Did Obama’s visit heal Gabrielle Giffords?

Shortly after President Barack Obama visited wounded Arizona Rep. Gabriella Giffords in the hospital and prayed for her, “she opened … Continued

Shortly after President Barack Obama visited wounded Arizona Rep. Gabriella Giffords in the hospital and prayed for her, “she opened her eyes for the first time.” The speed of her recovery ever since has been remarkable. Did Obama’s visit cause Giffords’ consequent healing? Atheists and others who deny any spiritual reality will likely call the events a mere coincidence, but we believers have to use more complex criteria.

It has always been tempting to attribute events to God’s will as either reward or punishment, à la the various Jeremiads on 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, or later the claim that George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection was God’s reward for virtue in pursuing war against Muslims. These Evangelical sources have been silent about God working through President Obama, although — as a Catholic in the pews of my parish observed — “If she had taken a turn for the worse after the president’s visit, we would not have heard the end of it.”

Catholic theology has long since ditched the caricature of God as some hidden “Wizard of Oz” pushing buttons and pulling levers to control human events. Reducing God to such a mundane image is easy to ridicule. It is not the way Catholic America understands Divine Providence, especially for healing of the sick. Jesus, of course, was a healer and curing the sick is repeated in the Scriptures for his disciples and in Catholic tradition for his saints — although not every cure is necessarily considered a miracle. We also have to recognize that non-Catholics and non-Christians such as Santeria priestesses and Native American shamans cure people. In sum, healing by prayer is a spiritualized human event that is more than just “Catholic.”

Thanks to the II Vatican Council and the Catholic Charismatic Movement, contemporary Catholic America views healing through prayers and the laying on of hands as parts of everyday religion. My pastor at St. Luke’s, Fr. Tom, says that he has witnessed similar astounding responses “many times in the hospital setting.” But saying that such healing events are common doesn’t mean they are coincidental. Even when non-believers contort themselves to speak of electro-magnetic waves caused by those praying as an escape from admitting that the spiritual order exists, they testify to the frequency with which the spirit heals human body.

Thus, if Obama, a man with a strong personality and a deep faith, touched the spirit of Rep. Giffords with his prayer that does not make him into a saint. [I could just as easily have posed this question about daily communicant Nancy Pelosi, the Catholic Kirsten Gillibrand and the Jewish Debbie Wasserman Shultz who were actually in the room when Gabby opened her eyes. Moreover, her husband has also been present in the hospital room. Still, the point is the same, no matter the person present.]

What invites belief is the impact upon the sick that can be bestowed by each of us individually and more concretely all of us united in prayer.

There are some reliable medical sources that have suggested prayer should be included in a physician’s bedside manner. It is not just a matter of consolation to those hoping for the sick person to recover — prayer and a religious presence actually produce a more positive effect upon those who are ill. Rather than divorce prayer from medical science, therefore, we should integrate them as two different but compatible resources for healing. Albert Einstein stated “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” And Einstein was no dummy.

In Catholic tradition, not to mention the practices of many other faiths, visiting the sick is encouraged. We call it one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. At a time when there is so much rancor in the nation, it is comforting to see leaders of different religions and political identities join in a religious act. In this case, it would seem that coincidence alone does not explain the positive results of the president’s hospital visit: faith does. Hopefully, the healing begun in Tucson will apply as well to the entire nation.

  • WmarkW

    Knowing there are people pulling for you can be an important element of healing. I’m remembering vaguely that studies about prayer showed a positive effect if the patient knew they were being prayed for, but not if they didn’t.Any of us could probably help some sick person by letting them know we care. The flip side of believing people are healed by prayer, is that others died because the answer was “no”.

  • DwightCollins

    what a very antichrist question…

  • mamerica

    Are you out of your mind? There is no such thing as a miracle! Grow up!

  • thanksforfish

    Michele visited as well…

  • elwoll

    It’s not the damn prayers themselves that have the poitive effect, but the fact that there are caring and loving persons out there. People don’t die for lack of magical incantations or prayers, but because nature has run its course, nothwithstanding the interventions of medicine or prayers . Human, not divine, caring, touching and expressed feelings can and do make a difference, and they can be communicated through a variety of means, including prayers, if that is one’s personal choice.

  • tafffy

    This not not what we need right now. Is this article’s title trying to suggest that Obama is some kind of jesus figure? That plays right into the obama haters criticism of him. Maybe, just maybe, Giffords opened her eyes because her best friends were there from congress and she used all her strength to acknowledge their kindness. Maybe it is because of the great doctors she had that she was able to do this.

  • LarryinMD

    I guess we will all get to vote for Saint Barak the Obama in a couple of years.Wow, bestowing a miracle upon the weak. When will he walk across the Potomac??

