It is no secret that Benny Hinn patterns his performances after Kathryn Kuhlman who patterned hers after Aimee Semple McPherson and others. Copying other people’s successes is quite common in music, in writing books, on YouTube, in sports, in ministry, and in so many other areas of life. But even though Benny borrows heavily from Kathryn Kuhlman, he has developed a style of his own, taking Kathryn’s love of slaying people to new heights.
The following is a list of some of the more important parts of Benny Hinn’s ministry that make him successful.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPECTATION
Expectation fills every part of their performances. Healers need people to come to them with expectation and without expectation, healing would not be in many churches or auditoriums.
WHAT PEOPLE EXPECT
People have a personal hunger for healing or for seeing the miraculous, or both of these. People want to see the visible manifestation of God’s work or people want to be healed from disease. Expectation to see and or to experience the feeling of the miraculous are central and more important than anything else in healing ministries.
HOW EXPECTATION IS BUILT
How does someone wanting to start a ministry in healing help others to expect healing in their ministries? The answer is simple… shared stories.
Stories need to be shared from the pulpit and stories need to be passed on in every day conversation. The best stories include:
- People raised from the dead.
- Doubters or atheists healed or seeing a healing that drives them to their knees in repentance.
- Stories that focus on the healer’s aura or power, such as the time Benny Hinn walked in an airport and as he walked people fell to his left and right.
- Stories of friends and fellow church members who have been cured of cancer or other such diseases.
- Stories of people who were healed by watching Benny Hinn on television.
Stories about Benny Hinn’s aura and about people healed by him are awesome and warm the hearts of Benny’s admirers building up expectation for his healing meetings; but digging into these stories, you will find that most of them have no real source and are like urban legends that somehow take on a life of their own.
- Like urban legends, stories have been transformed with every telling in order to fit the desires, the needs, and the ears of the believing listeners.
- Like urban legends, there are often no real sources. Stories tell us that some fantastic healing has happened to a friend of a friend, but when one digs into it, the friend of a friend will say it happened to one of his or her friend’s friend.
- Sources that can be found are often created by people with diseases and symptoms that were exaggerated or made up. Experiences that seem bigger than life turn out to be not so big after all. Many diseases in these stories would have been naturally cured without Benny’s influence, but because Benny was somehow involved, credit will be given to Benny Hinn ministry for all of the healing.
Despite the poor beginnings, all these stories are believed because the are built on the expectation that they are true and they build expectation.
There is one type of story that is most dishonest and very destructive. This story comes from people who believe they need to claim healing in order to get healing. Although these people mean well, they are dishonest in every way. They believe that if they say they have pain or some disease, the pain or disease will settle in and take hold of their lives. But if they tell you the pain is gone, it is supposed to vanish (if they say it with enough faith), because their words will make it happen. These people can never be trusted, for even if they were somehow healed, you can not and should not trust them because by habit, they are trained to confess healing that does not exist and may never happen.
THE INFLUENCE OF THE CROWD
The psychology of a crowd displays some obvious dynamics that help build Benny Hinn’s success.
- Any crowd, secular or Christian, rushes to judgment. Crowds do not spend time thinking through events but rather jump on board with and react to what is going on in the present. Benny knows the importance of unifying a crowd and does so by worship – and a lot of it. From worship and from stories, his crowds rush to the judgment that he is a godly man working amazing miracles.
- Crowds do not think critically. They see what they want to see and what they expect to see.
- Crowds admire their leaders and bestow upon them god-like qualities. This is important to Benny when passes off non events or temporary feelings as real healing. Not only do people expect to see the miraculous, they expect Benny to act uprightly and with godly morals. The fact that he would use trickery or deception would not enter their minds.
- Crowds view things in extremes. Because there is little or no critique from his audiences, Benny is seen as an icon of godliness and God’s power and the works on stage are nothing less than miracles from God.
- Crowds see things in polar opposites. The most common ways of viewing Benny Hinn are in the polar opposites. He is either a man of God or as a man of Satan. For his followers, he is a man of God and his critics are demonic, deserving the wrath of God. Benny promotes and encourages this with occasional rants against his critics.
- Crowds generally see what they expect to see rather than reality. Benny and other healers use this to their advantage in the same way magicians mislead crowds taking advantage of their expectations. But there is a huge difference between Benny and a magician. Magicians do not influence people’s life and death decisions.
Benny knows the power of worship is needed in his crusades. He actually has a 7 CD set of teachings on the subject because it is so important to him.
- Worship keeps people’s attention focused. When there is any lull in the march of people walking across the stage claiming healing, Benny leads the congregation into another song of worship. This helps to keep the audience emotionally hyped up and it helps to keep people from drifting away or thinking too much.
- Worship also helps to disarm people from critical thought. When people feel like they are in the presence of God, it is hard to believe that trickery, deception or exaggeration could be going on. People believe wholeheartedly that God is placing His seal of approval on Benny, because they have felt the presence of God in the auditorium and in a large group worship.
- Worship builds expectation as people get increasingly drawn into the experience of unity and what they are sure is the presence of God. Using good worship for the purpose of deception is trickery at its worst.
A big part of Benny’s success (as well as other healers) is the amount of trust people put into the healer. I study faith healers and see through a lot of their deceptions, yet I still have a big part of me that wants to believe Benny and other healers mean well and that they just don’t know better. With a few exceptions, I just can’t bring myself to accept that they would purposely deceive, so I conclude that most of the popular healers believe that what they are doing is good. With Benny included, I feel like they just don’t know that what they are doing is taking advantage of people’s belief systems, hopes and expectations.
