Benny Hinn - What a Friend He Has in Jesus

It’s been two decades since the TV demise of pioneer televangelists Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart amid charges of sexual impropriety and fraud. While still in business, neither command the millions of followers they once did. In their place a new generation of TV preachers has arisen to tap the pockets of the vulnerable.

Foremost among them is Benny Hinn. His current television show “This is Your Day” is available several days a week on a number of networks. The program features highlights of his “Miracle Crusade” in which the diminutive and dapper Hinn, along with a television crew, travels the world preaching in a decidedly flamboyant style and supposedly “curing” fervent attendees of a variety of ailments. Due to his popularity, these events are usually held in large stadiums.

The crusade events begin with the singing by Hinn and the choir of a simplistic religious song which, by means of endless repetition, turns into a mesmerizing chant. Meanwhile, the camera focuses on certain audience members, arms raised heavenward, seemingly undergoing a tearful religious experience. Next is the faith healing segment.

There is, of course, a great deal of controversy concerning faith healing ranging from unquestioned acceptance to complete dismissal as charlatanism. Although spontaneous remission of a disease such as cancer is not unknown, despite his claims to the contrary there is no evidence authenticated by an independent medical agency of any lasting cure by Hinn or others of his kind. More likely, when a person has a strong belief that a healer is able to create a cure, a “placebo effect” can temporarily make the person feel better. Critics also suggest that someone believing in faith healing is unlikely to seek proper medical attention, perhaps endangering their life.

In combination with his “healing” devotees experience being “slain in the spirit” during which, after a laying on of hands by Pastor Benny, they appear to lose all motor control of their body and topple backwards, sometimes repeatedly, to be neatly fielded by assistants before reaching the floor. This startling phenomenon is, of course, attributed to the power of God. However, reason would attribute it to the hyper-suggestible believer, already in a hysterical state as a result of the intensity of the situation, experiencing at Hinn’s touch an emotional reaction similar to fainting, perhaps including a drop in blood pressure. The power of suggestion is another possibility as the devoted subject would certainly know what is expected of him/her. Whatever the reason, it is nonetheless a very impressive piece of theatrics which is not lost on the audience.

During the final ten minutes or so of the program, from a studio, Hinn exhorts television viewers to accept Christ while at the same time interjecting a series of names or locations of people implying that they are being cured even as he mentions them:

“There’s a lady named Barbara with lung disease. The Lord has cured her. Thank you, Lord.”
“George in Cincinnati has a heart condition. He is cured. Thank you, Jesus.”

Needless to say, there is no proof that Barbara or George exist.

At this point he asks for a “donation” in exchange for a booklet or a religious trinket

His very slick website is worth examining. Almost every page is devoted to selling something – books, courses, or simply asking for a donation. He touts the benefit of a tithe (minimum $5.00 – maximum $6000.00) on the page labeled “Your Life.” It is also possible to become a “Covenant Partner” for $30.00 per month. The advantages are:

“Your seed, sown in the soil of this ministry, will bring a harvest to your life over and over again as you please our precious Master, Jesus, by helping to win the lost of this world.”

Although not apparent from the telecasts that I viewed, Benny Hinn is a proponent of the Prosperity Gospel movement. Under this teaching, supporters believe that faith works to create miracles and that it is through their faith that they can obtain anything they want – such as health, wealth, or any form of personal success. According to Pastor Benny if a person expresses their faith by sowing a sufficient monetary seed into his ministry - that person will be granted divine benefits. With several million adherents – well, you do the math.

This is no less than the granting of indulgences, the ancient practice of the Catholic Church extending merits from its Treasure House of Merit based on the accumulated good deeds of the saints. Used for the forgiveness of sins and granting of privileges, these merits could be bought and sold. Supposedly ended in the sixteenth century with the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther, indulgences appear to have survived albeit in contemporary form.

Benny Hinn Ministries does not belong to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) a watchdog organization which attempts to develop and maintain standards of accountability regarding fund raising of religious organizations. Hinn is currently under investigation by the United States Senate Committee on Finance. Depending on the results of the investigation, he could lose his IRS Tax Exempt status.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that Hinn is the lowest form of con man, exploiting the emotional and spiritual needs of the desperate, viewers, many of whom can ill afford it, will no doubt continue to donate millions of dollars annually in the hope of realizing some small improvement in their lives.

Watch the CBC’s Fifth Estate documentary “Do You Believe in Miracles.”

2 comments:

Buffy said...

These charlatans should be taxed and regulated just like any other business. That would put a real chink in their ability to screw people over.

Dave McRitchie said...

They would still be able to screw the gullible believers over, except they would not make quite as much money. Until people wise up to these criminals, which doesn't seem likely any time soon, they will continue to exploit.