Televangelist Benny Hinn, who became wealthy by telling believers that they should give his Christian ministry their cash, has been getting a lot of positive press after he publicly renounced the prosperity gospel, a controversial theology that essentially teaches that God will reward monetary generosity (usually in the form of cash “gifts” to ministries) with monetary blessings and wealth.
This theology has also been widely criticised, and many prosperity preachers have been accused of essentially preying on the desperation of the poor to enrich themselves.
In the clip that went viral, a fiery Hinn who has been a leading proponent of prosperity gospel theology since the 1980s, said that when he reads the Bible now he doesn’t “see the Bible in the same eyes, [he] saw the Bible 20 years ago.”
“Today, sadly, among a lot of circles, all you hear is how to build the flesh,” Hinn says in the clip. “It’s a feel-good message … It’s all about ‘feel good,’ ‘do good,’ all that. Make money, all the rest of it. And I’m sorry to say, prosperity has gone a little crazy, and I’m correcting my own theology. And you need to all know it.”
He also opened up that he initially hesitated going public with his rejection of the prosperity gospel because he didn’t want to hurt his friends “who believe things I don’t believe anymore.”
He said that “it is an offence to the Lord; it’s an offence to say, ‘Give $1,000.’ I think it’s an offence to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the Gospel. I’m done with it.”
At one point Hinn asked viewers “Am I shocking you?”
“Giving has become such a gimmick it’s making me sick to my stomach,” he said. “And I’ve been sick for a while too, I just couldn’t say it.”
Toward the end of the clip, the 66-year-old told viewers,
“I am correcting my own theology, and you need to all know it. I don’t want to get to heaven and be rebuked. I think it’s time we say it like its: The blessings of God are not for sale. And miracles are not for sale. And prosperity is not for sale.”
A shocker indeed, Hinn is the preacher often seen in white suits swinging his arms at believers and touching them on the foreheads as they fall to the ground and writhe in supposed religious bliss. Like many televangelists, his sermons are punctuated with requests for cash — or as he puts it, “seed money” that God will ultimately grow into even more wealth for the donors.
As repentant as he might appear in the confession, his longtime observers are not ready to take his word on faith. Some of the Christians are viewing the apparent renunciation with skepticism. Others are the once who interpreted his message as if he said he will no longer be asking for “seed money” like so many televangelists do.
While they want to be open to the possibility of true repentance and say God could have changed Hinn’s heart, they are waiting for some evidence of his transformation, and this far, he doesn’t seem to be someone who has “changed”.
In case you need a little more convincing, check this out: on September 12, the evangelist posted a video on his ministry’s Facebook platform, and it’s virtually identical to his pre-revelation schtick:
After praying for people’s health and finances – at the 26:30 mark – Hinn states very clearly:
“… Now you know what to do. You have to sow seed… There’s a number on the screen. You call that now and sow your seed. And believe your miracle is on the way!”
Now we are left wondering if he has since forgotten his own “revised” policy or he was just messing with his audience when he said he was a changed man.
Various reports have pointed out that Hinn has been down this road before.
He rejected the prosperity gospel for the first time in the late 1980s and again in the early ’90s, and there were reports at the time that he had really changed. He went on to preach prosperity again.
Hinn’s nephew, Costi Hinn, who has been very critical of his uncle and of the prosperity gospel, said the big, splashy “renunciation” does fit a pattern.
“Over the years, he has consistently conceded to enough of a report or an accusation to gain enough trust – as if he’s admitting to it – to gain control over the narrative. He always wants to control the narrative,” Costi Hinn said.
Unconfirmed reports put Hinn’s wealth at around $40 million. Whatever the real number is, it’s almost certainly huge.
In 2007, Hinn’s financial practices, along with that of Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, and Eddie Long, were investigated by the federal government. The US Senate was shocked by the lavish lifestyles of American prosperity preachers and expressed concern the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wasn’t doing its job enforcing existing rules against excessive compensation for leaders of religious nonprofits.
Hinn, according to some estimates, was receiving tens of millions of dollars in donations every year. He told ABC’s Nightline in 2009 that his salary was more than $500,000 annually. An exact figure is unknown.
Hinn’s ministry, unlike some of the others, cooperated with the investigators and it ended in 2011 with no definitive findings. The Senate Finance Committee said the investigation was successful, despite its lack of findings, because Hinn was “instituting reforms without waiting for the committee to complete its review.” According to the senator’s official statement,
“Self-reform can be faster and more effective than government regulation.”
It is not clear whether there was any self-reform, though.
Hinn’s ministry is not accountable to any outside group it is registered as a church, so it doesn’t report any financial information to the IRS.
But in 2017, the ministry came under investigation again when the IRS raided the televangelist’s headquarters in Grapevine, Texas. The agents had a search warrant saying there was probable cause to believe they would find evidence of tax evasion and “general fraud against the government” in the ministry’s offices.
A spokesman for the IRS told Christianity Today that the agency cannot legally confirm or deny whether that investigation is ongoing.
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