The Gospel of Lies August 20, 2008

The Gospel of Lies

Pastor Michael Guglielmucci was an inspiration to many Christians because of his optimism and faith despite his ongoing battle with cancer. His song “Healer” was incredibly popular in the Christian music world — there are covers of it all over the place.

[The song] has become an anthem of faith for believers, many of whom are suffering their own illness and were praying for a miracle..

On one YouTube video (now yanked off the site), Guglielmucci performs with an oxygen tube in his nose.

There’s just one problem with all this.

Guglielmucci doesn’t have cancer. He’s not dying. It was all a con.

Say whatever you want about his Christian hypocrisy. He deserves it.

But let me raise an ethical question: If his song helped many people going through real struggles, does that make his lie any less damaging?

(Thanks to Margot for the link!)

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  • David D.G.

    I abhor using the end to justify the means, especially when the means prove to be not only a self-serving lie, but by no means necessary for achieving that desired end (as if that were the desired end anyway — I’m inclined to consider the inspirational benefit to be purely incidental, and that the only intended benefit of this farce was the boost to his own career).

    People can get their encouragement, hope, and inspiration from any number of potential sources; if his song had not existed, something else could still have helped them. And in any case, the song could well have provided such hope on its own merit, without having to be supposedly an autobiographical account of his own struggle with illness. Art has inspired people in such ways many times before without being autobiographical, or even directly topical.

    The only condition under which “the end justifies the (dishonest) means” is if the end is itself an ethical necessity and if it cannot be achieved any other way — and even then, it often still is not ethically defensible. It certainly isn’t the least bit defensible in this case.

    ~David D.G.

  • Yes, he did help many people with this song, but I’m betting that it wasn’t just the song that helped, it was the perception that the songwriter was going through the same thing. Its sad that he flaunted and faked it to gain something in return.

    Money, fame, “spreading the word”… those things should never be motivation to lie to so many people.

  • But let me raise an ethical question: If his song helped many people going through real struggles, does that make his lie any less damaging?

    No moreso than it makes the war in Iraq any more justifiable, just because we put Saddam out of power.

  • stephanie

    And I pose the question right back; “The people that the scandal of his hoax hurts most will be those people that used his song for strength. Are they better off taking that sort of a blow or if they had never heard the song at all?”

  • The thing is that his ends are his means. He consciously aimed to deceive others, and he lied to do so.

    Now, his motives may be separable from his means, and he may indeed have been acting from the best intentions, like any number of historical monsters. But that simply points out why Kant had to go farther with his categorical imperative than simply “do unto others”.

    Or, to put it another way, “why” is a beginning, not an end.

  • sunamiren

    Religious people always look to other people for proof of faith, or what God said. People always say, “God wants you to do this, or God says that”.. when God Himself never seems to say anything! It’s all talk from people’s own minds. So, why don’t they look to God instead of people?
    As soon as a fraud is discovered, religious people say, “that is why you should not look to man, but to God”.. and yet, did they not all look to this “man” for religious sustenance and faith? They are all so hypocritical.

  • I’d say yes, tentatively. If a lie helps someone, it does make it a little bit more justified than if it didn’t help anyone at all. We tell each other little lies all the time to reassure and comfort, even if the doubts and worries in question are real and valid. “It’ll all turn out fine, I’m sure.”

    On the other hand, this song promises that Jesus is “all I need” and can “heal all my disease.” My guess is, it may have helped some people feel more hopeful, but it probably also encouraged some people to shun actual medicine in favor of prayer alone. Those detrimental effects would be much larger than any good that the song did. Stephanie raises a good point above, as well — surely some people were harmed by finding out that their inspiration was a hoax.

    In the end, this is more damaging than helpful, all around.

  • llewelly

    We are very concerned for the many people who have been or will be hurt by Michael’s actions.
    We encourage all of our churches to pray for all those affected.

    IOWs, those hurt by fraud should turn to … fraud.

    As to Hemant’s question, I think songs like ‘healer’ encourage people to believe ‘god’ will heal people – a belief which can contribute to poor medical decisions.

  • “If his song helped many people going through real struggles, does that make his lie any less damaging?”

    As somebody who was taken to church as a child at least 3 times a week, I say it makes it worse. You have things like this happen all the time at it makes everybody in the faith seem less genuine to you, no matter how powerful their song/message. People want to see genuine people.

  • All that this shows is that Guglielmucci is a liar; and nothing justifies his deception, even the encouragement he may have provided.

  • J Myers

    I abhor using the end to justify the means…

    “Then ends justify the means” is a saying I detest; the ends should justify the means. The problem is when the ends don’t justify the means.

    As for Guglie’… typical lying Christian.

  • justin jm

    But let me raise an ethical question: If his song helped many people going through real struggles, does that make his lie any less damaging?

    No. When people found out, the disappointment probably canceled out whatever hope/help it gave in the first place.

    The real lesson, of course, is that a religious view that is inconsistent with the observed realities of life will reliably disappoint, over and over, in many more ways than this pastor has disappointed those who looked up to him.

    Btw, that oxygen tube part is worse than just wrong.

  • Polly

    The deception in this case is absolutely unethical. No matter who was “helped” the end result when they find that they were deceived is to despair even further over their condition and to feel betrayed.

    Isn’t it a method of psychological torture employed that involves telling a captive he’s free and then returning him to his cell? The anticipated effect of this method is that it breaks the will.

    This stunt added to the overall cynicism of the population so that, in the future, the inspiring power of other honest, shining examples of hope/courage/tenacity will be blunted.

  • Wes

    But let me raise an ethical question: If his song helped many people going through real struggles, does that make his lie any less damaging?


    As others have said, there are lots of honest ways to help people. The fact that his story might have temporarily inspired some people does not excuse his actions in any way. In fact, “But I’m helping people feel better” is a the same excuse used by just about every con artist in the world (psychics, faith healers, quack doctors, gurus, cult leaders, etc). We shouldn’t accept that excuse, because the overall harm done by exploiting people’s gullibility greatly outweighs the benefit of temporarily making people feel warm and fuzzy.

  • tony g

    “But let me raise an ethical question: If his song helped many people going through real struggles, does that make his lie any less damaging?”

    Ends vs. means, and all that. Who knows.

    We (“we” meaning Christians, as I am one) are quick to latch onto stuff like this (inspiriational songs, stories of “conversion” by famous people, etc) without understanding and verifying the facts. Sad, really.

    Great blog… I’m enjoying the conversation… I have no agenda here as a Christian other than to learn more about the perspectives of others.


  • Kate
  • Hey I’ve got an exclusive -it’s Father Michael & The Planetshakers new video! [just press on my name to view, come-on I know you want to! ] Cheers. Paul

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