Why Benny Hinn Became Our Wacky Neighbor

By John Bloom | 05/20/2008


If you drive west from Dallas, through the neo-moderne lunarscape of a pod city called Las Colinas, past a massive international airport on a denuded prairie, into the warren of faceless office buildings that make up cosmopolitan Grapevine, you'll never find Benny Hinn.

He wants it that way. The nerve center of his worldwide organization is tucked away in a group of cheap white nondescript buildings that look like the kind of domiciles favored by Mafia fronts on the wharves of New Jersey. Inside, several dozen employees process an estimated $100 million per year in donations from people who believe in Hinn as a sort of Elmer Gantry for the 21st century. (Obviously they didn't read the novel.)

Now go the other way, into the cul-de-sacs and barrios of deep East Dallas. On a dead end street next to a nursing home, in an expansive two-story house once owned by the Dallas mob, the Trinity Foundation works 24/7 trying to find out just how much money passes through Grapevine, where it comes from and where it goes, running undercover operations, infiltrations, spying, surveillance, the cultivation of disgruntled ex-employees, and even going through Benny Hinn's garbage in an effort to . . . well . . . to make him prove he's not a fraud.

"All we want is for Benny Hinn to make good on promises he made to me in 1993," says Ole Anthony, president of the Christian watchdog organization. "He promised he would stop airing fake healings, that he would medically verify all healings, that he would wait six months after the healing before putting it on TV, to make sure it was authentic. He said he would do all these things, and he's done none of them. It would also be nice if he would submit himself to a real theologian for examination. Some of his teachings are off the scale, even bordering on necromancy."

What the heck is Benny Hinn doing in Dallas?

Las Colinas
Las Colinas, TX

It's weird. It was weird when he announced he was moving to Dallas in 1999, pretty much abandoning his church congregation in Florida. It was weirder still when he announced that God had ordered him to build a $30 million World Healing Center in Irving, making it sound like a combination theme park and New Age miracle spa. The way he laid it out, it would be a sort of shrine to famous faith healers of the past, complete with "stereophonic statue gardens," as well as a Holy Ghost Mayo Clinic for the halt, the lame and the afflicted. I had visions of wheelchair-bound hordes being lifted off jumbo jets at DFW Airport and convoying their way over to Las Colinas, like pilgrims pouring into a Disneyworld version of Lourdes. Isn't this the kind of thing that belongs in Tulsa?

Fortunately, God changed his mind in the summer of 2002 and told Hinn not to build the healing center after all, even though he had spent two years collecting donations for it. (God was apparently vague about what Hinn should do with the money. The county tax assessor was less vague, telling Hinn it was unlikely that his tax exemption would survive theme-park ownership.) Hinn said it was just a timing matter. God wants the healing center, but he didn't want it right then. (Since the only other building the Almighty is known to have ordered is the Temple at Jerusalem, maybe He's just unimpressed with Irving.) Hinn finally said he would keep his headquarters in Dallas because the central location saves him money.

"Good," says Ole Anthony. "I told him it will save us money, too."

If anything, the move to Texas looked like an attempt to spread his operations over as many geographical jurisdictions as possible. For example, Hinn's TV show, "This Is Your Day!," originates in studios in Orange County, California, and airs in 192 countries, making it one of the most widely disseminated programs in the world. Hinn is so ubiquitous on religious TV, in fact, that you would assume by this point--35 years into his preaching ministry--that he would have become one of those household names, like Billy Graham, who's expected to lead the invocation at the Super Bowl and counsel the President and appear on The Today Show in times of national crisis. But the opposite is true. Hinn HouseAside from his twice-monthly appearances at his own choreographed "crusades," held in the largest sports arenas on the planet, Hinn is a virtual recluse, surrounded by armies of bodyguards, ensconced in an $12 million oceanfront hacienda in southern California, traveling by private jet for "snorkeling vacations" in the Cayman Islands, staying in $10,800 per night presidential suites in Italy, a $15,000 per night suite in Greece, and claiming a level of financial secrecy and paranoid internal security that's more often associated with drug dealers than men of the cloth. Hinn PlaneBy surrounding himself with yes-men and stage-managing every detail of his public image--even to the point of stiff-arming the occasional paparazzo who tries to photograph him--he has more in common with Michael Jackson than Jerry Falwell. He may, in fact, be the first Christian rock star. The analogy is not Paul McCartney, though--Benny's career is more like Cher, as he makes it up as he goes along, re-inventing himself whenever necessary.

He has no church. He belongs to no denomination. He's not even affiliated with any particular religion, although his buzz words indicate he tends to dwell on the freaky backwoods fringe of Pentecostalism. As recently as three centuries ago, he probably would have been burned as a heretic. (To give you some idea of his doctrinal strangeness, he once preached that the Trinity is actually nine persons, because each member of the Trinity--Father, Son, Holy Spirit--is also a Trinity. He also says that God and the Holy Spirit have real bodies, with eyes, hands, mouth, etc. Various theologians have trashed him, of course, for preaching "new revelations" directly from God that turn out to be, when examined, variations of thousand-year-old heresies.) He thinks of himself as a prophet (even when his prophecies don't come true) and, in one burst of grandeur, "a new messiah walking on the earth." He believes that the Biblical Adam flew into outer space, that when God parted the Red Sea he made it into a wall of ice, that God talks to him more frequently than he talked to, say, Moses, that a man has risen from the dead in his presence, that a man turned into a snake before his eyes, that angels come to his bedroom and talk to him, and that the only reason we're not all in perfect health, living forever, is that there are demons in the world, attacking us. He's expressed opinions normally heard only on schizophrenia wards, and he's done it in front of millions of people--and still they come. They come in such numbers that thousands have to be turned away, and even the ones turned away gladly give him their money.

What's going on here?

