Thursday, August 7, 2008

This Dude Thinks He’s Jesus


Benny Hinn visits Houston, Free Press pays Benny Hinn a visit
by Mills-McCoin
Illustration by Timothy Tuxedo


I was practicing my short game in Omar’s front yard when he walked out to complain about the noise. Tim was drawing pictures and keeping bar from his lawn chair situated next to the record player but safely behind the tee box. He was serving Bloody Mary’s on this particular Saturday morning in July.
I chipped another ball. Omar grabbed my nine iron with anger and expletives; and asked that I no longer hit golf balls at his bay window. I grabbed his shoulder and said, “Hey, man... this dude thinks he’s Jesus.”
Omar was stunned, so Tim threw a paper airplane from behind the bar and hit him square in the belly. He unfolded the airplane and found a ticket to Benny Hinn’s Holy Spirit Miracle Service. He looked up at me with the joy of a boy trippin’ on Christmas. Tim cued up the record player to Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard” and thoughts of good old-fashioned trouble poured over Omar’s brain.
We ran around the yard like children until the song ended; then jumped in the car and headed to Rudyard’s to brief over beer and burgers. Omar was familiar with this crazy bastard, but I had done some “research” and felt the need to share. So I began to regale the mythology of Benny Hinn.
Toufik Benedictus “Benny” Hinn is a smarmy mad man that lays claim to special powers of healing given to him by God (specifically, the one from the Bible). He moved to Orlando and founded his first church in 1983, the Orlando Christian Center. That’s right, this jackass opened shop on Walt Disney’s turf. Normally, the idea of someone trying to compete against Walt Disney in a contest of “who’s got a bigger imagination” seems silly and predictable. But no. No. Nope.
But back to Benny and his jet. The alarming success of his “healing services” has allowed Benny to relocate to Southern California’s Orange County with his family and television show, which is called “This Is Your Day.” The name of the show never changes. It’s always YOUR day.
Benny Hinn lives lavishly in his ten million dollar home and flies around to his various “miracle crusades” on his jet (I wasn’t just making a pun earlier- he actually has a jet that costs nearly $200,000 a month to operate). And he doesn’t just go to the local pentecostal church downtown. No. No way. There’s no money in that. This dude fills stadiums with people- that either believe he is actually a circus freak with magical powers or skeptics, like me. And on this day, Benny’s Travelling Bullshit Show was at the Toyota Center.

We parked downtown two hours before the show started and left Tim sitting on the hood of the car- drawing, of course (he was our getaway driver if it came to that). We walked into the Toyota Center and Omar’s head began to change colors as he tried to take in all the information from his new environment at once like a child.
As expected, it was crowded; and it didn’t take long for me to get separated from Omar. I knew he would show up later though, so I wasn’t worried. I continued walking about by myself trying my best not to participate in the madness but failing beautifully. The scene was surreal. It was a circus. When was the last time you went to church and the concession stands were open? Popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs, nachos- the usual suspects, but draft beer was not available. I was heart broken. Sorta. Alcohol and miracles do seem to go hand in hand though.
There was a table near the entrance where old women with blue hair were loudly selling books (no Bibles though) and other merchandise used to brainwash all of humanity. Amongst the propaganda was a DVD which assured me that if I believed in God (again, specifically the one from the Bible) and did whatever the DVD commanded me to- then my FINANCIAL CRISIS WOULD GO AWAY. I knew then that I was dealing with liars. Familiar foes of mine. And sometimes not foes at all.
In any case, I left the table and went to look for a seat before any of the old ladies could trap me with the magic they were hiding in their hair. I found a spot halfway up, between a middle aged black woman who was already weeping and a middle aged Mexican woman sitting with her children who were eating cotton candy. I felt very alone.
The air smelled like a thousand different perfumes battling it out to see which one can remind me of church the most.
The service began with songs being sung by a patchwork choir-for-hire (Benny Hinn doesn’t have his own choir because that would require him to pay people money- so he works the sympathy gig and gets the voices for free from different churches around whatever town he’s flown to on his jet). All of a sudden, Benny Hinn appeared in front of the pulpit on the stage. I had no idea what was going on until I saw him. I didn’t understand the mechanics of his show... until I saw him. He was clad head to toe in white- like a klansman almost. He sported tannish ostrich skin dress slippers with his white cruise director suit. I won’t lie, he looked godly. On his left was the music and on his right was a bullpen of pastors and other minions dressed in dark suits. Behind Benny was the choir. Earlier, when I said it was a circus- it got circus-ier.
The first act was an eleven year old girl that Benny called out of the audience to the stage. She looked like Rudy from The Cosby Show. Rudy proceeded to sing a song like a miniature Whitney Houston strung out on electric cocaine. I will concede- it was pretty miraculous.
The next act was a heart-warming lesson from Benny on how to dodge the IRS. He actually talked about it. I was shocked. With his forked tongue, Benny said that all inquiries into his ministry had been concluded and he’s cleared to continue stealing people’s money.
The third act was a music/salvation combo. The music was wondrous and probably scored by Andrew Lloyd Webber or whoever does work for Jerry Bruckheimer. Benny climbed back to the top of his mountain and asked that everyone who had been “saved” by that point- stand up. Omar magically reappeared on the floor, five or six rows from the front!
Omar was the first to stand up then hundreds of others scattered across the Toyota Center followed suit. Benny applauded their salvation and commanded them to come to the front of the stage so that he might bless them- closer. He ran up to the stage like he was going to sit in Santa’s lap. Everyone stood silently during the blessing of “the new people”; all except Omar, who was wiggling like a puppy dog. After the blessing, I made eye contact with him and he joined me up in the cheap seats.
Then it was time for the wallets and checkbooks to come out and vomit forth revenue into the belly of Benny the Hinn. Buckets were passed around to collect all of the booty. I didn’t donate but Omar scribbled, “You are a fraud,” on the back of his business card and dropped it in the bucket with hopes of a free lunch. Benny continued to preach words that encouraged people to donate and assured them that they would get something back- someday. For crying out loud (which is what a lot of people were doing at the time), he wasn’t even being Karl Rove about it. He laid out his evil right in front of us... and people bought it. He hadn’t even performed a miracle yet!
But then he did- and that’s when the shit hit the jet engine.
After the buckets were collected, Benny’s enthusiasm took a turn for the violent. His speech got darker and more condemning. Over and over again, he repeated exact phrases as if to cast a spell upon us. Then without warning, Benny screamed at the minions like a dirty old pirate, “Fire on ya!” and they all fell back into their chairs or to the ground. He did this several times while yelling and carrying on like a professional wrestler on pay per view.
And that was it- that was the “miracle”. After six hours, he healed, what was essentially, his entourage. You can’t “heal” people that work for you and call it a miracle. That’s flagrant. And the biggest surprise of all was that nobody asked for their money back. That’s what disturbed me the most. It wasn’t Benny Hinn that bothered me; it was the fools perpetuating his fraud. Benny Hinn simply manipulates people’s vulnerabilities for profit. He’s not the only one, so I can’t throw stones. But the people that “contribute to his cause”- those are the vipers. They are the ones aiding and abetting this con artist; and getting nothing in return but more lies.
If you ever see a man dressed in white with Bibles in his hands and dollar signs in his eyes- he ain’t Jesus.

1 Comments:

At August 9, 2008 12:46 PM , Anonymous james said...

Hilarious article! I watch this bastard all the time and marvel at his audacity.

 

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