The Witch Doctor vs. The Drug Dealer

There are many things in our culture that need redeeming. Christians and non-Christians alike can point out things that are wrong with the world.  A major issue in the recent elections was healthcare; for a long time people have agreed that the healthcare system in the United States is flawed, with more opinions on how to fix it than you can count.  The debate is so ubiquitous that even our entertainers—specifically the two musical artists that I plan to focus on in this article—have taken it upon themselves to start a conversation with their listeners about areas they see as broken.

I’ll be using two separate songs to reference very different aspects of what is causing unrest in our current medical landscape.  The first is the song “Witch Doctor” by de Staat, and the second is a song by Macklemore titled “Drug Dealer (feat. Arianna Dedoo)”.  Click the links to see the lyrics (please note, both of these songs carry with them language advisories).

Hocus Pocus

“Witch Doctor” begins with someone claiming to be a witch with a magic cure for whatever may be hurting the listener.  They are quick to make sure you don’t trust authority figures such as the white house and later, in the second verse, “the white coats”—medical doctors. But at the same time they confess that the herbs they have to offer won’t help.

Their method to cure your pain is just believing hard enough to obtain the desired results.

They get to the crux of their pitch when talking about measurements of success for their treatments, and claim that “It’s not about the numbers, what you feel is real.” Instead of using scientific methods to measure outcomes and document change in your ailments, the writer says to use how you feel to determine success. Not only that; their assertion “open the mind, change the mind, that’s how we achieve…it’s what I believe” tells us their method to cure your pain is just believing hard enough to obtain the desired results.  The second verse adds that the witch doctor is a “corpse eating vulture” that will never get you healed, but it “can’t hurt to try, right?”

Western evangelicalism preaches a lot of things which have questionable Biblical bases.  Things like, “God helps those who help themselves” or “cleanliness is next to Godliness.”  But maybe the most pernicious, and the one that gets around the most, is what’s called the “prosperity gospel” – a false view of the Bible that says we should all be happy, wealthy, and (most relevant here) healthy.  Peddlers of this false gospel would say that the sick among us just don’t have a strong enough faith, or that they should simply pray more and good things will come their way.  They stress the power of “believing hard enough” – and in so doing make people sicker than they were before. But these teachers have no basis in the Bible, and they aren’t giving the true Gospel.  They’re just as dangerous as a witch doctor with a skull hanging around his neck.

You Won’t Believe The Results!

de Staat is crying out against all those hurt by so-called “miracle cures” from infomercials, Facebook advertisements, Dr. Oz-type shows, and mailers hawking prayer mats, toxin pads, and holy water; those too-good-to-be-true claims about the newest health products and treatments. They are the same products we find out 6 months to a year later damage your liver or kidneys, or at best have no actual measurable effect on your health and well-being.  The true damage may not even be the side effects that they are selling, but the lack of proper treatment from the white coated doctors who could help; the people that the pseudoscientists and propaganda spreaders have taught hurting and desperate people to fear.  Families that hit hard times and then experience physical aches and pains—or even more serious symptoms—are talked into avoiding the expensive doctors with their “ulterior motives and agendas.”

This can be seen in the anti-vaccine movements; promotion of natural ingredients over manufactured ones; and the non-GMO food initiatives.  The problem with most of these ideas and groups is that they all grab your attention with scare tactics and throw in kernels of truth so they sound legit.

“You wouldn’t want someone injecting your baby with mercury, would you?”

“We learned mercury was bad for humans back in school, remember?”

“Why would you put a mutant on your dinner plate?”

Once the fear settles in, then all the research in the world doesn’t matter anymore.

Once the fear settles in, then all the research in the world doesn’t matter anymore; especially to those that are looking to make a buck off of it.  “Natural” doesn’t mean healthy (poison ivy, arsenic and a million other things that grow in nature are extremely harmful to humans through skin contact or digestion), and “GMO” doesn’t mean evil (some GMO crops have safely made hardier plants so that there is more food for all of us to eat).  Vaccines have nearly eradicated diseases that used to kill people in numbers that probably exceeded some of the plagues against Egypt.  But none of that matters if people have been sufficiently scared.

If there is enough credible scientific evidence to support something, then we should trust it to have the predictable results proven by that evidence.  We aren’t to be driven by fear in anything as Christians, so let’s make sure we buy our organic quinoa and GMO Twinkies with a sober mind and not one controlled by fear.

Pill Pushing

Let’s turn around and look at “Drug Dealer” by Macklemore, which takes on the opioid epidemic in the United States.  It starts grim with a story about a friend who ends up either comatose or dead from prescription drugs, but it gets worse.  He paints a picture of “Big Pharma” paying off the government so they can purposefully kill people with their drugs legally and make billions for themselves in return.  He mentions some of the celebrities known for deaths related to prescription drug problems, like Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger, but he says no one was truly taking note of the problem until it started showing up in suburban America.  He then references a cough syrup that was pulled from the legal market due to addiction, which increased the price on the black market.  He follows this up with a jab at Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the opiate OxyContin, which has been known to market strongly to increase sales.

