Pitting Benny Hinn's followers

Dateline did their second (and mass media’s umpteenth) expose on Benny Hinn last night. There’s nothing particularly surprising in their well substantiated claims about Hinn himself:

*He lives a lavish lifestyle that includes a $10 million beachfront mansion, private jets, $10,000 per night hotel suites, major jewelry shopping sprees, tours with layovers in Acupulco, Switzerland and other resort areas, etc.

*Not one (1) of his “healings” has ever been confirmed (i.e. medical evidence that a- the person did indeed have the condition s/he was “cured” of, b- the person did NOT have the condition s/he was “cured” of afterwards, c- any curing was due to non medically rendered “treatment”, and in fact numerous people who were “cured” of cancer and AIDS were in fact dead of the diseases months after their healing

*His promise to provide financial support to a boy healed of a congenital degenerative retinal weakening never materialized even though he made the pledge on air and in front of thousands of live witnesses (and, oh yeah, the retinal condition the boy was ‘healed’ of continued to worsen)

The only good things that they were able to verify seemed to be that Hinn has in fact given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Calcutta hospital he claims he supports (though his ministry helps only a fraction of the number of children he claims it does [223 by the ministry’s own counts v. the “tens of thousands” he claims) and he seems to be a really good tipper ($4,500 during one week long London trip).

Yadda yadda. A televangelist raking in tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars per year is corrupt as all hell, big surprise. But while I think that Hinn is slicker than owl shit and slimier than a snot, I just cannot get as furious with him as I do with the followers who continue supporting this asshole. What the FUCK is their problem?

I can sorta kinda understand the truly desperate, the whole “drowning man clutching the blade of a sword” mentality, but surely they can’t all be that uneducated and with terminal illnesses or terminally ill relatives. (And even in desperation, why not go to a LOCAL prayer group? At least then the money will benefit people in your own city, none of whom are living in $10 million oceanside mansions most likely- it’s the same God they’re praying to, after all- hell, taking coffee enemas and drinking collard green tea administered by a Voodoo priestess would probably do at least as much good and be a helluva lot cheaper.)

Who are these people? Why do they continue to send money to Hinn (and Swaggart and Bakker and Tilton and Popoff and Robertson* etc ad nauseum) when their financial (and sexual and ethical and business and etc ad nauseum) misdealings are revealed time after time after time? What the fuck would it take to get them to see that they are being bilked? What’s missing in their own churches that they turn to these men (and occasionally women) who claim that God not only talks to them but gives them legal and tax advice and specifically wants them to have an Olympic sized indoor pool in their vacation house?

I’m sorry, but as much as I’d like to feel sympathy for them and as much as I believe in the First Amendment, they are just dumbasses who are damned from birth not by any god but by their own stupidity, gullibility, irrationality and self-gouged blindness. Damn them, and damn the fact that anybody that stupid not only can vote but probably does. Your rent is in arrears and the tumor is still growing, but at least that $3,000 you sent in means some London bellboys got really good tips and a child or two got some rice for three days in Haiti.

*I think Pat Robertson is by leaps, bounds and leagues the sleaziest of the lot, particularly due to his African business ventures.

I think of him as America’s Sai Baba and I know quite a few followers of that charlatan.

People have things that go wrong in their life. They get taken in. It’s quite sad, really. I’ve stopped talking to people about the Idiocy that is Sai Baba because they tend to get angry about it. It’s like how on Arrested Development last night Tobias tries to lecture Lucille about “denial” and then she tells him he’s a terrible psychiatrist and will never make it as an actor b/c he has no talent and he just walks past her saying “I can’t help her if she won’t say anything.” You can shove all the facts in their face saying Sai Baba or Benny Hinn don’t need Rolls Royces and then they’ll just spew out the same pap. Can’t speak for Benny Hinn but I am a practicing/reasonably religious Hindu so I’m not coming at the whole Sai Baba phenomenon from an atheistic POV or anything.

This would have been much better if it was Benny Hill. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, you can be an atheist and be a Hindu so what I mean is I’m not Anti-Sai Baba b/c I’m anti-religious or anti-Hindu…I just think he’s a complete quack.

I’m just like you. My wife’s family are Sai Baba devotees and there’s no getting through to them. Do you make any distinction between the current self-ordained Sai Baba and the original one? The original one, I was taught, was a truly selfless man. But I’ve never researched it so I don’t know.

*Sorry about this hijack, but I didn’t think this question warranted it’s own thread.

The original one does seem way more “spiritual” but like you I haven’t done too much research. The only wide-followed spiritualist that I think was honest through-and-through is Parahamsa Yogananda.

And I too am related to Sai Baba followers. The shame!!! The last time one of them told me when he blessed her he “magically” made a diamond appear in his hand and was very put out when I asked if he was wearing long sleeves at the time. Because you know, if he wasn’t, I’d give him a little bit more credit for his magic tricks.

