An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
I know, especially as it is often hammered home by my Church and her Tradition, that I am not to judge people. But by the same token there is a time to "cleanse the Temple." No, I am not Jesus, nor am I worthy to wash the feet of the disciples who from time to time stood up against something or someone in righteous judgment. But, in this case I will daringly go out on that dangerous precipice which I too often visit in sin.
As was the case the last time I was here, Benny Hinn posters abound in Kampala right now. He is carry on some miracle concert/crusade thing this very weekend at some Ugandan "miracle center." Even as a Pentecostal evangelical I thought Hinn to be a heretic at best and an outright fraud at worse. Now, I believe even more that he is an absolute fraud...even worse. What will it cost a Ugandan Christian desperate for a miracle to attend this event? $50 US Dollars. When I heard this amount, I about fell out of my chair and no small number of ungraceful words flew forth from my mouth. The man doesn't even have the decency to offer his "miracles" for free (or even just with a free-will love offering collected.) HE'S SELLING TICKETS!!! God forgive me, but this is wholly anti-Christ. It is evil. Many of you back home in America have no idea how much $50USD is to the average Ugandan. IT IS A FORTUNE! And yet, it would seem, so many see Hinn here as a "man of God" and I have in my mind visions of the sick here collecting their life savings in the hope of some miracle this weekend. How on earth can this man, who owns his own jet and lives in luxury even by my standards, be driven down that road from Entebbe to Kamapala through abject poverty, and NOT fall on his knees with tears of repentence for coming to take money from these people under the pretense of being a "man of God" surrounded by miracles???? I cannot fathom it. Even with every ounce of grace I can muster, I cannot envision a remotely sacred rationale for this.
Can you imagine Sts. Peter or Paul throwing together "miracle crusades" like this? Charging exorbitant fees to lay their hands on people??? I am reminded of Simon Magnus (Acts 8:9-24) in reverse. It's unthinkable! "Silver and Gold we have none, but what we do have we give freely..."
What is Hinn doing for Uganda? Is he funding orphanages? Is he supporting the Uganda Cancer Insitute? Is he doing anything save jetting in, collecting his money, putting on a show, and jetting home. I'd feel a little better about the expensive shows he was putting on if I could be assured that he is exceptionally generous with that money and is actively putting it to good use here. Are there Benny Hinn Orphangaes here? Benny Hinn scholarship programs? Health Clinics? Anything? None that I know of. And so I am led to the conclusion that this man is little more than a "holy spirit" salesman who is taking advantage of the poorest of the poor while living in luxury. God help me, but I can see it no other way.
My perception of the type of person to whom the title "man of God" applies has manifestly changed, in no small part due to Orthodoxy. It is NOT the man who stands in the bright lights and charges fees for his miracles, rather it is the man who tirelessly and quietly works to help others, it is the hermit who makes war against him or herself while praying for the world. Miracle workers in Orthodoxy almost always receive their limelight after they are asleep in the Lord. We may hear of their deeds in their life, but rarely will you see them buying their own aircraft.
“So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.
I agree with you - $50 US for a Ugandan is an incredible amount of money and to charge people living in poverty a sum this large in the hopes of being miraculously healed is scandalous. I have visited Uganda myself a few times and I have seen billboards the likes of Hinn's as well as another "man of God" named Creflo Dollar (if you don't know him, his name says it all) and it horrifes and saddens me to see Ugandans falling for their schemes which only serve to make these men prosperous.
I would like to humbly ask you to visit a different website to see another option for helping the children of Africa. For a monthly fee as small as $12.50 US you can send a Ugandan child to school. 100% of the sponsorship fee is sent directly to the child in need - NONE of it is used to cover the administrative expenses of the program in the US (and none goes into the pockets of those who administer this program!). To learn more or to choose a child in need to help please visit www.hishandsforafrica.org or visit their blogspot - http://hishandsforafrica.blogspot.com
Would that his organization be investigated. I have for most of my life lived in poorer rural areas. Unsolicited flyers would find their way into my mailbox, promising all sorts of blessings from God if only I would send a "seed" donation.
Indeed, we are called not to judge--we cannot know what he believes he is doing, let alone what is really in his heart. But his organization seems to target the poor and the desperate with the hope of buying God's love. I only wish so many I know didn't buy into it.
The Ministry Watch website has a section on Benny Hinn Ministries is what one might expect: http://www.ministrywatch.com/profile/Benny-Hinn-Ministries.aspx
Lord have mercy for passing judgment before the time, but the fire of hell will be kindled with his money. On the other hand, as a wise elder once told me "If people aren't in the market for it, they won't buy it." Desperation is on both sides of the equation in some ways. sigh.
I am very sorry for this. I am a product of this movement. I graduated from Oral Roberts University and participated in Crusades around the world. It was many of the abuses and cults of personality that helped lead me to the Church. Unfortunately many people think that they are doing good, but when in actuality they are selling indulgences.
"Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." May the Kingdom come to Uganda in wholeness and purity and Father forgive our sinful actions and as well as our inaction.
I just cannot fathom the conscience that would allow one to come here, see the incredible poverty and then feel okay about flying off in my personal jet back to my luxury having profited from these people - ESPECIALLY if I was selling God.
Now I shall return to examining my own need to reevaluate my life in light of what I see.
I'm sorry to say that as I think about Benny Hinn and the other charlatans and con men like him that this comes to mind (a quote from H.L. Mencken): "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats."
On a completely unrelated topic, James, my sister-in-law and her family would like to visit your church. Would you mind if I sent them your e-mail? They've been attending a Lutheran Church in Kingston.
Thanks, James! I should apologize to everyone about the Mencken quote. I certainly have my issues -- but that kind of exploitation makes my blood boil, and if we have to wait for perfection to react and act to this kind of evil then we're in trouble.
It isn't quite the same thing but I see the folks making millions off of their Rapture porn -- LeHaye, Hal Lindsey, and others -- and often think the same thing about them. I suppose God can use just about anything and anyone to bring people to Him, but the people who enrich themselves off the misery and fear of others are really, really despicable, in my humble opinion.
I will pass along your e-mail. Their names are Kathy and Gene Raymond. They have four kids. He's a mechanic and works in Kingston. She works part-time at Bank of America.
We are over your way in a few weeks for my daughter's wedding. I know my wife would love to visit your parish, as would I. I will be in touch, if it looks like it is going to work out. Be safe.