When the ABS-CBN’s Bandila news report on an alleged “mysterious flesh-eating skin disease” in the province of Pangasinan went viral (pun intended), the ensuing online panic appeared to be more contagious than the supposed sickness itself. “The hashtag #PrayforPangasinan remains the top trending local topic on Twitter as netizens continue to hope for the recovery of those affected by the alleged flesh-eating illness.” (Source: ABS-CBN News) There are those who immediately claimed that this fulfilled the “prophecy” of a so-called modern-day prophet.
But, according to the Health Secretary Enrique Ona, the report was a hoax. “There is no reported case of ‘flesh-eating’ skin disease in the country yet. Absolutely no reason for the public to panic” (Rappler). What was reported as supposed victims of the flesh-eating disease were actually people afflicted with “leprosy with drug reaction” and “psoriasis.” (Ibid)
Of course, ABS-CBN would have a lot of explaining to do. (Disclosure: From 1992 to 1999, I worked as a writer-segment producer for an investigative program aired in that TV network.) I believe the network has its own “Ombudsman” to deal with such questionable (read: sensational) reports. In local media jargon, it appears the reporter was “nakuryente” (or “electrocuted”), wherein he got his facts wrong.
However, I am more concerned with how those who claim to be Christians reacted to the news. The early church faced such a situation before. Someone apparently told them that the second coming has already happened. That’s why the Apostle Paul warned them, “Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don’t be fooled by what they say.” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3a, NLT) Sadly, it seems people nowadays were also “nakuryente.”
|Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj. Image credit|
Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj of the Voice of Jesus Ministries gave this “prophecy” early last year:
The Lord says there is a place called PANGASINAN. The Lord says it is in the northernmost part in your land. From there a grievous disease will spread all over the world. That will consume the flesh of men; all their upper (outer) skin will begin to decay. It will pierce through the bones. The fear of this disease will spread all over the world. The Lord said that this (disease) will begin from the Philippines. (Local Pulse)With multi-drug therapy (MDT), leprosy or, more politically correct, Hansen’s Disease is no longer the “grievous disease” that it was before. The supposed “flesh-eating” case in Pangasinan was a patient who has “‘already completed the treatment but may still need debridement for her skin lesions.’ She is currently being assessed for work-up for tuberculosis and current drug reaction” (Rappler). Leprosy does not eat the flesh. Because it numbs the nerves, the person does not feel any injuries. When untreated, the injured body part gets infected and deformed. But with MDT, it is no longer contagious. Leprosy is not something that would spark worldwide fear anymore.
|Leprosy a.k.a. Hansen's Disease. Image credit|
|Psoriasis. Image credit|
Both leprosy (with MDT) and psoriasis are not contagious. These cases are a far cry from what Selvaraj prophesied.
I believe Selvaraj did not really hear from God. The Lord gave this test of accuracy for all those who would claim to speak for Him: “And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22, ESV) Simply put, it was a one-strike policy. One false prophecy makes a false prophet. (I encourage you to read what my friend Pastor John Pesebre posted on his blog: “Pastoral Guidance On Prophecies of the 2013 Calamitous Events in the Philippines.” He weighed Selvaraj’s prophecy and found them wanting.)
That’s why it is really imperative that we pastors teach the Word of God in all its simplicity, practicality and authority so that the believers would grow in the faith and won’t remain “isip-bata” (“childish”). “No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything.” (Ephesians 4:14-15, The Message)
My take on this issue? “Magtiwala sa Diyos. Huwag makuryente.” (“Believe in God. Don’t get ‘electrocuted.’”)