Did a pastor really die attempting a 40-day Jesus fast?
Take that story with a giant grain of salt
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There’s a story going around online about a pastor who died after a failed attempt to fast for 40 days and 40 nights just like Jesus.
Francisco Barajah, founder of the Santa Trindade Evangelical Church in Mozambique, was taken to the hospital 25 days into his starvation, we’re told, and he soon died due to organ failure. He was only 39.
BBC News posted a brief article about the situation.
At the risk of sounding heartless, this is the sort of story atheists love. We have a pastor doing something completely reckless, due to his faith, only to suffer the predictable consequences. Common sense should’ve told him not to fast for 40 days, but Christianity told him to put critical thinking aside. Someone give the man a Darwin Award!
You should take the entire story with a giant grain of salt because the red flags are all over the place.
I’ve already seen this story appear on Yahoo! News (which reprinted an article from Insider) and the Daily Beast, along with dozens of other sites with even fewer resources. But keep a few things in mind whenever you see this story online:
Nearly every article cites the same BBC report. Whenever a story cites a single source, with very little first-hand reporting, you should question it. The BBC regularly reprints articles out of Africa that are notoriously unreliable. They posted an article years ago saying a pastor was supposedly eaten by a crocodile while he was conducting a baptism. That story was never confirmed by anyone else. The Daily Beast article links to a different source… but, again, that website doesn’t have much of a track record in this kind of reporting.
There are no photos or videos of the fasting. The BBC piece has pictures of Barajah, including one of him getting consecrated, but none that are recent showing him in the midst of his fasting. Why would anyone attempt a major stunt like this unless he wanted to draw attention for it? (If the point was to show people how faith in God can help you achieve anything, then doing it in silence has no value.)
There’s virtually no information online about this pastor or the church before the starvation stunt. Try Googling the names of the pastor and the church with a filter that shows results before February 1. I came up empty. Just a lot of results that reference the same starvation story.
The details make no sense. Barajah supposedly made it 25 days without food or water before he was taken to the hospital. The world record for that kind of fast, according to Guinness, is 18 days. Most people would last a few days, tops.
Jesus may not have fasted without food and water for 40 days. As the Daily Beast points out, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke say Jesus fasted for 40 days but that doesn’t necessarily rule out water. The Gospel of Mark doesn’t mention Jesus fasting at all. So why would this pastor recreate a stunt that Jesus may not have even attempted?
Stories like this appear all the time. They're never true. In addition to the crocodile story, there was another one years ago about a Zimbabwean pastor who tried walking on water, only to drown and… get eaten by crocodiles. (These stories always have crocodiles.) That story also had alleged witnesses... but no proof. Snopes later said it was false. Even the Daily Mail, which usually spreads falsehoods like that, admitted the story originated on a satirical site.
I’m not saying this is a hoax. I’m saying I have a hard time believing a pastor died doing a bad imitation of Jesus when all the information is coming from questionable places. It’s bad reporting. Unfortunately, many websites are regurgitating it without question.
So stop spreading this story. There’s a good chance none of this is true. At the very least, maintain your skepticism until more facts come in.
I know that faith alone is a very unreliable guide to the truth. But I want very badly to believe this is true, and I would like encourage as many other pastors as possible to attempt the same thing. Who knows, one of them might actually succeed and win the 2023 Jesus Hat, and if none of them do, at least they might inspire lots of lay christians to follow suit. The world would be a better (if not necessarily holier) place.
I don't know why they call it fasting; it goes so slowly.
Fasting is very difficult. To keep up your strength, you should eat three meals every day.