Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Morality Clauses Still Count? Amazing. The Latest On The Benny Hinn & Paula White ..uh, Incident

Last July, a rather discomfiting bit of news was raised in the Charismatic and Pentecostal world galaxies when these picture surfaced in the National Enquirer, pictures that very plainly showed charismatic luminaries Benny Hinn and Paula White in a rather intimate setting outside a hotel in Rome. The account suggested they'd had a romantic encounter there and that Hinn had signed in under an assumed name, thus fueling speculation that this was what had indeed happened.

White and Hinn are well known globally for their preaching and teaching ministries and were known to cross paths now and then as they and their fellow "God's Generals" flitted all over the globe espousing fiery preaching of Christianity framed in the prosperity gospel. White had been divorced for some time from her husband Randy, but Hinn's own divorce from his wife Suzanne Hinn had yet to be finalized thus putting them both in a clearly unflattering light.

Both Hinn and White's denials of anything illicit or immoral were vehement and well publicized although coming several days after the reports first surfaced. It didn't convince too many people except those of their faithful followers and supporters who still hung in there with them even to this day. Hinn's assertion that he'd taken White along to Rome as a patron for the Vatican Museum seeking donations from her was categorically denied by the Vatican itself.

In the checkered world of Pentecostal/Charismatic ministerail morality, this is not at all uncommon - as deplorable as it might be, the spin doctoring of the activities of morally questionable preachers usually gets a late start and accounts of their failings are attributed to Satanic "touching of the anointed." Usually, this kind of moral failure is blithely ignored by the questioned, who hope time will quench the fires of investigation, but this time, the wrath of the accountants for Strang Communications, the publishing house that has made millions of dollars off of White and Hinn's writings, was incurred and led to a strange twist that won't let the matter lie. A lawsuit against Hinn was filed by Strang on February 17 for, of all things, Hinn's failure to abide by a morality clause written into a contract they had with him. Click here to read the suit.

Strang's suit invokes their moral turpitude clause which makes clear they expect their writers to embody a certain level of personal morality at the penalty of a cancellation of their contract with them and a return of moneys advanced to them. Ultimately, their beancounters saw how Hinn's behavior would damage their book sales and imperil their market share further in a fiercely competitive industry. They viewed Hinn's dalliance with Paula White even before the divorce ended as objectionable to this narrowly contextualized view of morality but did cite purely financial motivations for even bringing it up. There are hints that Hinn was confronted with a final choice to ante up but that he refused.

It's a faux pas in business. Strang's position is driven by money, in the end.

They could care less about morality, really. As to the Biblical injunction of Matthew 18 fitting here, which compels direct personal interaction of Christians with serious differences with one another, in a perfect world, where Christians really go to church, pray, evangelize, and pour their lives into one another and sacrifice everything for the Gospel while having for every man an answer, yeah, that would be nice.

But as has been alluded to, there is no actual functional spiritual unity based on the relationships of the Spirit within those professing to know Him between the superstars in our Full Gospel firmament and ordinary old Sister Schmoe and Brother Blow attending First Church, Anywhere. People such as Hinn and White live at an exalted level with a coterie of spiritual sycophants with All Access badges behind a phalanx of security people with wires in their ears and have their green rooms everywhere. It's to such people that any "relationship" is seriously extended. Watching Hinn sweep in and sweep out at will his venues without ever actually talking to real people is an act of efficient event management .. not koinonea.

It sure looks good for the cameras though.

This is why I deeply admire Christian pastors who don't participate in such largesse. Watching Chris Moody in my home church and having watched Mitch Maloney, Kelvin Page, John Lombard and other pastors stay at their church's altars ministering to their flocks reminds me that there are still shepherds who truly smell like sheep.

Paul Crouch once famously said he was "accountable only to the Body of Christ" when taken to task about the heretical false teaching that The Bighair Network airs .. but what does that mean? Not a darn thing. These demigods are on another plane .. and I assure you, it ain't higher than us. If Matthew 18 is going to mean anything, it means they'll have learned humility and true submission to the accountability of the Christian congregation they are nominally part of. None of these people, for all of their pulpiteering, know what that means. But boy, it looks great in the latest DVD series.