The other day I woke up a little earlier than normal flipped on the TV. I caught the tail end of some televangelist’s show. He had a really horrible looking skin condition and was trying to get people to call in and get his “free miracle water”. He told a few stories about how it worked and ended with him suggesting that you get it and slip it in someone’s drink if they needed healing. :rolleyes:

I’ll have to watch his entire show sometime. I’m sure it’ll make for an excellent pitting.

[“Alvy Singer”]“I can’t get with any religion that advertises on the back pages of Popular Mechanics.”[/AS]

The only “miracle” this charletan performs is making money appear in his pockets and disappear from the wallets of the gullible.

What I don’t understand is where these guys learn how to run their scams. How do they ever get so big in the first place, and where do they learn how to keep on keepin’ on despite perfectly valid evidence they are a sham? I mean, where do you go to learn how to effectively perpetrate this kind of crap on people without being laughed out of town the moment you try?

Incredible!

He’s been operating since the early 1950’s-and has a TON of money! The man is probably a cut above the Bakkers and Benny Hinn, but he is still a big solicitor of money-where does it all go? Jesus himself said that obe should beware of “men in sheep’s clothing, who inwardly are ravening wolves”. If there is a hell, I’m sure some very warm spots are reserved for these con men.
And those phoney “healings”-why would anybody consnt to being pushed backwards on stage? Let’s faceit, a large group opfpeople ae terminally gullible…and these people will always wind up as the prey of con men.

I did some research on Sai Baba, and the Skepdic page gives this gem:

Gah. I’d make a joke if it was worth it. This Sai Baba guy isn’t even trying, is he?

There could be some cultural relevance I’m missing, but that passage alone makes him sound like a very cheap fraud.

Perhaps it is simple gullibility, but I doubt it; the followers of these characters are very often deeply and inextricably embedded in a culture that energetically enforces the whole mindset at the same time as insulating the individual from the dangers of the reality check - I know because I’ve been there - back in my early Christian days, I fell in with a bunch of enthusiastic evangelicals/fundamentalists - I bought into the whole creationism/literalism thing and we would spend endless hours listening to tapes of (what we considered to be) inspirational teachers and preachers, regaling us with tales of miraculous happenings that they had experienced and we could experience too.

I went to a week-long conference in Brighton when Kenneth Copeland visited the UK and on the last day, I went forward for ministry, having convinced myself that I could make God heal my eyes that I would no longer need to wear glasses. I wasn’t exactly pushed over; it’s a lot more subtle than that, but I ended up on the floor, mouthing gibberish. I took off my glasses and…

…I couldn’t see a bloody thing!

But it had been so ingrained in me that these things require big faith and (something along the lines of) that you must act as though you have already received the ‘spiritual reality’ of your healing, because that will force it to be manifest in the physical realm. I was interviewed by someone on the ministry team as I fumbled my way back to my seat “Yes, I used to wear these glasses! <holding them up> but now I’m healed!” - I didn’t dare say that nothing appeared to have happened, lest I ‘speak doubt’ into the situation and spoil everything. (Of course my story will have been reported as a success, because I went home the next day and there was never any follow up).

For years I fumbled around, not wearing my glasses, telling everyone that God had already healed me, but it was difficult in many ways; for example when I went to Bible study groups, I had to employ all kinds of strategies to make sure I was sitting next to a strong light, in case I was asked to read; my work suffered; my social life suffered; one night, I even crashed my fucking car because I couldn’t see where I was going properly.

Did I mention the misery? - Inwardly, you feel wretched, condemned, worthless and confused, but you have to veneer it all over with a smile because again, you’re trying to manipulate reality by sheer force of will - you’re not allowed to pour out your true feelings, in case you ‘speak bad things’ into existence (ignoring the rather obvious fact that they already ARE in existence).

It all broke down when I changed jobs and my new boss, who knew nothing at all about my background and situation, bluntly said ‘you need glasses - go and get your eyes tested you damn fool!’. I wasn’t fooling anyone - least of all myself.

You’d think it would be a tough moment, but in fact it was quite liberating; like climbing up out of a deep, dark pit I had dug myself into. I’m still a Christian (at least by a definition that I am comfortable with, if not everybody else), but I will never allow myself to be sucked into that web of lies, denial and misery again.

Wow! What a superb post, Mangetout. Wonderfully lucid and expositional.

For the life of me I couldn’t understand how Hinn managed to pull off the “people fainting” trick with people who seemed to be genuine followers and not plants, and how they could claim to be healed when I knew they weren’t.

Your story, just as you phrased it, should be required reading for anyone in the future who wants to do an expose on Hinn and his ilk. I’ve never understood why the exposes that go after these guys don’t make any kind of effort to explain how guys like Hinn manage to pull off the things they do. The programs show people falling like dominoes and claiming to be healed, but they offer no explanation as to what is really going on in the minds of these people or what they are experiencing at the time. The effect is to make it seem that guys like Hinn are operating on some sort of magical, mystical plane that the program itself is at a loss to explain. You come away thinking that, yes, these guys are con men, but the con itself is so obscure it can’t be explained.

Thanks again for a wonderfully insightful post.

That’s something that’s always concerned me about these so-called “ministries”. I find it appalling to tell someone whose desperately seeking healing that he or she wasn’t healed because he lacked faith.

Mangetout, I was going to send you this link earlier, and it’s particularly relevant to this discussion. There’s an organization called The Trinity Foundation which is dedicated to monitoring religious broadcasts. The website I’ve just linked to has links to articles on various televangelists, including Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton whose apparently starting a comeback.

I suppose I can see the appeal. It’s really very simple: “Do what I say and you’ll get what you want.” You don’t have to think; just do. If you think, you might realize how ludicrous what some of these folks are saying. Here’s a good Benny Hinn quote from an article in theLos Angeles Times which I found on the Trinity Foundation’s website: “Adam was a super-being when God created him. I don’t know whether people know this, but he was the first superman that really ever lived. . . . Adam not only flew, he flew to space. With one thought he would be on the moon.” Don’t think; just give them money and if what you want doesn’t happen, it’s simply that your faith isn’t strong enough. If you believe a little harder (and, incidentally), give them more money, you’ll get what you want. That former Fundamentalist friend I have told me he was told much the same thing Mangetout was. Of course, by doing so, you’re breaking the “first and greatest Commandment” which is to love God with all your mind as well as heart and soul, but who’re you going to believe – Jesus or some guy standing right in front of you promising you wealth, health, and all you could desire? :rolleyes:

CJ

Never seen Hinn, but have heard of him. Agreed on the pitting, but based on this post, why Hinn instead of Robertson? Seriously. Not offended in any way, just curious.

There are a number of reasons why people fall over and I’m not going to entirely discount the possibility of some kind of genuine spiritual effect, but here are a few of the possible non-spiritual causes (probably often being used in combination):

  • You’re emotionally pumped-up; you didn’t just walk into the meeting, get prayed for and fall over, you’ve been there possibly for hours; singing, dancing, waving your arms; building up a heightened emotional state; it’s probably quite easy for this to come to a crescendo that includes falling over and/or blacking out.

  • The guy ministering to you very subtly and softly puts his hand on the top of your head and is able to manipulate you so that you’re off balance and you don’t know it, but his hand on your scalp is now holding you up; he lets go suddenly and you stumble backward and/or fall over.

  • Similarly, the preacher makes specific mention of the fact that he’s been accused of ‘pushing people over’ and states that he will only touch you on the back of your head. He puts his arms above your shoulders and applies gently increasing force to the back of your head with his figertips; without realising it, you adapt your stance to balance against this pressure and when he shouts “in the name of JESUS!” and abruptly lets go, you’re still pushing backwards and you fall. (I had this one done to me by a visiting American evangelist whose name I can’t remember, but claims he died on an operating table, went to heaven, was given a mission and sent back - I realise this doesn’t exactly narrow down the field a lot)

  • You’re standing, waiting (perhaps quite nervously) in a long line of people; you can hear the voice of the preacher over the PA system, but then you abruptly notice his voice right in front of your face; you tense up and lose your balance (I’m pretty sure this was a big factor for me at the Kenneth Copeland thing).

  • And of course there’s the palm-on-the-forehead slap thing, which you’d think would be stupidly obvious, but all my peers were saying “yes, I know it looks like he’s pushing them over, but it’s the Holy Spirit at work - just look at the testimonies of the healed people” (yeah, just like mine)

There’s almost nothing you can do for someone who is deeply embroiled in the thing; they will have been conditioned to expect ‘attacks and doubts’ and anything negative you say will be perceived as such, thus reinforcing the worldview they have been spoonfed. They will also have been repeatedly counselled not to ‘lean on their own understanding’, which roughly translates to ‘don’t think about it too much’. Blech.

These are the people that provide fodder for those bashing Christians. No prostelytizing here, so pit these fuckers all you want.

ralph124c, I’ve never heard a whiff of scandal about Billy Graham. Nor have I heard that he lives extravagantly (he controls, or used to control, a large organization, but I read in the mid 70s that he was being paid a salary of $20,000 a year).

Equally important, during the Jim Bakker/Jimmy Swaggart scandals era (1987-1989), he steadfastly refused to comment on the idiots involved, which would have been the first thing a power-hungry megalomaniac would have done.

As far as I can tell, the man practices what he preaches. FTR, I’m an atheist.