Benny Hinn says that what's going on here is that he was "anointed." It happened either at the age of 11, when Jesus first appeared to either him or his mother while he was living in Jaffa, Israel, or maybe 18, when he had a conversion experience at a high school in Toronto, or maybe shortly after that, when he took a bus trip to Pittsburgh to see the faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman. It's difficult to say exactly when it happened, or what form it took, because Hinn parcels out little bits and pieces of his background as it suits him, then embellishes the stories so that isolating any one event in his life is like puzzling through a 30-year-old KGB file. What we do know--because he returns to it time and again--is that a transforming moment in his life occurred when, as a teenager, he was assigned to take care of a crippled arthritic woman on a pilgrimage to see one of Kuhlman's healing services, and he saw the woman apparently lose all pain in her legs and "untwist," as he put it. Depending on how cynical you are, he had either found his holy calling, or discovered one of the oldest American carnie games. Ever since then he's been praised as a true miracle worker--Oral Roberts himself is his biggest fan--and debunked by various investigative reporters around the world, including 60 Minutes Australia, which concluded, "Benny Hinn is a fake. A dangerous fake. What he does is prey on the sick, the desperate and the gullible." (Trinity Foundation does most of the legwork for all the various networks and newspapers who have investigated Hinn. Of the Australian report, Anthony says, "Apparently in Australia you can just go ahead and say the truth out loud.")

Hinn is a peculiar sort even by the standards of the ongoing circus called American televangelism. If you look at the superstars of the past 25 years--Bakker, Swaggart, Tilton-- they're all of a type: WASPY extroverts with good looks in a sort of dime-store gigolo way. (Even Jim Bakker had that lost-puppy look that's so attractive to lonely widows. Older women living alone are the number one demographic group when it comes to sending money to television ministries.) Hinn, on the other hand, is short, slight, semitic, round-faced, and often sports a haircut that looks like a scoop of Rocky Road ice cream that's been knocked off the top of the cone. He reminds you of a discount Persian rug merchant, not a spiritual leader. He's a Palestinian with a Greek father and Armenian Turk mother, raised in a Catholic school along with eight brothers and sisters who were stuffed into a tiny two-bedroom apartment in the Tel Aviv suburb of Jaffa. In Hinn's books he claims that his father was the mayor of Jaffa. As it turns out, Jaffa had no mayor after the year 1948, four years before Hinn was born. Like many factoids in the Hinn legend, this one seems to be a fib.

Hinn Yearbook

Toufik Benedictus Hinn, known to his family as "Tutu," didn't much like living in Palestine with an Arabic first name, so early in life he became Benny. He was not particularly noted by his classmates at College de Frere elementary school in Jaffa or, after the family emigrated when Benny was 14, at Georges Vanier Secondary School in Toronto. In his sermons and books, Hinn has portrayed his childhood as that of a social outcast, handicapped by a severe stutter, who was nonetheless a stellar student. But when G. Richard Fisher and M. Kurt Goedelman, two journalists who write for Christian publications, looked into Hinn's youth, they found that both claims were untrue: nobody remembered Hinn stuttering, and he had dropped out of high school after the 11th grade. The reason I use these particular examples--"white lies" that by themselves don't really mean that much--is to indicate how twisted Hinn's mythmaking can be. He invents things that reflect badly on him just as easily as he invents things that reflect well on him. Psychologically he can't stand the unadorned truth.

Occasionally, though, the enhancements expand into the land of the whopper. For example, Hinn claims to have preached at an all-girls Catholic school in Jerusalem in 1976 and "every single girl in that school got saved, including all the nuns." Since there's only one Catholic girls school in Jerusalem, Schmidt's Girls College, it was a fairly easy matter to question all the nuns who were there in 1976, as well as Father Dusind, who has overseen all religious instruction since 1955. The result? "This is nonsense, real nonsense," Dusind told Fisher and Goedelman. "It never happened and could not happen because a Charismatic healer or Protestant preacher would never ever be let in to talk to the girls."

Or how about the time Hinn went into a Catholic hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and healed everyone there? The way Hinn tells it is that he, three other Pentecostal preachers, and seven Catholic priests held a service together in the hospital chapel, where everyone went to work with "anointing bottles" and patients were healed instantly. They were then asked to lay hands on all the patients in the hospital's rooms, so Hinn and his "Miracle Invasion" team went down the hall healing people, knocking them down with God's power, until "the hospital looked like it had been hit by an earthquake."

The reality--easily confirmed by speaking to officials at Sault Ste. Marie General Hospital and the Gray Sisters of the Immaculate Conception who work there--is that no patients were released the day Hinn held a small service in the chapel and that, furthermore, "Mr. Hinn's claims are outlandish and unwarranted."

Crusade

Okay, so what? Benny Hinn isn't the first flamboyant white-suited evangelist to play fast and loose with "miracles," and I'm sure he won't be the last. What makes Hinn different is that, after moving to Orlando in 1979 and founding the Orlando Christian Center in 1983, he became the most famous--some would add, "and richest"--evangelist in the world. When he preaches in the Philippines or Africa, for example, it's not uncommon to have 500,000 people at the service. And they all come for the same reason: supernatural events, miracles, ecstatic emotional experiences. He refined his technique in the eighties at the Orlando church, which was the scene of loud frenzied charismatic services almost from the moment he opened his doors. Hinn would frequently speak in tongues--something he no longer does now that his services are televised--and issue wild prophecies and reveal divine messages given only to him, as he essentially incorporated into his own services all the techniques he learned from watching Kathryn Kuhlman. Soon the Orlando church became a mecca for the suffering, and by the time Hinn started doing organized crusades in the late eighties, he was poised to fill the void left by the spectacular crashes of the Bakkers, Swaggarts and Tiltons.

