a right to enjoy the promises of God, but they won’t just fall in your lap.”
I dunno, but back in my Pentecostal days I’m sure I’d have found such ideas arrogant and overreaching in the extreme. I hope I would have, at least.
… But it’s not real
The problem, of course, is that Jesus Power is yet another belief Christians hold that does not ever tether to reality.
Christians, even super-fervent loudmouthed evangelical Christians, suffer from illnesses and accidents the same as anybody. They get really bad news at the same rate. Natural disasters hit their homes at the same rate as they hit the homes of normies nearby.
I found those facts out the hard way.
When my first church’s junior pastor got brain cancer, we followed all the instructions we had for getting him a miracle cure. We Jesus-ed super hard. We prayed endlessly. There might have been hundreds of thousands of people joined in prayer for Daniel.
Despite our prayers, the cancer moved swiftly. Within a shockingly short time, he died in miserable pain and fear. And he left behind a devastated wife and two young and confused sons, along with legions of friends and well-wishers and congregations. It was a very rough introduction to this real-world class of Applied Topics in Christianity.
Maybe we should have known. No reputable studies indicate that prayer does anything at all in the real world. If it has any effects at all, they are restricted to the person praying. Almost all of my peers just forgot all about the failure of their prayers. But I could not. I’m glad I chased reality all the way to the truth, and I can only hope more Christians do the same in the future.
That is it from me! Thanks so much for listening and being there. I don’t know if I’ll get a Thursday post out yet. I may only be able to swing one OnlySky and one Roll to Disbelieve post per week for the next couple of weeks. This moving thing is getting very real and very time-sensitive. We shall see! Meantime, thanks again. Captain Cassidy, signing out!
How you can support Roll to Disbelieve
And now, here are some ways you can support my work:
- Patreon, of course, for as little as a dollar a month! I now write Patreon posts twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with patrons getting early access 3 days ahead of regular readers.
- Paypal, for direct one-time gifts. To do this, go to paypal.com, then go to the personal tab and say you want to send money, then enter email@example.com (that’s an underscore between the words) as the recipient. It won’t show me your personal information, only whatever email you input.
- My Amazon affiliate link, for folks who shop at Amazon. Just follow the link, then do your shopping as normal within that same browser window. This link adds nothing to your Amazon bill, but it does send me a little commission for whatever you spend there.
- And as always, sharing the links to my work and talking about it!
Thank you so much for listening, reading, and being a part of Roll to Disbelieve!