On the heals of the arrest of biker gang leader/Pastor Phil Aguilar of Anaheim on suspicion of attempted murder, I started to wonder: Who is the more dangerous man who appeared regularly on Trinity Broadcasting Network: a person who allegedly broke a pool cue over someone's head in a barroom brawl in Newport Beach or a self-proclaimed faith healer who tells believers with incurable illnesses that they've been miraculously healed by God?
"Faith healer" and suspected multi-millionaire Benny Hinn is one of TBN's most celebrated pastors. His daily "This Is Your Day!" television show airs in primetime, and during the network's twice yearly "praise-a-thons" he serves as one of the network's most effective fund-raisers. Hinn's (and TBN's) basic pitch: if you want to be wealthy and/or healthy, provide God with evidence of your faith (by giving money to TBN/Hinn's ministry).
Many channel surfers view Hinn -- with the Nehru suits and comb-over -- as a harmless buffoon of televangelism, healing folks by "slaying in the spirit" on stage with a wave of his hand and sending them falling over backward like so many bowling pins.
Do you know how many people have died because they believed they had been cured by the "faith healer" Hinn (he's always quick to point out that he is only God's instrument and it's the Lord who heals) and stopped their medications and trips to the doctors? I don't know and neither does Hinn. But several national television news shows have interviewed survivors who say their loved ones did just that and died.
A few years back, I attended a Benny Hinn Miracle Crusade at the Honda Center in Anaheim and found a kid named Jordie who had come down from Canada. Jordie proudly showed me the shunt in his arm that he used for dialysis and said, "I watch Pastor Benny, and he says we need to step in faith to show God we truly believe He can heal us. So I stopped getting dialysis a few days ago. I had to. I mean, what kind of faith do I have if I keep doing dialysis when God will heal me."
To his doctor's dismay, Jordie stayed off dialysis throughout the Miracle Crusade weekend. Fortunately, he didn't die -- no thanks God or Hinn. (He had to go on dialysis as soon as he arrived home.)
From a logic standpoint, I understood Jordie's thinking. Pastor Benny promises (over and over again each day) that God will heal you IF your faith is strong enough. And what's a better sign of faith than to toss aside medical treatment and really solely on God's healing powers?
There is perhaps no cruelly sad place on Earth that a sports arena after a Hinn Miracle Crusade "heals" its last person. The facility is littered with people -- the terminally ill, the paralyzed, the diseased, the misshapened -- who believed (because they were told) that they would be restored to health that very night. They had fantasies of walking or running or laughing or simply scratching their nose again. But they were still broken, same as before. And now they had another burden, believing they had been barred from God's healing touch because they didn't have enough faith.
Hinn's rewards for all this heartache are plentiful. He lives in a ministry-owned home -- valued at more than $20 million -- in Ritz Cove on the Pacific in Dana Point. He drives luxury cars, flies in a corporate jet, stays in presidential suites, eats in five-star restaurants and is usually flanked, for unfathomable reasons, by two burly bodyguards. I often wonder if Hinn sleeps well at night in his mansion overlooking the cliffs of Dana Point. I'm guessing that he does -- with a big smile on his face.
Hinn's "healings" -- even if completely bogus -- are protected by the First Amendment. No civil or criminal court can prove whether Hinn really hears from God (though judging by his failed prophesies, we can at least assume the connection is really, really poor). Or whether someone is healed by Hinn's touch. Or whether Hinn believes the crap he spouts. An attempt to prove any of that would amount to a heresy trial and the Constitution doesn't allow that.
In my opinion, that means the world's most famous "faith healer" -- whose followers hang his every word -- can do much more damage to people (emotionally, spiritually and physically) than someone involved in a single bar fight.