Faith Healers: Getting Back Double from God

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On a wet winter night, the neon signs of Crouch Temple glow with a lonely halo in the Los Angeles mist. Central Avenue, not far from the scene of the 1965 Watts riots, is quiet. But inside the temple, a converted theater, the night is alive. Some 2,000 people—black, white and brown—are turned toward the stage, crying "Hallelujah" and "God be praised!" For more than an hour the tension has been building up. Testimonies, gospel songs, pledges, blessings, and more songs—a writhing, Presleyan, shirt-open gospel rock driven home by an organ, drums and piano combo. Women are swaying in the aisles, men clapping and shouting from their seats.

Suddenly, bouncing out of his chair, comes the star. Evangelist A. A. Allen is dressed in a conservative style tonight: the usual iridescent lavender suit has given way to a blue blazer and grey slacks. But the crowd knows him as "God's Man of Faith and Power," and they also know that something powerful is coming. "We need six strong men to help bring out this stretcher," he shouts. Half a dozen eager volunteers spring into the wings to bring out an ambulance stretcher carrying a groaning black woman. "This woman was brought into the hospital this morning with third-degree burns over her body," reads an attending nurse. "She was home, high on dope, when her clothes caught fire in the kitchen."

Please, Jesus. "This is a sad story," says Allen, in his raspy Ozark baritone. He bends over the victim. "Do you believe God can raise you up?" Weakly, evincing great pain, she answers. "Yes, I do believe." "Raise your hands to ward this woman and pray," he commands the crowd. Four thousand arms shoot into the air. In the back, a little man caresses his Bible. "Please, sweet Jesus. Please, Jesus," he repeats. As the people pray, Allen lays his hands on the victim. "Heal!" he cries. "Heal her wounds in the name of Jeee-uh-zuss!" Already, the crowd is murmuring "Thank you, Jesus." The woman sits up. "Oh, thank God," she says. The nurse, at Allen's request, trundles her off to check the wounds in the ladies' room. She is back quickly. "There is new skin covering where the burns are," she announces. "It's a miracle."

For Asa Alonso Allen, 58, the star of A. A. Allen Revivals, Inc., that was indeed enough of a miracle to set the tone for a seven-day revival meeting in Los Angeles last week, even though it was not up to his usual standard. His four-color, monthly Miracle Magazine (circ. 350,000) reports even more spectacular cures. In the current issue, a teenager named Yodonna Holley from Globe, Ariz., testifies that "I received fillings in my teeth" during a camp meeting. ("Why not let God be YOUR dentist?" suggests the story.) A young man named Charles Embrey, of Hayward, Calif., testifies that he prayed with Brother Allen and got new spinal disks. Only in the small print can a reader find the careful demurrer: "A. A. Allen Revivals, Inc. assumes no legal responsibility for the veracity of any such report." Naturally, few of the cures ever undergo the scrutiny of physicians.

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