India

In many ways Hinn is a throwback to the tent-revival meetings of the 19th century. Short on scripture, long on enthusiasm, these were originally ways to carry the gospel to backwoods people who weren't served by churches, and the tradition was to collect a little money for the minister's traveling expenses at the end of the service. As time went on, the tent revival fell prey to shysters and carnie men, who discovered they could make a sizeable haul by stoking the emotions of the illiterate and making them feel like they were in the presence of miraculous events. It was a short jump from there to Aimee Semple Macpherson, the now discredited healer of the 1920s who, oddly enough, Hinn reveres as one of his spiritual predecessors. Macpherson was the first to take the tent revival nationwide.

This is not to say that everyone who held a healing service was a fraud--but the ones who made an entire career of it tended to be. There even developed a body of sleight-of-hand that survived well into the nineties, notably practiced by Dallas's own W.V. Grant, who can make a leg look like it's grown longer or shorter simply by manipulating the shoe with a deft magician's move. The healing service, almost from the beginning, was a strange mixture of showmanship, ecstatic worship, and magic.

Stage

Hinn's services, for example, follow a strict pattern that's calculated for maximum emotional impact and, not so coincidentally, maximum offering collection. From the time the crowd enters the arena, they're massaged with mood lighting, repetitive music, responsive chanting, group gestures, group singing, various forms of choral and instrumental entertainment, all leading up to the moment Hinn makes his entrance. The song sung for the entrance is "How Great Thou Art," making convenient use of an ambiguous personal pronoun.

"There's power here, people!" Hinn will typically say. "Lift your hands and receive it."

All dutifully lift their hands.

"You will be healed tonight!"

They sob and shout hallelujah.

"All things are possible to him that believeth!"

People

Hinn repeats this same sentence three times, getting a bigger emotional reaction each time he says it.

Chant, song, gesture, salute--all the classic techniques used to submerge the individual into a group. It works for dictators and it works for Hinn. But now that he's joined them together in hope, he adds a dose of fear.

He speaks of huge disasters coming to the world. He tells them of the strange times we live in, a sinful world that will be cleansed by fire and earthquake. And there's only one slim hope to escape: "Only those who have been giving to God's work will be spared."

As a violin plays, money is collected in big white plastic buckets. And as the ushers do their work, Hinn's voice turns soothing. "Nothing will touch you. No one will touch your children. Nothing will touch your home."

Although he never says, "Donate money or you'll die," he comes close. There is a constant theme in his preaching of the connection between "giving" and "healing," making a "faith vow" and "having your needs met." He comes within a hair's breadth of saying, "If you give me money, you will be healed." And the collection always occurs between his promise of healing and the actual healing session--the same way street performers save their biggest trick until after the hat has been passed.

Hinn Blows

Along about 10 p.m., when all the checks and dead presidents have been collected, Hinn announces that God is speaking to him. Sometimes he sees angels in the room. Sometimes he sees ugly demon monsters that are fleeing from the building. ("You ugly spirit of sickness, go out of this place! Let God's people go!") Sometimes he just feels the presence of spirits, or angels. Once he saw the whole arena bathed in golden dust. And then, as though his body has been taken over by a force he can't control, he starts running around knocking people over. Sometimes he knocks them over with his coat, sometimes by blowing on them, sometimes by pushing their forehead with his hand--but when he touches them, they fall over. As he does this, he calls out the healings--a brain tumor, a cancer, a crippled left leg--as though he's watching something occurring that the rest of us can't see. And then, one by one, various people are brought up onto the stage, and an announcer describes their affliction so that Hinn can lay hands on them and pronounce the disease vanquished. On an average night he'll heal about 80 people, in addition to the ones he shouts out in a sort of "wherever you are, you're healed" way.

No wonder Hinn needs bodyguards. Very few, if any, of these people are actually healed. And when they die, or their disease becomes worse, their relatives tend to become angry. For the past 15 years this has been demonstrated over and over again by various investigative reports conducted with the resources of the Trinity Foundation, beginning with an Inside Edition show in 1993 hosted by Bill O'Reilly and reported by Steve Wilson.

Just a few examples:

He claims to have cured three people of AIDS, even though the Centers for Disease Control have never seen the HIV virus leave a body once it's infected.

He healed a case of brain cancer on stage, even though Inside Edition followed up with tests that showed the tumor was still present.

He pronounced a woman cured of heart disease, and she was so convinced that she threw away her heart medicine. Questioned about it, Hinn said, "It's not my job to call their doctor."

The "cure" of a deaf woman turned out to be a woman who, according to her doctor, was not deaf in the first place.

The cure of three deaf boys turned out to be bogus.

A Houston woman who thought she was cured of lung cancer ("It will never come back!" Hinn told her) rejected her doctors' advice and care--and died two months later.

The heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield, banned from boxing because of a heart condition, went to a Benny Hinn crusade in Philadelphia, had Hinn lay hands on him, and gave Hinn a check for $265,000 after he was told he was healed. In fact, he passed his next examination by the boxing commission, but later his doctors said he never had a heart condition in the first place--he had been misdiagnosed.

Hinn claimed that God ripped the pacemaker out of a woman's body because she didn't need it anymore.

Hinn claims that a man in Ghana was raised from the dead on the platform. "We have it on video!" he says--although he's never produced the video.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Even sadder than the people who think they're healed are the ones so sick that Hinn's employees never allow them to be seen on stage. People suffering from paralysis, brain damage, dementia and the like--people who couldn't possibly make any "demonstration" on stage--are rejected at a screening session held backstage.

