84 Percent of Americans Believe in Miracles, ‘Newsweek’ Poll Says

Magazine cites Pentecostal teen’s healing in major report in belief for the impossible

by Andy Butcher
Most Americans believe in miracles, and almost half of them say they have personally experienced or witnessed one, according to a “Newsweek” poll. The magazine cites the case of a teen-ager healed at a Pentecostal church in its report this week.

Eighty-four percent of those questioned for the news weekly said they believed that God performs miracles, and 79 percent said that they believed the miracles described in the Bible actually occurred. Sixty-three percent said they knew someone who claimed to have experienced a miracle, while 48 percent told researchers they had seen or experienced one themselves.

Although the report points out that miracles are reported in all the major faiths, it is Christians–90 percent–who overwhelmingly believe in them. Only 46 percent of non-Christians said they believed that miracles happen. Ninety-eight percent of evangelical Christians said they believed.

The report by religion editor Kenneth Woodward–author of the recently published “The Book of Miracles”–tells the story of 15-year-old Tyler Clarensau, who suffered from malformed knee joints that surgery had not been able to correct.

He went forward for prayer at Park Crest Assembly of God church in Springfield, Mo., last year. He was surrounded by a group of around 40 teens, who prayed for him for an hour. Clarensau then stood up and began to do deep knee bends–something he had not been able to do for years. Now he can run, slowly.

“I’d heard stories about people getting healed,” he says, “and I thought it was pretty cool. But I didn’t really know for sure until it happened to me.”

The report also tells of a Philadelphia girl’s healing from a spinal cord defect after prayers were offered to a Catholic saint, and a Louisiana woman whose recovery has been officially declared a miracle by the Catholic church. Her terminal cancer disappeared after she prayed to a priest being considered for beatification.

Franco de Rosa, professor at the University of Rome and a member of the Vatican panel that investigates claims of healing, said that in 99 percent of cases there was a medical explanation for what happened. But “there are some medical events that are not explainable…If you do not believe in miracles, your life is not as full as it could be.”

Woodward says that “miracle stories, ancient and modern, do two things; they explain the ways of God to the faithful, and they are the means by which believers experience the presence of God, or the gods, in their own lives.”

The “Newsweek” poll found that 67 percent of people had prayed for miracles–usually a cure for themselves or for loved ones. Fifty percent of those asked credited God with bringing back to life people who had been declared dead by medical authorities.

Such claims have led Pentecostal and Muslim groups, in addition to the Vatican, to develop follow-up procedures to investigate claims, the report says. Out of the 6,000 miracles reported by visitors to the Shrine of Lourdes in France, only 66 have been documented by the medical board. The last report was verified in 1987.