Back when the story broke, I bought a copy of the 8/2/2010 National Enquirer, which this article was in and dug it out after filing it. It claims Hinn checked into a Hotel Hassler in Rome, which exists, under the name David Solomon and stayed three nights there. The picture of the hotel room is called a "presidential suite" although the hotel's website calls it the "grand deluxe". He was not wearing his wedding ring and looked happy said observers. Hinn was in Rome to meet with Vatican officials for some matter, which he later would say in a crusade in Oakland, California, per Charisma that the Vatican made him a Patron of the Arts and invited him to visit Rome.

He said patrons are asked to find donors to help maintain the Vatican's art collections, and he wanted White to become a donor. "I let her come with me to Rome so she can donate money," Hinn said. "That was stupid on my part. And for that I do ask forgiveness."

Why the Vatican still needs an art collection at a time when churches are closing all over the West due to lack of priests to preside in them and when hundreds of thousands of people suffer horrifically without any help after being abused by the deviants among the said priesthood is beyond me. What's worse is that Hinn and White actually might do such a thing while their own ministries suffer downturns is beyond belief.

I guess their Seasons include supporting an apostate church's grotesque vanity and rank materialism while its slaves suffer. Think about it .. all those millions of people could be giving millions more to help poor old Benny and pitiful little Paula through their Seasons are going to fund the Vatican's dusty museum hallways.

I've been there, done that, got the T-shirt back in 1982. I've walked the Vatican and seen its unbelievable opulence. THEY DON'T NEED ANY MORE ART WORK.

Now Hinn and White are human beings just like you and me. Who would begrudge them the desire for love and companionship? Yet there's a lot to be said about their propriety here and I don't need to go over it. They are not in the position to be dating or looking like they are if Hinn technically isn't divorced .. and how the Hinns split still is strange. What a sad and strange spectacle this all has become. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Christians Scandalize Their Church - Thoughts Drawn From The PTL Meltdown 24 Years Ago

Jim Bakker, sadly, was a pioneer of not only one of the first big TV ministry empires, but of one of the most massive "fails" of all time that millions to this day still have to deal with.

The example of Bakker and the PTL Club's sad implosion exposed a sad pattern for the church that it should have learned from. It also showed that the church seems almost unwilling to learn, setting out to establish that the hero worship of "the anointed" has to be restored at all costs for us to show "Christian restoration" as opposed to true, equitable discipline and accountability.

In the midst of these extreme and obvious examples also proceed the more prosaic but no less tragic failures such as the lamentable fall of ministers all around. And then you have the Juanita Bynum and Thomas Weeks grotesque disconnect as well as the ongoing mutancy of Jimmy Swaggart's renegade work. As well as Pastor B. O. McSnort's extortion from the Big Ugly Church of God of his youth group's donation account money, as well as his youth group leader's wife .. not to mention Paula White and Benny Hinn's dalliance last July in a hotel in Rome when Hinn was not even yet technically divorced from his wife ..

With the ashes of Todd Bentley's sanctification of his adultery by "prophet" Rick Joyner still drifting in the wind, it's obvious that the church still hasn't learned these most crucial lessons of all, which it seems more clueless then not about ..

Our love that covers a multitude of sins isn't something to be used to cover or defend a continuance of them

Our eyes should be entirely focused on Jesus Christ and His concerns first and foremost

Our high esteem of Christian leaders should be tempered with the realization that men/women of God are still in the end, just men/women like you , people with feet of clay who stumble and fall JUST like you .. and who aren't above correction, admonition or removal

Our leaders in the position to address the moral and ethical failures seen among us should be approachable and able to directly address and rein them in

Had all the anonymous people involved in all of those invisible places where the sin and failure had to first have been seen in the lives of so many of our fallen leaders spoke up, life for many of these might be so different. How many people "spoke into the lives" (what a strange expression) of these "fallen generals" to actually deal with the core failings they manifested at some level in their private and public lifestyles?

Sin and the flesh being as carnally suave and deceptive as it is, I realize that such a perspective isn't always able to penetrate the poker faces of those who are confronted. Human nature has an almost limitless ability to rationalize and disguise itself behind open appearances of holiness and orthodoxy - and our trust in what we see is where we miss what our discernment from other sources overrides this. Perhaps it's not possible to head off all of these troubles. But I am certain that SOME of them very likely could have been.

I didn't "see the light" about who God was until 1980 and didn't come to Christ until 1981. I did so with absolutely no connection or attention to TV ministry at all. My encounter was one with the Spirit and the Word and Christian testimony I encountered while joining the Navy. As quickly as new life came to me by my faith in Christ so did offense, carnality, temptation and I almost didn't make it through. Only the grace of God brought me through it all.

