Sunday, January 5, 2014

How Not to Walk on Water

Gabonese pastor Franck Kabele believed that he could perform the same miracles as Jesus. So much so, in fact, that in an impressive but tragic display of faith he drowned attempting to cross the Kombo estuary on foot. While I give him credit for conducting such a brazen test of his miraculous abilities, it seems to me that he probably should have tried it out on a smaller and less dangerous body of water first.

Pastor Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation that he was capable of reenacting the very miracles of Jesus Christ. He decided to make it clear through way of demonstration on Gabon’s beach in the capital city of Libreville.

Referencing Matthew 14:22-33, Kabele said that he received a revelation which told him that with enough faith he could achieve what Jesus was able to.

According to an eyewitness, Kabele took his congregation out to the beach. He told them that he would cross the Kombo estuary by foot, which is normally a 20 minute boat ride.

Sadly by the second step into the water Kabele found himself completely submerged. He never returned.

There's nothing wrong with putting paranormal powers to the test. I do with my magical operations all the time. But I also know that since such things don't always work, setting up a test that requires me to stake my life on them is simply a bad idea. On of the more dangerous ideas that comes out of the "faith based" model of magick or miracles or whatever you want to call them is the concept that taking reasonable precautions somehow undermines faith. The same problem happens with faith healing when healers insist that for their methods to work their patients must forego regular medical care.

The magick that's most effective is a both/and discipline. Set up all the tests you want, but make sure you also engage in whatever mundane actions are necessary to prevent disasters like this one and ensure success.

UPDATE: A recent article on Patheos now contends that this story is a hoax. It certainly might be; in some African countries the local news can be wildly inaccurate. At the very least it's older than I thought and was first reported online in 2006 by WorldNetDaily, a web site known for uncritically passing along stories from around the world.

The rest of the Patheos article, though, can pretty much be summed up as "this has to be a hoax because nobody would ever be that stupid." Sorry, that's a terrible argument. People do stupid things all the time. And while it may be difficult to find official documentation of Kabele and his congregation, I don't know enough about the state of religious record-keeping in Gabon to say whether or not such documents should be expected to exist.

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