Re: “Founders of Our Faith: Kathryn Kuhlman,” September 10
A commentary by a local pastor about famed evangelistic faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman took me back to the early 1970s when I was researching data for a master’s thesis which focused on faith healers. Its title was “The Exploitation of Gospel Through Mass Media,” during which I interviewed multiple ministers who had gained fame and fortune through faith healing, much of it on radio and television, and at healing crusades.
One of those was Kathryn Kuhlman, known at the time as the country’s reigning faith healer. I interviewed her at an office on Hollywood Boulevard and attended a four-hour healing crusade at the cavernous Shrine Auditorium near downtown Los Angeles. Crowds started lining up hours before the service and filled every seat in the 6,500-seat hall.
During my interview with her, she addressed criticism that she had no theological training and rebuffed others who accused her of using hypnotic techniques to lull followers into thinking she had healing powers. She said she was effective simply through the power of suggestion. Her charisma, I discovered, also played a role in her success.
Those who did not follow Ms. Kuhlman on the faith trail, might recall the popular NBC-TV show, “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” when comic Ruth Buzzi portrayed a character called Kathryn Pullman. Kuhlman was actually flattered by the send-up and sent a note to Buzzi reading, “No one enjoyed the satire more than I did.”
The real faith healer died in 1976 at age 68 following open-heart surgery.
ROBERT LERNER, Historian
Valley Center History Museum