In two cases journalists have tried to verify all the healings at a particular crusade. For an HBO documentary called A Question of Miracles, researchers attended a Portland, Oregon, crusade at which 76 miracles were claimed. Even though Hinn had agreed to provide medical verification of each one, he stonewalled requests for the data, then eventually responded 13 weeks later--with only five names. HBO followed up the five cases and determined that a woman "cured" of lung cancer had died nine months later, an old woman's broken vertebra wasn't healed after all, a man with a logging injury deteriorated as he refused medication and a needed operation, a woman claiming to be healed of deafness had never been deaf (according to her husband), and a woman complaining of "breathlessness" had stopped going to the doctor on instructions of her mother.

Then in December 2002 NBC's Dateline tried to duplicate the HBO study. At a crusade in Las Vegas they counted 56 miracles. Of those, Hinn eventually provided data "proving" five of them. Four of those people refused to share their medical records with NBC. The remaining one, a woman supposedly cured of Lou Gehrig's Disease, had been misdiagnosed, according to her doctor.

There have been so many documentaries and investigations on Hinn--almost all of them orchestrated by Trinity Foundation--that they even have a common structure:

Here's what he looks like in action.

Here's what he claims to do.

Here's what his critics say.

Is he a fraud or is he a healer?

Let's find out.

Not much healing going on.

Okay, here's what Hinn says in his defense.

And one thing Hinn says in his defense--when confronted with evidence that someone claimed to be healed and then died--is that "The reason people lose their healing is because they begin questioning if God really did it."

This may be his cruelest teaching of all. If you're not healed--or, worse yet, if your sick child is not healed--it's your fault, for not having enough faith. It's at this point that Hinn's ministry almost passes over into the realm of primitive magic--i.e., if you want it bad enough, and you say the right things and feel the right things, it will come true.

As it turns out, though, the media investigations are the best thing that ever happened to Hinn. They made him more famous, and more recognizable, than religious TV ever could have. And since most of his audience is made up of the truly desperate--the chronically sick, the dying, people living with pain--Benny Hinn became one more "treatment" for them to take a shot at.

When the first investigation broke, in March 1993, Hinn must have thought his empire was about to fall apart. There was a nasty shoving incident at the Philadelphia airport with Steve Wilson of Inside Edition, followed by a damage-control campaign in which Hinn went on many radio and TV shows, and met privately with several of his critics, to admit that he'd made mistakes and vow that he would never again air "miracles" on TV unless they had been medically verified. "God has taken me by the neck," he said to his congregation. "I think I'm gonna stop preaching healing and start preaching Jesus." At the request of Inside Edition, Ole Anthony traveled to Orlando to meet with Hinn. At the only face-to-face meeting the two men have had, Hinn said he was reformed and that he intended to start medically verifying all miracles and holding them back from television for six months, so that they could be proven authentic. He even said at one point that worldly wealth was sinful--something you'll rarely hear fall out of the mouth of a TV evangelist.

If you study this particular year in his life–1993--he's remarkably consistent in his statements, very self-aware of exactly what errors he's made, very humble, very apologetic, very interested in getting "back to the gospel." He even says at one point that he'll stop doing healing services entirely. And most everyone believed him--including Inside Edition, in a followup report, and including Anthony. "I was disappointed," says Anthony today, "that a year later he was back to his old tricks."

By 1994, it was as though the soul-searching of the previous year had never existed. He geared up to be bigger than ever. He added crusades, he became more flamboyant, more theatrical, and the procession of "miracles" flitting across the TV screen every day continued unabated.

Slain-in

Apparently what he'd discovered is that scandal was good for business. Or at least this particular type of scandal was good for business. Bakker and Swaggart--he must have thought of them at some point--had been brought down by sex, which is difficult for the Christian world to forgive. Greed, on the other hand, can be overcome. Tilton had been brought down by money issues, but after a few years of lying low, he was back in action. This was a whole new type of media attention. The reporters simply said "Is he a healer, or is he a fake?" And because it was presented as an open-ended question, the crowds got even larger.

Fifteen years later, Hinn has become something of a media master. Whenever he's investigated now, he simply admits his "mistakes." He's especially fond of going on The Larry King Show at any time of crisis. He's also refined his view of what he does. He doesn't heal anyone, he always reminds the interviewer. He just creates an atmosphere so that God can heal people. By the time people get to the stage, they've already been healed by God, he says. If the healing turns out to be bogus, then the person was self-deluded. Besides, hope is a great thing.

He also says he has a doctor backstage now to counsel the miracle cases and encourage them to continue with their medication until the healing has been verified. This seems to satisfy the media, even though it amounts to an admission of his own inability to know whether someone is healed.

The image he presents to the faithful is the opposite, of course. To them he's a man possessed of special wisdom. He sees things no one else can see. He has conversations with Jesus that no one else has had. He witnesses the presence of God when no one else would be aware of it. And he constantly says his teaching is "new." ("You didn't come here to hear the same preaching you've been hearing for 50 years, did you?") Of course, to orthodox Christians, this alone makes him heretical. Far from being "new," they would say, the gospel is unchanged over 2,000 years.

But there's an even darker side to Hinn and his organization. In 1998 two members of his inner circle died of heroin overdoses. In 1999, after one of his many vows of reform, he fired several board members and hired an ex-cop named Mario C. Licciardello to do an internal investigation of his ministry. Licciardello was the brother of Carman, who is sort of the Engelbert Humperdinck of Christian singers, so many think Hinn considered him "safe." But Licciardello did such a good job--taking hundreds of depositions and getting to the bottom of the heroin use--that Hinn then sued him. While Licciardello was still his head of security, Hinn’s organization filed a lawsuit demanding that all his files be turned over and sealed, because their public release could result in the end of the ministry. Licciardello was a police investigator with 25 years of experience, and he felt like his whole career was being smeared, so he fought back with his own lawyers. His counsel continually tried to take Hinn's deposition, but Hinn fought him at every step. The judge, however, ruled against him and said that, if Hinn intended to enjoin Licciardello, he would have to make himself available for questioning.

