Unlike a story I blogged about earlier this week, the report that follows is not an April Fool’s joke. Instead, it’s one of the most interesting stories I’ve covered in the past four years, one that blurs the line between myth and miracle.
SAN BERNARDINO—If Jesus could turn water into wine, why wouldn’t God turn teeth into gold?
A growing number of people at Highland House of Prayer are claiming he has. It began with a series of religious revivals in October. Now, much of the congregation is opening wide and pointing to shiny dots on their teeth.
That was gray, they say, but now it’s gold. Others have crowns and caps that appear to be wholly gold or maybe holy gold.
“The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘It didn’t have anything to do with faith. I did it to increase your faith.’’ said the church’s pastor, Larry Baker. “It has done so for me and this church tremendously.’
God only knows what’s really going on, but about 15 of the church’s 70 members say their teeth or fillings have turned to gold during the past three weeks. Some are now on a mission to get their dental records and prove their claims are true.
Across the world, Pentecostal Christians like those at House of Prayer claim teeth have changed, the disabled have been healed and the dead have been raised.
For now, the spirit is moving at House of Prayer. The congregation meets in the Church of Yahweh, a blue and white building in a dark Base Line strip mall, a few blocks west of the Highland city limits.
Since October, Baker and visiting evangelists have asked church members to show their faith by giving money “sacrificially.’ Youths responded by selling their video games and basketball-card collections, a church bulletin reports, and adults sold second vehicles and wedding rings.
The church offering, which averages about $3,500 per month, surpassed $25,000, Baker said. An unspecified amount went to the evangelists; the remainder was earmarked to help build their own church, the pastor said.
Then God began paying through their teeth.
I learned of this revival when one of my then-colleagues at The Sun found an odd message on her voicemail. Journalists get a lot of crack-pot “tips,” and this seemed like just that. Happy to share, my colleague, laughing, forwarded the message.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this story at the time, and, looking back two and a half years later, I am none the more enlightened. I wanted to believe then, as I do now, that God could welcome a religious awakening by turning his worshipers teeth to gold. But I had, and still have, a difficult time understanding why He would.
The pastor argued that amalgam fillings contained mercury and that by turning their teeth to gold, God was protecting them from danger. (The ADA would disagree.) Theologians I talked to said, quite obviously, that they could find no precedent for such a miracle. Believe it or not, though, this phenomena has been reported at other Pentecostal churches amidst revivals.
To me, what seemed most apparent was that a groupthink had taken over the small Highland House of Prayer. Maybe one or two worshipers there really had their fillings turned to gold, even if I couldn’t confirm it when they used their index fingers to open their mouths wide. But once a few people believed it had happened at all, others seemed primed to believe it was happening to them too.
Whether the fillings are safe or not gold or gild they have energized Baker’s small congregation.
“In the Bible, you read about it, people raising from the dead, people being made to walk, but today you don’t see it, except some televangelist twenty-nine, ninety-five for a healing handkerchief,’ said James Wynn, 18, of San Bernardino. “But that’s not real. Then you see it happen to your friends and family. It’s amazing.’
And what’s in Wynn’s mouth?
“I have a filling that hasn’t turned to gold yet,’ he said optimistically.