5/17/2009 11:34:00 pm

Televangelist Number One

Posted by Unknown |

I think I'm obligated as part of my job not to have any opinion on the acts I see while working. I do have personal opinions, and I want to share. But so I don't defame anyone or and get my work or myself into trouble I'm not going mention in this post who was the attraction where I ushered for the previous two days, but for the sake of easy reading we'll call this particular person Freddy.

Freddy is a televangelist with a dazzling white costume, a noisy healing ministry, a big diamond ring and a private jet. He frequently turns up on TV early in the morning and pushes people over.

I was particularly excited to work the Freddy shift because I love anything religious. I'm a religious fanatic.

My shifts started early afternoon and were due to finish at 11pm. There were the longest shifts I've ever had, and I'm thankful to God for them. I needed them to pay my rent. I did however feel a little bad that while the faithful, sick and disadvantaged were being fleeced out of their disability payments I was earning $20 an hour.

Seeing as the "crusade" was staffed mainly by Freddy's staffers and volunteers, our job as venue staff was just to stand around, tell people where the toilets were and direct people to the exits in the event of a fire (a real fire, not "HOLY SPIRIT FIRE!"). The rest of the time we just directed people to Freddy's Ambassadors (volunteers).

The first four hours of both shifts were pretty similar. We opened the doors around 3pm and the show didn't start till 7pm. So we just stood there. The staff would visit each other and mutter about how much they disliked Freddy.

I found this difficult. Seeing as I'm a Christian, and I believe in the Holy Spirit, healing, miracles and all the rest, I didn't want to just join in the cynicism and rudeness. On the other hand, I didn't want to be giving people the impression that I endorse Freddy and his antics. I'm not sure how well I did. I did have a chat with one usher who is studying physics at Uni. I told him I was at Bible College. He asked me what I thought of the act, and I said that for him it'd be the equivalent of going to a dodgy physics conference. So at least he knew where I stood.

I went into the whole experience with preconceived ideas about Freddy. I didn't want them. I wanted at least to be open to the possibility that Freddy might be legit. I prayed at the start that God would help me to be discerning rather than cynical.

It's hard to know if he answered my prayer because there wasn't much not to be cynical about.

When the "crusade" opened the very first thing they did was ask people for money, to become one of Freddy's partners for $30 a month, like Freddy's a starving African. Last night they asked people to buy Freddy medallions or something like that. They spent a lot of time plugging their books and DVD store. And both nights they gave an absurd lecture on why it is good to give. "Give and see what God wants you to receive!" But I've already written about that.

The first time we saw Freddy was about 20 minutes in when he came out from the middle of the back of the stage, through an entrance no-one else used, wearing a white suit and looking dazzling.

On Friday night he turned up right in the middle of "How Great Thou Art". Last night he came during a different hymn and one the other ushers turned to me and said "He missed his song."

The choir sang well. Freddy led the singing once he arrived on stage. The problem is that Freddy can't sing very well. I don't think that's his spiritual gift. Everyone sang for about an hour.

On the Friday night Freddy gave an evangelistic talk that was almost spot on. He said one thing which could have been read the wrong way, but other than that it was fine. When he was talking about Jesus becoming sin for us he said "Jesus became like Satan". Which I don't think is right but I know what he was getting at.

At this point in the sermon a man stood up and shouted at him "That's a lie Pastor Freddy! You're a liar!"

To which Freddy responded "Please be quiet Sir! I am a talking now. You're not listening to me. If you don't be quiet I'm going have to ask you to leave my auditorium."

At this point Freddy's two big, black security guards escorted the man out of the building.

Once Freddy was done with his sermon and he did his altar call, that's when things went dodgy. He said something like "If you're still struggling with sin, with sins you had before you became a Christian, then something has gone wrong with your salvation. You need to come and give your life to Jesus properly."

There are so many things wrong with that. That made me angry.

Seeing as there were a lot of Christians there who still struggle with sin, there were a lot of people who went forward to be properly saved and iron out that glitch in their salvation.

The following night Freddy did a talk about the blood of the Covenant that managed to be so convoluted and confusing that I had trouble following it. I have no idea how the people in the audience who don't have 8 years of Bible College, 7 years of church ministry, and the better part of a Theology degree behind them went. I'm pretty sure they all just clapped when they were told to "Give God a hand" and said "Praise the Lord" when Freddy said "Can somebody say 'Praise the Lord!'"