On the very day that Hinn was supposed to give his deposition in the case, Licciardello had a mysterious heart attack and died. The Hinn organization made an out-of-court settlement with Licciardello's widow, which included sealing the court papers.

The U.S. Attorney in Orlando had seated a secret Grand Jury to investigate Hinn; but Licciardello was the chief witness. After his death, Hinn was no-billed.

Hinn Cover

Hinn runs the largest evangelistic organization in the world that is not a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. That means his finances are private, his salary is secret, and his income is anybody's guess. Royalties from his books alone are estimated at $500,000 per year, but he essentially has carte blanche to take anything out of the till he wants. "He lives the lifestyle of a billionaire," says Ole Anthony, "all on the backs of false promises and selling false hope."

As Hinn put it himself, in a moment of rare revelatory candor, "I don't need gold in heaven, I gotta have it now."

During 1993, his one year of "reform," he talked about being stung by being portrayed as a millionaire and how he wanted to be "more Christ-like." His solution: "The Lord said sell the Benz and the watch."

He got rid of his Rolex and his Mercedes. Notice he didn't give them away. He sold them--and then replaced the Mercedes with a $65,000 BMW. This is what God told him to do. And who better to know what God wants, because Hinn, after all, is only the third person in the history of the universe to have actually seen God and lived to tell about it. God, he says, is 6-2 or 6-3, with long hair of a light brown color, and eyes that can look right through you.

So what is Benny Hinn really doing in Dallas? He's having conversations with a God who thinks about Rolexes and luxury cars a whole heck of a lot. God really did pick the right city, didn't he?


Comments(407)

PK | 11:43 am on 5/21/2008

"God's grace is truly awesome, to allow men like Benny so many chances to repent and be saved. The [relatively] good die young and the wicked linger presumably because the good are already secure, eternally speaking, and God doesn't want anyone to be lost, even the wicked."

And how many are "lost" both here and "eternally" because of Benny, while grace lingers *for* Benny?

that calvinist doug | 02:45 pm on 5/21/2008

PK, I've gotta side with Devin on this one. Hinn is ultimately not that much different from Deepak Chopra, Oprah-isms, New Age philosophy, and others. The book "The Secret" comes to mind. "Name it and claim it" can take the guise of many "religious" systems. The fact that proponents of orthodoxy oppose him tells a lot. The reputation of the God of the bible doesn't take a hit in my eyes because some buffoon abuses people and reason in His name.

lower-case pk | 11:10 pm on 10/04/2008

Apparently there's a couple of us going by pk on here. Good to know : )

Uppercase PK, I see where you're coming from. But I don't see why you're surprised... ultimately, if these were people swayed by logical proofs, what would they be doing listening to Benny Hinn in the first place?

But ultimately, although I don't think choosing sides is a useful metaphor to use in a discussion like this, I'm on Devin's side too (mostly).

In my experience, not all of the good die young... some of the good fight long hard lives, compounding the difficulty of living for Christ in this world at all with doing it over 70-80 years, facing the mistakes of your past and living with them every day, and watching good work after good work come seemingly to nothing.

And actually, I believe the quote was more along the lines of: whoever is not against us is for us. It's not inaccurate to reduce it to "you're either with me or against me" but I think it loses a lot of what makes it unique and meaningful.

But vengeance is the Lord's. And I think he is just as concerned (more, if those modifiers even apply to him) as justice and mercy being done on behalf of those who have been misled and hurt by guys like Benny as he is with doing justice and mercy on guys like Benny.

YBIC>>>David | 08:17 pm on 4/17/2009

Revelation 22:14-15 (New King James Version)
14 Blessed are those who do His commandments,[a] that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But[b] outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

My friend sin will land you in hell and it IS a real place..

Matthew 7:21-23 (New Living Translation)

True Disciples
21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

Please wake up sleepy Christians.... http://spiritlessons.com/Mary_K_Baxter_A_Divine_Revelation_of_Hell.htm#I...

Anonymous | 11:08 am on 5/21/2008

American "Heal-A-Thons"..."ONLY IN AMERICA...GEEZ, I LOVE THIS COUNTRY!" to quote another immigrant.

SRebbe | 11:15 am on 5/21/2008

Joseph Smith saw Jesus too.

Anonymous | 12:40 pm on 5/21/2008

Has anyone noticed how hard it is to find powerful, Biblical preaching and teaching these days. When someone brings an original and exegetically valid point out of scripture it is at best a flash in the pan - usually in a book that gets brief notice and then fades. The best way to combat Hinn and his ilk is to begin teaching what is actually in scripture. But to do that, pastors and teachers need to pay their dues. That means taking courses in Greek and Hebrew and continuing to use and study these languages after college and seminary so that their use remains alive. Too many pulpits are populated by "commentary cripples" who can't study, evaluate and exposit scripture for themselves. For many of those, the choice is plagiarism or charlatanism - or as in Hinn's case - both.

JT | 09:58 pm on 6/11/2008

reply to anonymous about finding preaching these days... look for Perry Stone on Manna-Fest. He is the real deal my friend. Jack Van Impe's show is another real one who knows what he's talking about. A lot of the people who know what they're talking about can be found on Joe Van Koeverings show on Tuesdays at 1:30 pm est
Most importantly is Perry Stones show or Jack Van Impe or Hal Lindsey. check them out. perrystone.org, billcloud.com, levitt.com, jvim.com

Anonymous | 11:21 pm on 6/18/2008

not Jack Van Impe Just looked him up not good Sorry

Anonymous | 01:25 am on 12/13/2008

I have done very detailed research on most of the prominent men of God. I was very shocked and dismayed at what i found. Please, to find out about them yourself, type in false prophets, false teachers, heresies, etc and you will surprise at what you will find. We are really in the last of the last days.

Anonymous | 03:30 am on 6/18/2009

I worked for Benny and I have been confused every since!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Aaron | 01:50 pm on 5/21/2008

Give me more! I need more insight into how this insanity goes on. Can you enlighten me a bit as to who these tens of thousands are that follow EACH of these fellas? More informative articles like this please - they're funny in their own way - not too serious. Well written and very informative.

Also, do you continue to share your findings (whether they're new or not) with the mainstream media to see if they would like to help with real exposure? Even if it helps in the short term I can't help but think consistent investigative reporting could bring him and others down for the most part.

thanks for the work Ole and company.

Robert Winkler Burke | 03:00 pm on 5/21/2008

Great article John!

I discovered a way to understand Hinn and company. Simply go to YouTube and search for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP.) It is a strange study of how words, touch, sight and environment can be used by one person to covertly change the behavior of another. Also search stage hypnotism, hypnotic induction and such.

You will find teachers of hypnotism glad to share their secrets. And guess what! It is very similar to the subtle ways of charismatic televangelists, just as John outlines in the above article.

Yes, hypnotists can induce falling backward, falling into a chair, laughter, you name it. But they don't do it in the name of God, they just do it for fun and money.

Now, certainly God heals. But just as certainly, there is a reason televangelists have a basketful of wily methods that garner healings, money and fame.

All this makes me wonder, how would a wise leader in Christ heal wise people of Christ, especially if the wise leader and the wise people were taught to avoid wiles of audience control? Jesus called it the leaven of the day.

Last point: The trick to stage hypnotism, or whacky televangelism, is to be subtle. Look at the new man in Florida. He's not so subtle. But no doubt, he's learning... just as did Benny Hinn. Hinn is now a master, and like all masters... it's much harder to figure how he does what he does.

The real problem is that the TBN family all supports each other in gross wiles of audience control that necessarily dims spiritual eyes and plugs spiritual ears. How can they ever repent of it all?

Prophet Lopi | 04:06 pm on 5/21/2008

What is the surprise? We live in a culture where the gods are self and money. Is it so strange that the religous culture is also about the love of self and money. Deception is tolerated in the heros of our culture, so why not the so called religious leaders. The poison of the love of self and money can be seen at all levels in what is called Christianity in America. It is only because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Seekers that the Prince and Power of the Air has not yet fully taken total control of so called Christianity in America. If it wasn't so serious it would be funny. But there is nothing funny about a culture going pel mel into the swirling vortex of half truths to gain earthly glory to only be ejected into the fire that burns forever.

James Fox | 05:17 pm on 5/21/2008

I can only saw how glad I'm able to say that I have shed the irrational trappings of Christianity and all belief in anything supernatural. There is no less fraud when any pastor or priest asks for money on Sunday morning for “God’s work”. All religions use manipulation and perpetuate delusions that, for some odd reason, require the hard earned money of the faithful.

Tim Wirth | 07:35 pm on 5/21/2008

Hey John: Great article. yes I think its about time Benny stops taking hits off the hookah pipe and come back down to earth. Keep on doing what your doing here. I really would like to see Benny repent but it must have had a large effect on him when he sucked all the spirit out of Aimee Semple Mcphersons grave site.
Kidding aside I have often wonder why the world often gets the fact that this guy is a fraud and Christians seem to get sucked into sending this fraud money.
Lack of discernment and serious Bible reading I reckon.
Best to you and Ole as you do the things you do.
A Old Late nite Joe Bob fan
Tim Wirth.
Glad to see your a brother in the Lord
When are you guys going to start beating up on frauds like Rick Warren though?

Ryan | 07:37 pm on 5/21/2008

James,
"All religions use manipulation and perpetrate delusions that, for some odd reason, require the hard earned money of the faithful."

Nearly twenty major religious divisions with their respective subgroups, denominations, and variations in practice exist according to Encylopedia Britannica. Your rejection of anything supernatural must take into account disregarding the collective experiences of all of these. If you have made such a study, then you are to be commended for your thoroughness.

I don't disagree that charlatans like Hinn are reprehensible, and he would fulfill your statement as one of many who prey on widows and their Social Security checks. But for every one of him, there are many more unheralded pastors (priests, etc) who live on modest means and stay as far away from this attitude as possible. Be careful not to paint too broad a brush.

On the bit on not believing in anything supernatural, consider the rule of cause and effect: I challenge you to name a causeless effect (verifiable by experimental means, not suppositions or theories). Now consider the beginning of All. What was its cause? Every effect has at its root a cause, and the universe has as its origin a First Cause. This Cause must be Uncaused, because there cannot exist an infinite regression of causes, for one cannot traverse an infinite number of units of time. By our existence in real-time, we ourselves prove the universe has a beginning. These statements are hardly irrational.

As of yet, I have only dealt with origins issues common to all religions, philosophies, and worldviews, not just Christianity. All who exist must answer this question within some sort of framework. Maybe you should take a second look at these things - if the universe has a First Cause, what is its nature? Is it sentient? Does it exhibit personality? Or is it just a force, an unknown element which we have yet to discover.

All to say - the natural has its limitations in what we know. It is the height of arrogance to assume that all that can be known can be known by us. How long has it taken us to "advance" this far?

Risking cliche - "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater". It seems like you've had a poor experience with the Christian church. That's too bad - and it will continue to happen. Simply rejecting Christ because Christians are screwups is in itself irrational. The question is: Do you agree with or disagree with the claims Jesus of Nazareth makes, or not, and what are your supporting arguments for your position? I would be interested in hearing them.

Sincerely,
Ryan

Rev.Dale E Shellenberger | 11:35 pm on 5/22/2008

Amen Brother

Stacie | 10:07 am on 1/28/2009

I am wondering if you are my long lost uncle? I have been looking for my dad's brother for over four years now. I was told that he maybe a minster, pastor or Rev? I am the daughter of Robert Warren Shellenberger of Danville PA. If this is you or you know of another man by the name of Dale Eugene Shellenberger would you please try and contact me. I mean no harm and only want for you to know that your family misses you and would give anything to see or talk to you again.