I had heard of PTL through my mom, who was saved, and watched a bit of it with her around 1979 but it was completely incomprehensible to me. Really. The God gabbing and God giggling I saw was beyond my ability to grasp. I think one can say this and say that it was just my carnal and pagan side trying to grasp spiritual things. Perhaps that had something to do with it.

But frankly, there was so much of what I saw those one or two times that sounded nothing more than what today we'd call the Christianese that obscures Christian truth and revelation from anyone who might even be casually seeking what Christians put so much attention on. It seemed so much more like a variety TV show having fun and games with an audience waiting to get the punch line. Then I watched a couple of TV specials around that same time by ABC's 20/20 and CBS's 60 Minutes that pioneered what would become the standard liberal media bias and focus when it came to the then emerging "Religious Right."

Each show interviewed evangelical leaders and critics and framed their responses the way they wanted to by using seamless editing. Between shots of giant Jesus rallies and soundstages, they intrepidly followed ministry money, fund raising and bill paying, dug up improprieties, made their conclusions. And then they interviewed bright eyed followers and got sound bites from them which made them look like brainless sheep blindly following dynamic, fire breathing Furies who happened to be "televangelists" pioneering "pray TV." It became obvious to me that the TV programs were more aimed at showing what kind of Elmer Gantryesque shysters the TV producers wanted their viewers to perceive PTL et al as. Even then, while an unbeliever, I saw the attack dog approach and was turned off by the press' inexplicable hostility, driven by their own agenda dedicated to the defense of their gods.

I guess what's important is that the effect of both of these media convergences in my pre-Christian pagan mindset is that I just steered completely away from watching any Christian TV at all .. that, I think, probably saved me from a lot of subsequent confusion when 3 years later in 1983 after discharge from the Navy, I had little to do with Christian TV when I started going to church every time the doors were open.

Aside from viewing "The John Ankerberg Show", which I found to be the most stimulating 30 minutes of Christian TV I caught regularly from August 1983 onward, I just didn't care to watch Jimmy Swaggart's telecast, the "700 Club" or the PTL Network's shticks. My discipling focus never got hung up on the media - it stayed on my knees, before Scripture, alone with God and in community at church, meeting with believers and witnessing to whom ever.

I am certain there was a lot of blessing that came out of the Christian community that was attracted to the PTL empire and I think the motives and intentions of all were initially pure. But the need for money to finance silly dreams that had little connection to the urgent reality of the need to evangelize and disciple people in obedience to Christ's Great commission is what destroyed Jim Bakker and the PTL Club.

And I raise my own personal recollections of those times because, I remember one exchange on 20/20 back then with Bakker that I think said a lot about what I'm talking about in regards to accountability and correction. Bakker was confronted with the fact that back around 1979, he'd started a fund raiser on his show specifically to finance the construction and creation of a TV station somewhere outside the U.S., collected a huge chunk of cash, and then instead diverted it to PTL general operations. He was leaving viewers to believe that their giving was going to this project instead. 20/20 apparently found someone who had records to corroborate this rather unbelievable state of affairs, confronted Bakker with it on camera, and he flat out admitted to it, as well as stating explicitly that PTL had engaged in dereliction of their duties.

My point is that while dirt may have been dug up on PTL, PTL should never have created the dirt to begin with.

What I come away from in reading and research into the PTL fall, since having become a maturer Christian then I was in 1983, is that this pattern of evasion, covering and rationalizing that PTL freely engaged in is something far more dug into Christian culture then is believable. But it happened. God alone knows how many other such matters on so many other levels took place. Bakker's book "I Was Wrong" doesn't really begin to touch this, although his candor is helpful.

His marriage with Tammy Faye seemed to go askew around 1978-1979 .. and it was then, around 1980 that a Jessica Hahn crossed paths with him, thanks to the "ministry" of a John Wesley Fletcher. That fundamental issue should have rung peals of church bell alarms for EVERYONE at PTL at that time. But the circus went on, and the Bakkers continued to act like everything was AOK.

But again, my point is simply that Christian history seems to infer that when Christians are in the position to speak up and confront the failings of our own leaders and do not do so, the subsequent fall from grace will take so many others down with it then need to go with them. As I said, perhaps it's foolish to expect that we can stop everything and keep the Body of Christ from suffering the reproach it does .. even if the Bible SAYS so..

I just cannot shake the feeling that there's more that can be done then we do .. and do not because we want to be politically correct.