John of God: A Brazilian Faith Healer Goes Global

John of God is a Brazilian faith healer who in just over a decade has become an international healer superstar – visited by thousands of the desperately ill, the wealthy, celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Shirley MacLaine, and an increasing array of media. What sets John of God apart are his spectacular healing methods. He performs operations using kitchen knives, scissors, and scalpels without anaesthetics or asepsis. He allegedly takes on ‘entities’ (spirits) in a trance and does not remember the operations when he becomes conscious again. Most people claim they do not feel pain and do not develop infections. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork in Brazil, the U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany and New Zealand, this paper focuses on experiences of healing of foreigners in John of God’s healing centre. Through these narratives, I show that healing is efficacious cross-culturally because John of God reinstates a connection between healing and religion, constructs a context that gives meaning to illness, and empowers people as they surrender to a higher power (God and the entities/spirits).  All this offers hope when biomedicine has taken it away.