Benny Hinn Denounced Prosperity Preaching; Should We Believe Him?
One of my favorite movies is a 2014 Brendan Gleeson masterwork called Calvary. It's about an Irish priest, Father James, doing his best to care for a motley collection of townsfolk whose relationship to morality is as complicated as James's own past. In one scene, Father James is summoned to the home of a lonely, drunk, ultra-rich narcissist named Michael Fitzgerald to receive either a confession or a donation, he's not sure which.
As a demonstration of how little money means to him, Fitzgerald takes a priceless painting from the wall of his own parlor, throws it on the floor, drops his pants, and urinates on it. Father James is not impressed by the gesture nor the renunciation of wealth it is meant to communicate. James tells him, “I think you don’t want to do penance at all. I think you asked me here to make fun of me. But when you do want to do penance, sincerely, you can give me a call any time and I’ll try my best to help you.”
As a pastor, I have found myself in Father James’s situation too often — not with the painting or the bodily fluids — but in that moment when I’m called on to discern whether a mendicant is genuine of heart. Is this person who is asking for financial assistance simply scamming the church? Is this person who is asking me to bless his divorce really as innocent as his version of the marriage makes him seem? It is one of the most difficult and unwelcome tasks of ministry.
Earlier this month, Irving-based televangelist, faith healer, and prosperity preacher Benny Hinn announced that he is abandoning the prosperity gospel. Correcting his theology, he called it. For those of us who keep tabs on such theological minutia (I admit we probably seem a curious few to the rest of the world) this was big news. Christianity Today ran it as the top story on its website. The theological twitterverse shrilled. And the question on all of our minds was the same question Father James ponders facing his friend with his pants down: Is this contrition?