The next verse shows a glimpse of what it is like for patients who have been over prescribed opioid drugs and are suddenly cut off.  The same detox that addicts go through from heroin and meth use is felt by those who have been on prescription opiates for an extended amount of time.  They go through physical pain so intense that these patients—who never had any intention of ever breaking the law—are now considering forging prescriptions and injecting themselves with heroin to relieve their pain.  This addiction then causes them to lose relationships, jobs, activities and “everything [they] wanted”.

This addiction then causes them to lose relationships, jobs, activities and “everything [they] wanted”.

Prosperity preachers aren’t the only preachers threatening the lives of their congregations.  On the other end of the heretical spectrum sits the legalist, who believes that people will never be saved until they live perfect lives.  They treat good deeds and sinless moments like mind-altering drugs that make people feel better for a moment, but don’t heal their hearts.  Without Jesus, these people are doomed to seek more and more ways to prove their worth to God; like those who run to illicit drugs after exhausting their prescription, those conned by legalists then pursue their justification elsewhere.  Sadly, they’ll never find it, and they’ll lose everything along the way, because they aren’t looking for it in Jesus.

Serenity and Courage

The Chorus of the song perfectly wraps up Macklemore’s themes.  “My drug dealer was a doctor…Had a plug from Big Pharma…said that he would heal me…but he only gave me problems…I think he trying to kill me…he tried to kill me for a dollar”.  Here we see the same kinds of problems with the witch doctor and their miracle cure.  Both offer a promise of help to hurting people.  Both know that they are not going to fulfill that promise. And both ultimately want to line their pockets.

Both offer a promise of help to hurting people.  Both know that they are not going to fulfill that promise.

This song is about another group of people being taken advantage of by those claiming to be experts.  This time there isn’t someone hawking pseudoscience at unsuspecting masses to trick them into buying something that will have no effect on them.  This is a company that encourages doctors to prescribe a dangerous drug that will have a short-term positive effect on their patients, but devastating effects in the long run.

Well, that’s depressing

These aren’t catchy pop songs designed to make your toe tap and get your groove on.  They are bringing up real problems in our culture centered around our healthcare system.  One speaks to problems that exist outside of mainstream medicine and the other speaks to problems deep inside of it; both areas in desperate need of redemption.  It would be of little value to bring to light the same information these artists have without adding something more to the conversation as Christians.

First and foremost, obviously if you are a Christian in any medical field, remember your Hippocratic oath and steer people away from things that could hurt them or delay them from getting proper treatment.  As for opiate prescriptions, you could be like a “white coat” friend of mine and never write any at all, or you could write them in very small amounts for very short amounts of time. Pray about it, study it, and know that you are doing it in a way that glorifies God.

Have a sober mind, and not one controlled by fear.

For the rest of you not in a medical field, how can you help out?  The first way is like I said before, make your health decisions with “a sober mind, and not one controlled by fear.”  The second way, and probably more important, is to love these hurting people.  It doesn’t matter where they are on the scale of bad experiences with the health care system.  Are your neighbors putting up crystals around their house to heal their internal bleeding?  Tell them that you love them and want them to see a doctor you know and trust for a second opinion.  Has a loved one contracted AIDS or HIV from sharing needles after getting addicted to prescription medication?  Know that their pain is real and weep with them, show them you and God still care about them and their plight.

These subjects are near and dear to my heart.  I have been a Chiropractor for several years, and a close friend of mine is on track to become a godly family practice “white coat.”  He is the one I mentioned earlier that doesn’t fill out prescriptions for opioids.  Part of that is because of what we’ve seen in our own state of Indiana.  In Scott County there was a huge outbreak of HIV and AIDS directly related to the over prescribing practices of opioid based pain killers.  After seeing the risks up close he knew that it was too dangerous for his own patients.  My friend is one of the good ones that will never sell-out to drug companies because of the sober mind that God grants us through His perfect love that drives out fear.

Finally, don’t seek God through the weak joys of prosperity, or the weak effort that you’re capable of.  Seek Him through Jesus, who is the only one you can count on to make you better; not a witch doctor or a drug dealer, our savior is the great Healer.

Here’s your prescription from Redeeming Culture:

So here’s your prescription from Redeeming Culture: Love your neighbor; give someone a hug that’s hurting; be fearless against propaganda (whether about health care or anything else); and if you are part of the fringe or mainstream medical arenas, truly look out for the best for your patients and not the best for your wallet—for God’s glory.

Take two of those and call me in the morning.

• • •

Thanks for reading Redeeming Culture!

Previous posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *