A few years ago, a Houston, Texas, woman went with her mother to a Benny Hinn crusade. Her mother was suffering from lung cancer and hoped to be healed by Hinn – and she got her chance, even being allowed to go on stage in front of thousands and be healed. At least, that’s what she thought. The mother gave hundreds of dollars to Benny Hinn’s organization and quit taking her medication. Soon after the crusade, she was dead – another of “faith-healer” Benny Hinn’s followers gone.
Of course, the initial thought when someone sees the extravagant crusades of Hinn is that he’s harmless. No one really buys into this, do they? But even though he follows in the line of deceptive televangelists, Hinn continues in popularity, with his television program airing in 190 countries, receiving $100 million a year in donations and currently traveling around the globe. The pressing problem is in his growing popularity: He’s on a consistent schedule of crusades all around the world, and he will soon be coming to cities like Long Beach, Oklahoma City, Anaheim and Detroit.
Sure, we’re all disgusted by a guy like Jimmy Swaggart, who used donation cash for prostitutes and repeatedly lied about it, all while continuing to beg for more money on television. But Benny Hinn isn’t much better. In fact, he may be worse. He epitomizes the dark side of consumerism gone awry in religious communities – specifically taking shape through televangelism. In Machiavellian style, he preys on the fears of people, offering them pseudo-Christian spirituality and unverified healing. Then weeks later, when the cancer isn’t gone and the back problem continues, the hopes of unsuspecting people are shattered. Adding insult to injury, Hinn preaches the heresy that all our problems are founded in lack of faith.
Hinn recently had a crusade in Bangalore, India, where over 7 million attended. But days later we heard stories about religious fraud, like this reported by the Times of India: “Col. Samuel suffers from immobility of the right side of the body. Hoping for a miracle, he, with wife in tow, managed to shuffle up to the stage – only to be jostled away by an organizer who said: ‘Only if you are healed can you go on stage. If you’re not healed by Jesus, your time has not come.'”
Benny Hinn brings his religious bizarrerie to millions of the poorest people in countries like India, and when it’s over, he flies aboard his private jet, to his luxury cars, and home to his multi-million dollar house in Southern California or presidential suites in ritzy hotels. In 1997, he told CNN that he earns between $500,000 and $1 million a year. And maybe this is the most honest image of Hinn – the money is where it’s at.
The biggest question, however, and the most disconcerting is why this man is being portrayed as a herald of Christianity. Next month, Hinn is coming here to Oklahoma City, and churches are already promoting his crusade. Why? How can a heretic be warmly welcomed in the buckle of the Bible Belt? The only explanation I have is this: Either shallow consumerism has completely deluded the minds of church leadership, or we are too afraid to call out “ministers” like Benny Hinn. He’s a smooth talker; he can deflect the criticisms, and his manipulation techniques instill credibility in far too many. Yet, something must be done to confront the televangelist culture that is frequently welcomed on stations like the ridiculous Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Unsuspecting people are being fed lies, and standing up to these frauds with truth and Scripture is the most honorable thing we as Christians could do. Trading in truth for a false sense of unity will bring nothing but harm to all people.