A pastor from a megachurch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, faced a wave of criticism online over video of him rubbing spit on a worshipper’s face.
During a sermon on Sunday, Michael Todd, a 34-year-old lead pastor at Transformation church, spat into his hand twice.
“Receiving vision from God might get nasty,” he said, before turning to the man on the stage.
The incident came about 40 minutes into a two-hour service, when Todd discussed Mark 8:22-25, a Bible passage in which Jesus restores a blind man’s sight in the village of Bethsaida by rubbing spit on to his eyes.
The parishioner in Tulsa was identified as Todd’s brother, Brentom Todd. When Todd rubbed his hands on to his brother’s face, the audience let out an audible gasp.
Todd responded: “How you just reacted is how the people in your life will react when God is doing what it takes for the miracle.”
As clips went viral, Todd faced a wave of criticism online. Many condemned his actions as an ill-advised publicity stunt at a time when Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the US.
Just in the last 14 days, according to the New York Times Covid-19 tracker, cases rose by 287% in Oklahoma alone.
“The acts that Pastor Mike Todd committed today during his Sunday service Transformation Church were absolutely disgusting,” one user wrote on the church’s Facebook page.
“I usually am not quick to attack people online but he has got to be held accountable for rubbing his spit in another person’s face. Pastors have to be held to a higher standard.”
Another wrote: “I found your demonstration demeaning and gross. Your message was loud and clear without rubbing your spit all over a brother’s face.”
On Twitter, a user wrote: “What is the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] going to do about Mike Todd?”
Todd tweeted an apology, saying in a video his actions were “disgusting” and a “distraction”.
He was passionate about delivering hope to people, he said, “so much so that I try to do extreme things”.
“That was a distraction to what I was really trying to do,” he said. “I was really trying to make the word come alive and for people to see the story. But yesterday it got too live, and I own that.”
Todd went on to say that he had called his brother.
“He was bald before I spit on him,” he said, “and he’s still bald today. So no miracles here … so next time I’ll rethink and do something differently.”
Todd has previously worked with the Oklahoma governor, Kevin Stitt, to hold a statewide day of prayer for those affected by Covid-19.