December 22nd, 2010
12:30 PM ET

O Magazine: Meet John of God

Susan Casey
O, The Oprah Magazine

In a remote corner of Brazil, the man known as John of God is changing people's lives in astonishing ways. Can belief cure illness? Can energy heal? Susan Casey took the journey to find out.

Down the dusty main street of Abadiânia, a scrap of a town in central Brazil, come hundreds of people dressed in white. They're wearing white button-down shirts and embroidered white skirts and rumpled white sweaters, flowing white dresses and tight white leotards. White caftans, white shawls, white golf shorts. Shiny white tracksuits. Kicky white capri pants. Crisp white jeans with bejeweled white sandals. Many white scarves. Some people sit in wheelchairs; some hobble on crutches or walking sticks or leg braces. They're young and they're old. They come from a block away and from the other side of the world and from every place in between. They are all here for one reason: to see João Teixeira de Faria, a 68-year-old man widely known as John of God.

Here at the end of the Avenida Francisca Teixeira Damas, just before the pavement turns to rich red dirt and the road dips down into a valley of mango and avocado trees, in an immaculate compound of open-air buildings called the Casa de Dom Inácio de Loyola—John of God has attended millions of people, including many who have heard their doctors say these chilling words: "There is nothing more we can do." And somehow, after visits to the Casa and audiences with this man, after following the spiritual prescriptions they received here, some of these people managed to do the unexpected: They lived. Fully healed.

For 52 years and counting, miracles of this sort have been happening around this unassuming Brazilian, who takes no credit for them. "I have never healed anybody. It is God who heals," he often says. Born poor in the state of Goiás, often hungry in his youth, João attended school only briefly and never learned to read or write, setting to work as a tailor at an early age. The first big glimpse of his gift occurred at age 9, when, as the story goes, he predicted that a sudden, savage storm would destroy houses in Nova Ponte, a nearby village. It was a lovely day at the time, and people dismissed his prophecy. When 50 houses were damaged by tornado-force winds, no one had a logical explanation. The extent of his ability became even more apparent at age 16 when João, tired, famished, and looking for a place to wash up, had an overwhelming vision of a beautiful woman down by a river. She gave him the address of a spiritual center and told him to go there. He went, and promptly fainted. When he awoke, several hours later, an astonished crowd had gathered. They told João he had performed healings all afternoon. He came to believe that the woman who'd guided him was Saint Rita of Cascia, and that while he was unconscious, the spirit of King Solomon had taken up residence in his body and done the healing work.

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Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Tom

    I'm really frustrated how this kind of thinking can be so pervasive and persistant. The person on Opera who was a "Skeptic" about John of God was the least critical thinking "Skeptic" i have ever seen. My advice would be to send down Steven Novella from the New England Skeptical Society. He's a physician who also teaches medicine. John of God's claims need to stand up to critical and open examination. Energy healing is the oldest claim in the book when it comes to healing.

    December 23, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  2. Trevor

    Susan Casey of O Mag wrote that John of God has attended millions of people. This alone should demonstrate her utter lack of journalistic ability. Let's assume he's served only one (1) million folks. Assuming he spent an hour with each person (getting basic info, counseling them, then praying with them and/or treating them). Even if he did this every hour of the day, non-stop, he'd have to be at it for over 114 years to have treated one (1) million people.

    Then in the interview with Gupta, she stated she didn't know what harm could come of the faith healer's actions. Once again her credulousness shines through. The danger is that people will not see a real doctor, get no real medicine, and thereby their illness has every opportunity to progress.

    One need only visit whatstheharm.net to see summaries of the harm done by faith healing and other forms of woo, and follow links to stories of such in the media.

    Science-based medicine gets results, because it is based on a rational, rigorously methodical search for genuine understanding of how the body works and heals. Faith healing is deceitful spectacle that all-too often kills.

    December 23, 2010 at 2:04 am |
  3. Joan

    Dr. Gupta asked Ms. Casey about the "false hopes" raised by "John of god." She responded by saying "What's wrong with false hope?"

    I'm sorry to say Dr. Gupta, no doubt stunned by such a question, never really answered her.
    But I must.

    When desperate people spend their scant resources traveling to see a charlatan; when they discontinue legitimate medical treatment in favor of quackery; when they waste valuable time waiting for results from bogus "healing" techniques; false hope can destroy lives.

    Dr. Gupta, please stand up against the rampant mystics that would have us running backwards as fast as possible. Let's hear what you know. It matters much more than what they believe.

    December 23, 2010 at 12:34 am |
  4. Collette Blanchard

    Dr. Gupta, I am watching you on Anderson Copper 360. I was watching the story on John of God and listened carefully to what was said and questions. I am a Christian woman and belive whole hartedly in faith healing. I just want to give you a few things to ponder. I am by no means trying to push my faith on you.
    In Matthew 9:27 NKJV Bible it says:
    When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David, Have mercy on us!"
    And when He had come into the house, the blind men came into Him. And Jesus said to them, "Do you belive that I am able to do this?"
    They said to Him, "Yes Lord."
    Then He touched thier eyes saying, "According to your faith let it be to you." And thier eyes were opened.

    Again in Matthew 17:20 it says:
    So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to that mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."
    Drs. and scientists call it "the placebo effect," or "mind over matter." We call it faith in Our Lord.
    Have a blessed Holiday.

    December 23, 2010 at 12:29 am |
  5. Paul Johnson

    The spot was a total waste and I thought Gupta was ill prepared with his questions. The "journalist" Casey admittedly had her own personal motives for the visit to J of G. She was biased before she made the trip and had no sense of objectivity. Geez...This isn't journalism. It's sensationalism.

    December 22, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
  6. John

    The segment you guys had on this was an absolute joke. Two people who think he's the greatest person ever and an interviewer who really doesn't have an opinion. How about a naysayer(read: intelligent human) to provide another point of view?

    Just because you don't understand something, doesn't mean its God! Don't limit yourself or your understanding of the world with religion. Stop being voluntarily ignorant

    December 22, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  7. Richard Wayne Garganta

    AGAIN I see a major media story about this faith healer where no evidence of any kind is presented. Where is the evidence? Who has been healed? Where is the documented proof? The media is creating a sensation resulting in countless people traveling the globe to see this healer...all without any documented healings.

    December 22, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  8. John Cuprisin

    Many people will claim they have been healed by faith. Who am I to disagree? But there is one group that no matter how much they pray or how much faith they have can never be healed by faith: Amputees. How can God heal every malady except amputation? The answer is he cannot.

    December 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  9. teresa, ohio

    yes, i read the whole article...lol. I am not all convinced he is a healer of God. But, the good book and Jesus did say: "all i have done, you shall do and GREATER"... hmmm

    I am curious about his vision at age 16. His vision woman told him to go to a spiritual center. WHY? If he already had the GIFT, why would he have needed to go to the center? Perhaps they taught him many things there. Some good and some not so good.

    How many years of his life are kind of unaccounted for? He's 68 now and been healing for how long?

    December 22, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  10. Kim

    God's pretty magical and Merry Christmas.That's an amazing story and I'm going to believe it's true.

    December 22, 2010 at 9:46 pm |