Hinn: God will be the final judge
Mass hypnotism, unproven healings, an extravagant lifestyle and lack of financial accountability are some of the allegations levelled against US televangelist Benny Hinn in the six hour, three DVD set The Many Faces of Benny Hinn.
The 53 year-old televangelist, whose real name is Toufik “Tutu” Benedictus Hinn, was born in Israel but moved to Canada with his parents. For 30 years he has held crusades all over the world from which he broadcasts highlights on his television show This is Your Day.
The investigative tapes were being offered by general secretary of the Sanatan Maha Sabha Sat Maharaj who waged a campaign to prevent Hinn from entering the country and holding his three-day crusade at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, which ends this afternoon.
They were produced by the Trinity Foundation, a Dallas-based televangelist watchdog group led by president Ole Athony. The bulk of the tapes feature investigative pieces on Hinn from various television news shows including Dateline NBC and CNN News.
The news reports are mixed together with clips from Hinn’s television show which features him making statements such as not wanting to drive a Mercedes Benz if it would cause a brother to stumble-in a later report he is shown driving just that make of automobile-that only people who gave to God’s work would survive an impending disaster and admitting that he had said some “stupid things” in the past.
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He is also shown predicting that TBN would become an extension of heaven on Earth and that people would be bringing their dead relatives up to the television to be resurrected.
The series also featured comedic pieces poking fun at Hinn on Comedy Central’s Daily Show and late night talk shows.
In the various interviews with Anthony, who appears in most of the reports, he describes Hinn as goofy, a liar, a mass hypnotist and a showman “marketing” miracles and damaging the faith of his followers.
In an HBO report neuroscientists also describe Hinn’s healing methods as mass hypnotism and his visions, which include angels and Jesus Christ, as a “God experience” that could be recreated with electrical stimulation of the temporal lobes.
They also compare his ministering style with those used by Adolf Hitler to marshal his Nazi troops.
Hinn said the HBO report made him “sick to his stomach” because it broadcast only five minutes of a two-hour interview.
In the different investigations the interviewers report on attempts to verify miracles at Hinn’s crusades, with some using a greater sample than others. The people who they had tracked down either were never healed, had their symptoms return or had died.
A Dateline NBC reporter noted that though Hinn claimed that the follow-up process to healings were exhaustive and well documented the investigators were refused any proof of the healings.
Hinn’s ministry said that it was impossible to investigate all the healings and the evangelist noted that it was possible to be healed and lose it.
He said that he recognised that it was not him but Jesus who was the answer to people’s problems and repeatedly noted that he does not heal anyone.
In the 60 Minutes report in 1998 the reporter opened by declaring that Benny Hinn is a “dangerous fake” and a shameless salesman selling false hope.
The report featured people who had been declared healed but still suffered with their illness, including one woman who had stopped taking her doctor’s medication.
Hinn said that neither he nor his staff would recommend that anyone throw away their medicine or stop going to their doctors.
He also advised that after someone got healed they should wait a year. He said, however, that even if 50 per cent of the people who said they were healed on the programme were actually healed it would still give someone hope.
One case of healing that Maharaj has been focusing on is the death of Marcano Siewkumar who went to Hinn’s crusade in Trinidad in 1999 and was told he was healed of heart disease, kidney failure and hypertension. Siewkumar, who had forsaken his Hindu background for Christianity, died soon after of his illness.
Rev Sandra Mansingh Vallie, who also attended the crusade, had a different experience. She told the Sunday Express before the first crusade she was a prostitute, drug user and Benny Hinn critic.
When a fractured hip she had suffered as a child started to affect her spine and lumba area and she lost her ability to walk. Vallie said she spent all the money she had on doctors and visited pundits, obeahmen and also took a “bush bath”.
“I try all the gods I knew excepting Jesus Christ,” she said.
She recalled laying on three chairs at the crusade and, after responding to Hinn’s call for people to lay hands on where they were ill, she touched her back and felt “electricity” on her body.
She slowly put her feet down and finally stood up, crying under the “anointing”. Vallie noted that after her healing she decided she wanted God and gave up her life of prostitution and drug use.
Besides criticism of healings the other major issue in the investigations was the finances of Benny Hinn Ministries. In the reports the ministry was described as a religious empire that brings in US $100 million, tax free because it is a church, annually in donations.
The evangelist is presented as having an opulent lifestyle that included a $3 million home with his wife and children, staying in five star hotels and a leased personal jet.
Hinn said the ministry paid nothing for his home or car and reported that his income is from his salary, which he noted is between US$500,000 and US$1 million annually, and from the sale of book royalties.
The ministry said his followers know Hinn’s schedule is relentless and his territory the whole world and the evangelist noted that he disagreed that preachers should live in “sackcloth”.
They also noted that the finances were needed for the expenses of the television show, crusades around the world, staff salaries and for churches and orphanages.
A report in 2005 makes mention of Hinn’s ministry and its assistance of the poor and needy around the world. On the television broadcast, his representatives reported that 20,000 children were fed and clothed around the world and US$20,000 a month was being donated to a hospital in Calcutta, India.
Anthony and other sources in the interviews, including people claiming to be Hinn insiders, also criticised Hinn for the lack of financial accountability of his ministry. They noted that unlike other headline preachers such as Pat Robertson or Oral Roberts, Hinn’s ministries had not made public their accounts or joined the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability.
According to Hinn’s website bennyhinn.org in a 2004 financial accountability audit the money collected during offerings and crusades was divided as follows: four per cent for ministry development, 13 per cent for ministry administrative support, 38 per cent for the broadcast ministry and 45 per cent for international missions and crusades.
In a follow up report by Dateline NBC Hinn told the reporter that his financial board had been replaced because they had been keeping him out the loop regarding the financial workings of the ministry. He added, however, they had not been doing anything illegal.
He noted that if someone was not living right or honestly the anointing would be a curse and not a blessing.
Vallie, who is now a reverend, married and residing in New York, said she looked forward to meeting Hinn for the first time at this year’s crusade.
“He is an anointed man of God, a prophet, a priest and a king (who) God is using in this time and hour through deliverance, healing and teaching,” she said.
According to Anthony, Hinn needed to stop the “hype” and giving God the “worst name in the history of religion”.
As the curtain closes on the second crusade it is likely that there will be more controversy over what occurred during the past three days.
In one interview Hinn predicted that controversy will be a part of his life until the day he died. He said, however, that he answers to a greater power than the general public and so it seems that, in the end, God will be the final judge on who is Benny Hinn.