  • DaMan2

    It was the Rev. Wright training!! Rev. Wright, through his apostle, Barrack Obama, healed Rep. Giffords! It’s a miracle! The chickens have come home to roost! Praise be Barrack!

  • craigslsst

    NPR reported her dead. Now, if Fox had done so that would give room for doubt & denial, BUT, NPR? that’s THE source! Therefore, since she’s now alive, score another for Barry. RIGHT, Robinson? RIGHT.

  • mightyheidi

    Did obami lapdog Andrea Mitchell from NBC do the reporting on this one, because it was reported Gabby opened her eyes prior to THE GREAT ONE’s appearance.

  • bethg1841

    Did Obama part the Rio Grande?

  • Secular

    This whole thread is profoundly stupid and inane.

  • Common_Cents1

    I still have my JFK healing tablecloth; what do I replace it with and can I charge it?

  • eezmamata

    The god of Randomnity and Entropy has chosen this woman for … a miracle!Surely she will have a bladder issue, and the resulting stain will assure the mexican nurses in the hospital that the goddess Mary is looking out for her.

  • Chops2

    I just broke wind, I attribute that to god’s will. Man you people are so desperate to “prove” god’s existence you will bring up any old tripe.

  • areyousaying

    This is not one of your better columns, Anthony. It is only more fish bait for bottom eating Obama haters like Dwight Collins.

  • slowe111

    Prayer might be a psychological tool to assist the friends of, and maybe even the ill, because it represents caring – a good thing for humans to express towawrds each other. But that is all. The invocation of supernatural agents to intervene in nature is a human tradition that predates science and reason. It is the natural – though mistaken – atttempt to exercise some control over situations which seem to be out of control. Wanting to Control things is a evolutionary trait that has served humankind well – increasing our ability to survive – so it is very natural that we do this. But, it is time to grow up and realize this is a primitive practice that REALLY has no effect on reality – just our emotions. With some effort we might be able to evolve beyond this primitive practice and start training more doctors and funing more medical reserach. Praise be to science and doctors.

  • Apoorsinner

    What evidence do we have that Obama is a man of “deep faith?” He does’t attend church, is not raising his children in a church, and seems ill at ease in discussing religion of any kind. I’ve heard he gets some sort of “spiritual reading” sent to his Blackberry every day: big deal. Could he even name the 10 Commandments if asked? Who knows? And if Nancy Pelosi is a daily communicant, her priest needs to be fired. As to the unbelievably outrageous question as to whether Obama “healed” Giffords, all I have to say is, not everything supernatural comes from the Lord. There are other spiritual forces at work. And furthermore, I don’t think that opening her eyes counts as “healing” since patients in a persistent vegetative state do that as well. I believe the author, who was not present, really, really overstates what happened in that room. Which is why the Catholic Church’s counsel in the case of supernatural phenomenon is to “wait.”

  • GiveMeThat

    Obama said the Giffords “opened her eyes for the first time”, but it had been reported that she had been opening her eyes for three days prior. They then backtracked – er, well she opened her eyes to command. That is not too much progress. They were weaning her off the vent so giving her less sedation. The prayers of St. Obama? Whatever.

  • MarkfromPA

    This is a great article and quite interesting. Too bad some of the comments aren’t nicer.

  • Rongoklunk

    The writer comes across as a kind of snakeoil salesman, and I found his patter intellectually stupid. I couldn’t stop shaking my head.Guys like this make a fortune peddling religion to the masses – who have already been primed by America’s generally religious culture.Why didn’t I think of that when I was young? I could have been a millionaire.

  • Rongoklunk

    And what’s with the “deep” faith? The deeper the dumber I always say. Deep faith. What a dreadful phrase.

  • GiveMeThat

    Catholicism and voting for Obama are incompatible. Case in point. Obama voted four times to defend the killing of “botched abortions” where the baby was born alive – much like the abortionist is being tried for murder for. See the story: “Abortion Doctor Charged With Killing 7 Babies With Scissors” here:

  • quiensabe

    God, indeed, does work in mysterious ways!

  • EddietheInfidel

    “Thus, if Obama, a man with a strong personality and a deep faith…”Deep faith? Deep faith in what?Obama has rarely (if ever) mentioned god or his beliefs in any of his public appearances beyond doing everything he could to distance himself from the black liberation theology preached at Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United church, evidently doesn’t attend regular services as President of any sort, and has gone out of his way to kowtow to islam domestically and engage in failing and unreciprocated “outreach” to islamic regimes.How in any way the words “Obama” and “deep faith” could ever be connected escapes me.

  • greenstheman

    one question, if Obama was praying for the Senator, I would assume Obama was praying to God, would it be incorrect to give God the praise and credit for the healing??? not Obama??How come God is left out of the equation.Miracles are not “magic” things or coincidenses. They are evidence of God’s control over nature that He created, his control over sickness.