I suppose most who read this article know something about Todd Bentley, the healing evangelist who was celebrated as a modern day prophet, who supposedly healed many and drew hundreds of thousands of people to Lakeland, Florida to see him in action. Sometimes Todd literally kicked, hit or slapped people to heal them, copying the 20th Century healer, Smith Wigglesworth. Todd was celebrated and deemed an anointed man of God, healing hundreds, if not thousands of people for 3 1/2 months. He claimed that every one of his healings could be verified, challenging anybody to prove otherwise.
But Todd left his wife for another woman and was accused of drinking too much alcohol and teaching outrageous doctrine. After Todd quit the revival and divorced his wife, the Charismatic movement quickly divorced him (I should say, most of the Charismatic movement). Despite the fact that I believe Todd was no worse than his fellow healers, I was interested in knowing why the Charismatic movement so quickly disowned him while at the same time ignoring the equally nasty scandals of so many other healing evangelists.
The following is a list of some of my opinions on the matter. They do not hold all the answers to the question I pose, “Why Todd was ruined while others were not.” The following list is only random ideas that come to my mind after looking at dozens of scandals from secular and religious circles.
WHY DID THE CHARISMATICS PULL THE PLUG ON TODD BENTLEY?
Charismatics generally and desperately look for evidence and signs of God’s existence and power. Because they want it so much, they
are willing to let go of reason and critical thinking, as well as sound biblical interpretation in order to support anybody from their ranks who seems to be able to catch the wave of so-called miraculous healings. Because they want it so much, they are unwilling to face real follow up that shows the lack of real cures taking place. Because they want it so much, when they do hear about healing that goes away, they blame the poor soul who lost the healing. Todd was and is no different than the many other
faith healers who are accepted, received and even canonized by the Charismatic movement, and yet for his failure to live up to an unwritten standard, he was tossed
out of the ranks of great healing evangelists held in high esteem by a community desperately seeking healing and experience.
The last 100 years is filled with faith healers committing adultery and corrupting their ministries. Benny Hinn had an affair with Paula White, Kathryn Kuhlman married a man who divorced his wife and family for Kathryn. She divorced him after his ministry had gone downhill. Aimee Semple McPherson went and out of two marriages, probably had an affair but claimed she was kidnapped and had escaped. Oral Roberts claimed God was going to kill him if he didn’t raise millions of dollars. And the list goes on and on. Many of the popular healing evangelists at one time or another fell into some scandal and yet most of them are canonized as healing saints – not so with Todd. For some reason, Todd lost his status while others who have committed like or even worse things are considered legitimate men and women of God. So why is he any different than the others?
TODD BENTLEY WAS NOT AN HISTORICAL FIGURE
Maybe some of the reason is due to the fact that many faith healers of the past have already died. It is common to whitewash the past. History books typically create heroes out of villains and make historical characters sound far more noble than than they really were. This is also true of Christian history. Jack Coe was pushed out by the Assemblies of God and took the braces off a boy with polio which left him permanently in terrible pain. He was arrested and charged with practicing medicine without a license, but the case was dismissed and Coe himself later died of polio. Today he is considered one of the greats by the Charismatics.
A.A. Allen is another “man of God” who had major issues that many Christians just don’t seem to remember. He was a heavy drinker who lived an alcoholic and died from his drink, but he and Jack Coe are considered “generals of God’s army.”
The point I am getting to is not how bad these others were…they were. The point I am making is that Todd does not seem to be any worse than these others, but these others are healers of the past, so their stories can be easily corrected and updated to make them fit a cookie cutter version of what a faith healer should be.
TODD BENTLEY HAD NOT PROVIDED A BIG ENOUGH SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY
When individuals provide a needed service for a group of people, the community will try its hardest to protect the person providing the service. In one case a town turned against parents who blew the whistle on a high school football team initiation which included broom sticks in rectums. Because of the allegations which turned out to be true, the high school had to quit football for a year. Rather than thanking the parents who blew the whistle, as a whole, the town hated and shunned them. Whistle blowers are rarely considered heroes, because they upset things. In this case, high school football provided an important service to teens and to the community, and all the community could think was that one couple ruined that service for a year; from a gut level feeling, the morality of the situation was not as important as the service provided.
Healing Evangelists provide a service needed to a group seeking experience with God and proof of God’s power. Because such healers provide this service, the community is generally very forgiving and will turn a blind eye to moral and unethical mishaps. But they will only go so far. Todd Bentley was just not around long enough for his service to the community to become planted deep enough.
TODD BENTLEY QUIT TOO SOON
Todd did not continue in his “healing ministry” long enough to build an army of followers who were willing to turn to the typical excuses made for their fallen heroes. These excuses are mostly supported by feelings people have toward their fallen heroes rather than anything biblical. Bible verses are poorly used to support forgiveness and for letting their heroes have “get out of jail free” cards.
When fallen heroes have had time to build a large following, it is harder to disown them. Todd built a large following, but he did not endure long enough to allow loyalty sink deep enough into his admirers.
Bill Hybels led a large church in Chicago and spoke to and influenced millions about how to build large churches. Bill had decades to build his following, so when women from the “me too” movement accused him of various improprieties, his church took his side and turned against high standing women from his church and from other ministries. Only after the nation turned against his church, did they begin to reconsider their support of Bill and their lack of support for the many women involved. Without that backlash, I doubt if the women would have been heard by those on staff at Bill’s church. The image Bill Hybels built through years protected him from many attacks, but his image (his brand) could not endure media backlash.
TODD BENTLEY’S BRAND WAS NOT YET STRONG ENOUGH
When women first came out against Bill Cosby, a co-worker of mine immediately claimed the women were money/fame hungry liars. He believed that because Cosby’s reputation was that of a moral family man and great father, he could not possibly have done such terrible things to women. My co-worker believed the brand over reality. Bentley was only beginning to build his brand and that brand was not all that great. By hitting, slapping and kicking people and by telling wild stories of visitations of angels and by bad theology in general, his brand was already facing serious set-backs.
TODD BENTLEY HAD TOO MUCH COMPETITION
In the past 20 years or so, there have been several emotional outpourings that rivaled Todd’s revival in Lakeland, FL. The Toronto Blessing, the Brownsville Revival and Bethel Church in Redding, CA are 3 of the bigger ones. In each of these, there were plenty of temporary healing and emotional experiences. There was uncontrolled laughter, feelings of drunkenness, jumping and running around, jerking and many other unusual acts and responses to worship. Because of all of these other revivals, people had other places to turn when Todd’s transgression was made known. If Todd was the only circus in town, then people would have found a way to canonize their saint.
TODD BENTLEY QUIT
Todd quit rather than face the consequences of his affair. When Jimmy Swaggart fell from grace (visiting prostitutes), he lost many of his followers, but he was able to slowly rebound after 3 months of exile. Today his church is thriving. Todd quit his ministry in Lakeland and then later tried to revive it in another state. That was a bad decision on his part. Had he stayed in Lakeland, it is highly likely he could have kept enough of a following to rebuild his image and perhaps a legacy in the never ending list of great healing evangelists – after all Charismatics are quite forgiving of those who provide the right service of emotionalism and perceived healing.