On the last day of our vacation, the hotel where we were staying just outside of Ottawa offered me a free copy of The Saturday [Toronto] Star. As is my habit, I tucked it away to read in detail when we got back home, which I did late that night.
On page three was the story of Benny Hinn and Paula White with which many of you are already familiar; though the picture — showing them holding hands — made the story almost unnecessary. [Though the article tried to press the Toronto angle of Benny’s early ministry in the area, it was inaccurate on a few points.]
This morning, commuters boarded mass transit trains in many North American cities and picked up one of the many commuter newspapers available free. Chances are, up to 20% of the page count was taken by celebrity news. This is what people want to read about. The program Entertainment Tonight once was an interesting course in entertainment media, the visual “how it’s done” manual on all things related to movies, music, television, and stage. Instead, it gave birth to a host of television programs which try to feed the insatiable desire for more knowledge of who is bedding down with whom.
Most of the time however, the news originates in Hollywood, not the Bible Belt. The Benny and Paula story — they were seen together on the streets of Rome — really looked no different than countless others, but we need to recognize that on some level, both of them are part of the superstar culture.
How did we get there?
For starters, here are some obvious reasons:
- the rise of mega-churches, which suddenly made certain pastors significant nationally, and others less so;
- the established past history of certain pastors or evangelists with respect to moral failure and the media feeding frenzy that these events are now certain to bring;
- the outrageously excessive income and/or lifestyle of certain Christian “stars;”
- the desire of certain Christian authors and artists to see their books or music “cross over” into the mainstream market; and,
- our obsession with celebrity.
We created this mess ourselves, somewhat. We conformed to the world. We wanted our alternative Christian culture to be just as glitzy as theirs and we worshiped at the feet of anybody with a big church, a TV show or a best-selling book or CD.
Of course, both parties have issued denials that anything untoward is happening. Is it just me, or are both denials the work of the same copywriter?
A great day for Movie-of-the-Week screenwriters and producers.
A sad day for the Kingdom of God.
My advice to Benny and/or Paula? It’s peaked. The season is over. Shut it down. All of it. The television ministry. The crusades. The books. Pay the staff a decent severance. The TV contracts you can’t get out of, give the airtime to another ministry. The arena contracts you can’t get out of, give to another [type of] evangelist, or even a Christian band. Retire somewhere nobody can find you.
And Benny, take the Nehru jackets to a local thrift shop.
Picture: National Enquirer article. Who else?