At the end of this month an American charismatic superstar is to visit Britain and is to lead a big event in the South West in connection with the God Channel. There are some who will be able to guess who I am talking about but I find it easier to discuss my thoughts on the man and his visit without mentioning an actual name. That way I am able to discuss the phenomenon of charismatic superstars generally without limiting myself to a single individual. There may also be search machines on the look-out for mentions of this particular name so that legal action can be taken against any disparaging remarks. The world of charismatic superstars is full of such involvement with the law.
Our charismatic superstar, henceforth to be called HB, is notorious on both sides of the Atlantic. He is known for so-called Miracle Crusades which have taken place in every part of the world. HB emerges out of the so-called Word of Faith tradition which declares that it is God’s will for us to have material abundance. He himself is a vivid example of this belief system, dressing extravagantly and flamboyantly at all his meetings. His hair is always immaculate and he exudes a style and over-confidence that is culturally alien in this country. Nevertheless the over the top style does appear to have an attraction for some people in the same way as the excesses of the God Channel. For our particular individual the most notorious and chilling example of excess was the appeal via a mass mailing to supporters to send in money for a Gulfstream jet. Apparently this money was raised in less than a year.
The evidence for miracles at the hands of HB has been examined by various researchers, journalists and students. The evidence for actual miracles turns out to be extremely thin. Not only have few miracles been verified but there have well-attested examples of fraud uncovered. Individuals going into meetings have been questioned at the door and then their symptoms are ‘miraculously’ described by HB during the course of the meeting through ‘words of knowledge’. Also the very obviously sick, the brain damaged and those with severe physical complaints are prevented from coming anywhere near the stage by the ushers.
I have probably said enough to indicate my own position over HB which is that it is highly regrettable that he has been given a visa to visit this country. What is worse is that there are people in this country who feel moved to sponsor him and take care of his considerable entourage not to mention his extravagant requirements for hotel accommodation. Such people seem blind to the appalling suffering that is caused by extravagant claims to be able to heal the sick. This issue is not that it is impossible for such healings to take place but the crass exploitation of a very, very few instances to make a lot of money at the expense of the hopes of countless others is obscene. We are back to the familiar theme of this blog which is that it is the most vulnerable that suffer the most at the hands of spiritual abusers. The refusal of HB even to touch the most severely afflicted on the grounds that they will harm the PR of the organisation makes one wince. What are the adjectives to describe such behaviour – callous, cruel, cynical, exploitative? I am sure there are other adjectives but they all involve the denial of Christian love. This behaviour all suggests an individual who is totally addicted to wealth and self-importance.
I will be returning to the psychological profile of people like HB because it is a subject on which I have done a fair amount of reading. Meanwhile I just want to make one or two observations. The apparent cynical exploitation of huge numbers of sick people to make a lot of money for HB is indicative of a complete absence of empathy and imaginative identification with other people. This lack of empathy and excessive cultivation of image is a pointer to a full blown personality disorder, particularly that known at the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This affliction of NPD is fed and encouraged by all the razzmatazz of big crusades which convinces the leading speaker that he or she is above ordinary people. They believe ‘we are special, anointed by God himself’. This grandiosity or messiah complex is precisely something that our abusive Christian cultures seem to encourage. In short, areas of Christian life are creating monsters with severe personality disorders who are able to wreak havoc on other people’s lives, particularly the most vulnerable.
My final comment is to question the whole crusade enterprise and to ask who benefits. It is not God who is hardly presented amid all the loud music and appeals for money. It is not the sick who come normally to be cruelly disappointed. The person who benefits is the speaker whose massive need of money, adulation and attention is being gratified. In short charismatic events, not to mention charismatic organisations are all designed ultimately to benefit a single person, the one at the top. HB is no exception and it may be that the large numbers of people supporting him will eventually come to this same depressing insight. But the nature of Christian abuse is that it hides this insight from us as long as possible. It is up to us in different ways to open our eyes and those of other people to see what is really going at these events. This blog will continue to provide material to help the reader to have clearer vision.