Two weeks ago, famous televangelist Benny Hinn performed in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. This week, Friday August 31st and Saturday September 1st, he is performing for thousands of people in the Ahoy centre in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Benny Hinn was born in Jaffa, Israel, as Toufik Benedictus Hinn in 1952 from an Armenian mother and a Greek father. They emigrated to Toronto in 1968. An unremarkable student, he quickly became noticed for his frantic interest in Christianity and the Bible. Despite his parents’ misgivings, he became a Born-Again Christian. He was later heavily influenced by faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman.
Benny Hinn became quite popular in Toronto and even hosted his own evangelical program on local television. Later, he met Suzanne in Florida, married her and started his evangelical and faith healing empire from the church where her father was a pastor. North America quickly became too small for Benny Hinn’s ambitions and he is now active all over the world.
The conservative nature of Europe makes it traditionally one of the hardest nuts to crack, but Benny Hinn is cracking even this one. He has been active in Europe for the past ten years, and is becoming more and more popular over there, in spite of occasional and rather rare negative comments in the media. This weekend, Friday and Saturday, Benny Hinn has rented the Ahoy in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In spite of Europe’s profound and open hatred for all things American, the entire venue is already filled. So much so, that the Hinn organization has now rented an adjacent hall with thousands of seats and put up giant television screens in order to accommodate more people.
Benny Hinn is an evangelist, and as such he is devoted to spreading his interpretation of the Bible, which coincides at least partly with the so-called Word of Faith or Prosperity Gospel, something he does in his daily television program “This is your day”, a program that is televised in dozens of countries all over the world. However, he is especially (in)famous for his Miracle Crusades. These crusades are carefully orchestrated rock-concert type events in which the high point consists of miraculously healing the sick.
Unfortunately, the miraculous healings Benny Hinn claims are subject to heavy controversy and criticism. In spite of his claims, he has never been able to produce the slightest evidence of the reality of these healings. Worse, many of the people he declared healed have later died of the very diseases he claimed they no longer had.
The ministry of Benny Hinn is subject to more criticism. His flamboyant lifestyle, evidenced by a private jet, a house costing several million dollars, stays in the most expensive hotels in the world, and lavish spending on trivialities, goes hand in hand with a blatant disregard for the sorry fate of many of his followers.
In 2004, Canadian broadcaster CBC has created a bone-chilling report about Benny Hinn. They have recently retransmitted it, updated with data about some of the people Benny Hinn claimed were cured. Please watch it, if you haven’t seen it before.
The trouble with religion is that it encourages blind, unquestioning belief. It is this blind belief that allows unscrupulous people to rob often-desperate people of the money they need for treatments that could actually heal them. As such, in my opinion, faith healing should be considered a crime of the highest order.
Yes, we enjoy freedom of religion. I agree with that. The government should have no say in what we decide to believe, on the condition that we do not harm others. However, the government is also supposed to protect us from harm. As such, it should spread information about faith healers, and their achievements.
After all, modern pharmaceuticals are subject to incredibly thorough tests to ensure their safety, and even then, some nasty side effects that are discovered later on can lead to their withdrawal after the products had been approved.
Faith healers are not checked, they need no license, no proof, not the slightest evidence, and they are most certainly not subjected to double-blind tests, one of the most important achievements of modern science. All in the name of the freedom of religion.
I believe that this type of freedom is not only undeserved, but that the lack of action by the government in this context, makes our politicians direct accomplices to the deaths that are the result of the blind faith gullible people place in faith healers.
Benny Hinn's website can be found here: www.bennyhinn.org and www.bennyhinn.nl.