While I find myself wanting to believe the best for them, I think Benny and others have to know that something is not right. Benny has already admitted that the placebo effect could be the reason so many “healed” people return to their wheelchairs, and I know that he has to realize that follow ups to those healed on stage reveal failure across the board, but I feel like he has convinced himself that what he is doing is good and that there is healing going on despite the statistics.
If I – as a critic – try to think the best of these people, how much more will their followers trust their favorite healer, read into them goodness that is misplaced, and how much more easily they are given to believe that any kind of scrutiny or examination of the details is fighting against God. Benny’s followers adore him and are convinced that he represents Christ himself. They are convinced that the abundance of miracles cloaks him in God’s presence and God’s approval.
THE TWO COUSINS THAT MAKE IT ALL POSSIBLE
When expectation is raised to extreme levels through crowd unity, worship and stories, and when that expectation connects with the voice of authority – God’s and Benny’s – the mixture and result of these are exactly the same as the mixture and results found in medical studies dealing with the placebo effect. Expectation and the voice of authority result in limited healing for some people, but not all. This healing can be permanent for some types of pains and diseases, but is usually limited to temporary relief of pain and/or symptoms. As in the case of the placebo effect, structural diseases are not cured even if there is a temporary feeling, a relief of pain, temporary improvement, or so on.
All in all, the limitations are the same in both medical placebos and healing in Benny’s crusades. They are both limited to the same rules and boundaries – limited amount of people affected and the types of diseases that react to expectation.
The cousin to the placebo effect is hypnotism. Hypnotism also responds to the combination of the suggestions of authority and expectation from both the healer and the one seeking healing. Both the placebo effect and hypnotism tap into the sub conscientiousness of individuals overriding conscience thought. Hypnotism also explains how so many so easily fall down when Benny waves his hands or pushes them over on the stage. In reality, there is no power coming from Benny. Expectation from the people on the stage is the only reason people go down. I have written about this elsewhere.
Hypnotism does not work with everyone. Hypnotists who use the stage for their acts screen out the people who do not play along or people who are genuinely hypnotized – for example, check out a Tedx Talks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RA2Zy_IZfQ. Many healers do the same. Aimee Semple McPherson’s mother screened people coming up front, and Kathryn Kuhlman used volunteers to do the same. Benny Hinn copied Kathryn’s ministry and has several people screen out those who are not convincing. By only allowing certain types of people on stage, Benny looks extremely successful in healing, having no failures.
Like magicians, Benny and other healers take advantage of audience expectation. Benny’s audiences believe they will see miracles and that is what they think they are seeing, but they are reading into the drama on stage that which is not really there. So what are they really seeing?
- People confessing to healing that never happened because they think they need to in order get healing that will probably never happen.
- People who believe they need to publicly confess their healing to ensure it.
- People who lie to get to the stage in order to have Benny’s “healing hands” placed on them.
- People who exaggerate their disease and their cures.
- People who are experiencing a temporary placebo effect and have a temporary lack of pain or symptom relief.
- People who are legally blind, but can still see to some degree.
- People who are legally deaf, but can hear to some degree.
- People who feel a tingling or some feeling that convinces them healing took place.
- People who think they might be getting healed, are not sure, but don’t want to ruin their chances.
- People already in the process of being healed, but think they might be better than usual.
- And the list goes on.
The best stage show is one that people can see something happening on stage that looks real. According to the Bible, the crowds that followed Jesus saw real visual body changes such as withered hands cured and bent backs straighten. But such visuals will not happen on Benny’s stages, so he and other popular healers resort to a bit of trickery to create visuals that impress the audiences.
- Slaying in the spirit is very impressive and Benny seems to be moving more to this than any other visual.
- People getting out of wheelchairs is an effective visual, because, even though most of these people can already walk to some degree, the visual of someone getting out of a wheelchair is powerful. Benny, Kathryn Kuhlman and others rent wheelchairs to add to this visual. Benny even lines up empty rented wheelchairs on his stage for the dramatic effect. People love to see wheelchairs on stage.
- Leading legally blind who can see enough to follow Benny around on the stage is effective.
- Snapping fingers or asking legally deaf people who can read lips or hear a small amount to repeat words is convincing.
- Most of all, it is very impressive to see people who believe they are really healed because pain or a symptom has temporarily disappeared. These people often radiate joy that can be seen. But their joy disappears when the lights turn off, when everyone has left the auditorium, and their pain or symptoms return.
- A perfect case in point is found here: https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/tarrant-county/man-healed-as-child-by-televangelist-benny-hinn-speaks-out/287-434673169
Any audience expecting miracles will read miracles into all that happens on stage. They will also see most everything on stage in extremes and assume the deaf, the blind, and people in wheelchairs are both extremely diseased and extremely healed. This is where Benny seems like a professional magician taking advantage of audience expectation, misdirecting and holding back information. The strange thing is, Benny may not realize the half of the deception going on… he may really feel like he is doing God a service. But then again, I think he knows a lot more than he tells us, after all, he did admit in one interview with BBC that the placebo effect could be the reason so many get out of wheelchairs only to go back again.
Benny and other healers who provide names of people cured for follow up to third party sources subject themselves to embarrassing results. Follow up studies reveal the types of people who end up on stage, telling us that they are not all on the up and up. Follow up studies also reveal that most people on stage do not get healed for the long run, even though some claim to feel better. Finally, follow-up has revealed that the cures that take place from Benny and others are no better and no worse than the best medical studies of placebo effects.