Respectfully
Stacy Ann (Shellenberger) Mahone

someone else | 08:47 pm on 5/21/2008

From Australia where we can say the truth out loud (although that doesn't mean anyone will believe you)
Why don't these people just say "give me money and I might be able to heal you"? That's what doctors' do and theres not a big controversy about that.

Joseph (SCOC_PG) | 10:24 pm on 5/21/2008

John Bloom. You are messing with a man of God. You have hate in your heart because the devil is working in you. Go ahead keep inventing lies. Remember, Satan is the creator of lies, and you are doing his work. You are also forgetting that Jesus went about healing everyone that came and believed. You are belittleing God that He does not do miracles as He did during the Bible times.
You are looking at the money people give for the ministry. I think all you said in here is garbage. Stop messing about with God's work. God will get you in the end. Open your eyes and see the truth. In the mean time God bless you and show you the truth.

Joseph

Anonymous | 11:16 pm on 5/21/2008

Oh, please, Joseph. Grow up.

Anonymous | 12:50 am on 5/22/2008

Why do so many "Crackpot Christians" manage to put up the most hideous websites?

At least "Joseph"'s doesn't have the ubiquitous flaming gifs or nauseating music but, Jeez Louise!, that's an ungly-ass website.

Just a note, "Joseph", Hinn isn't conducting his "ministry" from inside the confines of his private jet or his phoney-baloney mock-Moorish castle, he's a thief stealing from the poor and gullible to line his own pockets.

Face it. If God existed, he wouldn't be getting the message out by hand-picking certain individuals with bad comb-overs and Rolex watches. He'd stand up some sunny day in front of the entire World's population and give his message in person.

Robert Winkler Burke | 12:48 pm on 5/22/2008

What if God (Jesus, really) returned in santicified people (Revelation 1:7 calls it "clouds"). That's why the pure are blessed enough to see God. They see God in others, if they are humble enough. So what if certain people ARE standing up on certain sunny days in front of you and me and give personal messages to us -- from GOD? What if televangelists were all pretty much screwed up by wrong doctrine and glorify themselves in abomination (living without God)? What if they key test in all of this was humility? We'd have to be humble enough to honor those manifesting God, and perhaps even be humble enough to let He who lives in us come out and shine for others to see? What if THAT was what was happening in this day?
www.inthatdayteachings.com.

Anonymous | 06:38 pm on 5/23/2008

Which goes to my original point....

If God existed, he wouldn't be getting the message out by hand-picking certain individuals with bad comb-overs and Rolex watches. He'd stand up some sunny day in front of the entire World's population and give his message in person.

Note the "in person".

He wouldn't be bothering appearing through anybody but himself .... no "clouds", no "sanctified" (sanctified by whom?), no tests, no muddying the water with speaking only in English or speaking in tongues.... A personal message from God would be FROM God.

It hasn't happened up to this point and it isn't going to happen some sunny day in the future.

Fact... God doesn't "work in mysterious ways". He doesn't give messages to the Pope or to a guy with a bad comb-over or to some little kid or leave a face on a tortilla.... and he didn't write it in a book.

BJ | 08:13 am on 5/22/2008

You're a dumbass. Selah.

budda | 01:49 pm on 5/22/2008

Yep, BJ, your screwed. Only the "pure" and "humble" are blessed to see God.

Process Deist | 02:54 pm on 5/22/2008

I suppose there are places that an 8th grade drop-out can go and still be Ordanined as a Preacher.
Hold'em against the fire Brother! They ain't done yet.

Saul | 05:43 pm on 8/11/2008

Joseph! I`m a man of God, and listen to yourself. People who are really thinking Benny Hinn is a man of God, are blinded of his fraud! Theres no power within Benny whatsoever, he`s just a moneymaking con-artist. If you`ll know your bible, you`ll see you cannot obey mammon and God. And Mammon, thats whats is the first thing Mr. Hinn thinks of. If God would have contacted Benny in any way, he would have given him a hit in the face for doing all this shit he does in the name of the lord. And THAT could be his fatal move. I think God will one day strip him for all he got and give him whats he deserve.
Sorry that people are still thinking he`s a man of God tho, and believe in his miracle abilities. Knowing better is a kind of blessing.
If you`re an american, you`re excused for being an ignorant follower!

pk | 11:15 pm on 10/04/2008

"If you`re an american, you`re excused for being an ignorant follower! "

No you're not.

Seriously, it sounds like you've been leaving out the "mind" that you're supposed to be loving the Lord your God with all of. It's ok to think, man. In fact, it's required.

Anonymous | 04:32 pm on 11/04/2008

Joseph,
Order the movie "Suffer the Children" and listen to Atty Gary Richardson say that he has tried and tried to just find one single person that has had a miracle healing from Hinn, Copeland, etc. THEY CAN'T GIVE ONE SINGLE NAME....is something wrong with that picture? Oral Roberts even admitted that there is "exageration in these meetings!!" Mr. Richardson said he would go anywhere on his own dime to just speak to one person who can say they have had a miracle healing from any of these con men.....wake up dude....God is not mocked!!

Anonymous | 01:56 am on 12/13/2008

Joseph how can you be so dump after all these mountain of evidence?. Just for the simple fact that Jesus warned us to be very careful of wolves in sheep clothing is enough for me to do a detailed reseach on every man of God that comes my way. If possible to deceive the elect. This warning makes me very, very, cautious of every man of God. Joseph you will be very surprise if you read your bible very well that most of these men of God, what they preach do not align with the word of God. In 1 Timothy 1 the bible said that some will depart from the faith and give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Benny Hinn saying their are nine persons in the trinity is not scriptural but heresy. Do a detail research on Benny Hinn and you will be surprised at what you will find. Be like the Bereans in the bible who searched the scriptures DAILY!! to see if what they heard matched what was written in the bible.

