|University of South Africa
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The human trait of entitlement, although currently very topical, has only recently come under serious scrutiny by behavioural psychologists (Campbell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline & Bushman 2004:30). This study examines the modifying effects of these psychological elements on the spiritual aspects of disease and healing. Other modifiers are the personal spiritual beliefs or dogmas of the clergy within the paradigm of a particular denomination, and the beliefs and expectations of the adherents. Two Christian denominations were chosen for the study: The Methodist Church of Southern Africa, in particular the home church of the writer, The Bedfordview Methodist Church, and Afmin, an organisation that trains and equips students, mainly African, for Christian ministry. Structured face to face interviews were conducted with pastors and church leaders, interviews with medical professionals were conducted and a wide ranging review of relevant literature undertaken. It was found that while the trait of entitlement was a constant in human nature, there were modifying factors. These included the personal beliefs of pastors and youth leaders, often founded on personal experience instead of denominational dogma. The influence of Pentecostal / Charismatic teaching was very evident. It was also found that the church, in a drive to become increasingly relevant to current norms and social trends, tended to have a rather confused understanding of biblical healing and the role of God in disease and suffering. While the inevitability of death, suffering and disease cannot be denied, the role of the church is complex and controversial. Unrealistic expectations, based on teaching that encourages a sense of entitlement can lead to great challenges regarding faith in both the clergy and adherents.