F.B | 03:52 am on 1/12/2009

In my opinion, Benny Hinn is the biggest conman this world has ever known. wake up Joseph.....WAKE UP!!!!

Anonymous | 11:49 pm on 5/21/2008

Go ahead and give your money to support the bogus preacher Hinn. Then when you are sick and in the hospital, wait for him to visit you.(don't hold your breath)

ISM | 12:14 am on 5/22/2008

I would like to invite everyone to see my
illustration of the startling coincidences
of BENNY HINN & BENNY HILL
(just as amazing as Kennedy & Lincoln!)
click HERE!

this is a love gift from illustrationISM.
God Bless You My Beloved

JCW | 01:09 pm on 6/11/2008

ISM,
Pretty clever....you are very talented!

Mike | 08:09 am on 5/22/2008

Dear Mr. Bloom,

Thank you for the great article. I attented Benny Hinn's 2002 Louisville, KY "crusade" and witnessed many of things mentioned in your article: pronouncing the healings, people being slain in Spirit over and over. However,what I found most disturbing was how Benny Hinn would call "fire" down on the audience and people would fall in their seats. This was my first seed of doubt concerning Mr. Hinn. After all, did Jesus or the Apostles ever call "fire" on believers? I have also heard and read false prophecies made by Mr. Hinn (Fidel Castro dying in the 1990s, etc).
Televangelists like mr. Hinn are dangerous to the Body of Christ because they prey on the most desperate people of society. I am a Born Again Christian and I believe in a miracle working God. However, God in His SOVEREIGNTY can heal you if that is His will for your life. It is not some magic trick or some secret password as Mr. Hinn and the rest of the Word Faith teachers teach. You could do everything right in life and God could still choose not to heal your physical infirmity. Anyone ever read about Paul's thorn in the flesh? Keep the faith.

livr_life | 08:51 am on 5/22/2008

ISM - very interesting illustrations!!

http://www.thefaithdebate.com

BJ | 10:20 am on 5/22/2008

Let's give credit where credit is due. I'm not a fan of Benny Hinn, but it's obvious the whole fashion craze of wearing a cap a little sideways was inspired by his hair.

SRebbe | 01:34 pm on 5/22/2008

which came first, the ice cream man uniform or the Hinn-kee-dinkee suit?

Discerner 24/7 | 12:18 pm on 5/22/2008

It's nice that Benny sold his Mercedes and got a BMW. Oh the "sacrifices" these dudes have to make. Things are out of control with the likes of Hinn,Copeland,Crouch,Bentley,the list goes on and on! I can't wait for you guys to do a story on Todd Bentley's "Lakeland FL. revival!" If you already did I must've been sleeping.

BJ | 01:55 pm on 5/22/2008

The Lord has just revealed something to me. I'm feeling it deep down in my soul praise the lord. No wait that's the bbq I had for lunch. To much hot sause praise the lord.
Anyway, just think about the cartoon Fairly Odd Parents on Nickelodeon. Notice Timmy's hair. There are fairies helping him do amazing things. The parents aren't aware of what is going on. Benny Hinn is using Nickelodeon to brain wash our children into thinking he is legit. Praise Jesus for this great revelation. I am glad to share it with the body of Christ. If you would like to know more just contact me and request offer number 696969. People who ordered this annoited teaching also ordered: Kenneth Copeland and Jimmy Neutron - There's more than just similar hair. For a limited time we will include with your order: TBN or Bikini Bottom, You Decide. These teachings are some of the most anointed we've ever offered. There is an anointing on the anointing making it a double portion. No wait, I'm thinking about the bbq again.

JoshH | 05:51 pm on 5/22/2008

Offer number 696969?

Sounds like you've spent a lot of time reading that Becky Garrison review.

Anonymous | 04:41 pm on 5/22/2008

BJ - that was hilarious!!

JoshH | 05:44 pm on 5/22/2008

There are times that I'm jealous of Benny. I'd love to borrow his "Holy Ghost Machine Gun" from time to time (to borrow from an old "God Stuff").

JS | 06:58 pm on 5/22/2008

All I heard in here is NEGATIVITY. If you don't like Benny hinn why bother to waste your time with your insults? Or best thing to do is don't support him. It sounds like jelousy to me.

Someone said "If God exists" Well, He exists and one day that person will find out. He is the One that is keeping you breathing buddy and don't you forget it.

Process Deist | 07:31 pm on 5/22/2008

And the POSITIVE side of Benny Hinn ministry is WHAT ?
Please help me out here.
I will read every word of your response.

Prophet Lopi | 08:50 pm on 5/22/2008

There isn't one, unless you think like this:

1. At least you know who one of the false prophets are.

2. You are amazed that how easily some folks are decieved.

3. You know why you feel ill when you turn on so called christian tv

4. It gives you something more to pray about.

Teddy Bear Mohammed | 02:44 pm on 5/23/2008

Benny Hinn proves god doesn't exist. The Old Testament god would had smote him years ago, (or if Hosea had his way, Benny would had been aborted)

JS | 02:29 pm on 5/27/2008

Greetings!
Process Deist, the POSITIVE side of Benny Hinn ministry is that God is the healer and not Benny Hinn.
God uses people who are dedicated to do His work, but they are not the healers...God is. Therefore, Benny Hinn is the vessel whom God uses to do the healing through prayer.

You can go directly to God the Father through Jesus Christ who is the mediater between man and God. He will hear every word in your prayer, and He will deliver according to His will not yours. Remember, God knows what is best for us more than you ever think.

All what some people see is the "$" sign and miss the message preached. How naive. God bless you.

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