But apart from the fact that the whole sermon was a shamble of half-baked, theological confusion, I could easily see that much of what he was saying was heresy. Or at the very least, totally unsubstantiated mystical, biblical musings. Like when he told us that Jesus didn't get any of Mary's blood in his umbilical cord when he was in the womb otherwise he would have come under the curse of original sin.

Still, the sermons were nothing compared to what was the come.

After Freddy's preaching, he felt the Holy Spirit come on him to do an anointing and heal people. This meant everyone was launched into 20 minutes of singing a two word song like "Glory, Glory, King of Glory" or "Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit". I don't know much about manipulation and hypnotism, but I figure singing the same short phrase over and over, to stirring music, through multiple key changes, when you're tired after sitting through 3 and half hours of crazy religious fluff, is going to leave you pretty vulnerable to all sorts of suggestions and handling.

During the singing Freddy's pastors head out into the audience to pray for the sick and wrench people out of wheelchairs to make them try and walk.

Eventually Freddy gets people to put their hand on the part of their body they want healed, and then he prays for them. If they're healed then the are told to run down the front as quickly as possible. Down the front they're met by a pastor who vets them for public appearance.

While Freddy is praying for the them he's saying things like "Someone to my left just had their cancer healed. Someone to my right just had AIDS cured. Someone just had their asthma taken away." He only ever said things that couldn't be verified on the night. People only had to feel healed and that was good enough.

The people who felt healed were allowed on stage where an announcer on either side of the stage would trumpet their story at Freddy, while he pushed the people over in the Spirit. He would push someone over, then get the pastor/minders, to pick them up again, so he could push them over again. For the people who had been "healed" of back issues this did rather worry me.

Most of the people who got up had issues like cancer, back problems, injuries which all manifested in a healing where they said "I had pain and now I don't." Now they could be healed, but they could also just be running on emotion, adrenaline, manipulation and hypnotic suggestion. There was nothing verifiable about any one of them. One guy had a heart problem, he saw a bright light, and he knew he was healed.

There was one guy who had lost 85% of his hearing and he said it all came back. Which is probably a bit harder to fake on the night for the guy. But then again, the speakers are pretty loud, you don't need much hearing to hear them.

There was another man who was "healed" of the pain in his legs from suffering polio as a child. He threw off his leg brace when he got onto stage. I thought it was rather telling that as he walked off stage one of the Pastors chased him to give him his leg brace back. There's faith!

I know I sound totally cynical. To be honest, I think there is a high chance there were real healings there. But if there were they were because of people's faith in Jesus. Jesus heals despite people like Freddy and their manipulation.

Mostly I think it's just people who desperately want to be healed and are able to convince themselves they feel healed, and so they come down to tell Freddy he's healed them.

Last night, before and following the healing bonanza, Freddy went on a Holy Spirit slaying extravaganza. He slew all of the pastors on the stage multiple times. They fell all over each other, like some strange WWE wrestling match where a bunch of guys were losing to no one. The pastors fell over and jumped up at every command of Freddy. Every movement was over exaggerated. It looked like some piece of slapstick kid's theatre. And it was funny. Except that it was all a performance to deceive the faithful who just came to receive from Jesus.

At one stage Freddy got ready to slay the choir. He told them all to stand up and hold hands because "the power of the Holy Spirit was about to fall upon them". I turned to the usher standing next to me and said "Watch this, he's about to knock the whole choir over."

To which he replied "About f-ing time, they've been singing all night."

Sure enough Freddy shouted "TOUCH!" and waved a power hand at the choir and they fell over.

I think this gave Freddy the guts to try and anoint the whole crowd. He told the crowd the Holy Spirit wanted to touch them, and he got them to stand. He said the Holy Spirit would count to three. The music built to a crescendo, he counted to three and most people didn't fall over they just moaned. It was perhaps the most satisfying moment of the night.

Freddy then called all the young people down the front, so there were a couple of thousand of them packed right up to the stage. Then he told them the Holy Spirit was going fall on them. This worried me because they were so closely packed, someone was sure to get crushed. But I wasn't really in a position to stop it.

Freddy called down the Holy Spirit fire yelled "TOUCH!" at the young people and they all fell over. It looked pretty cool.

And then, just like that, the show was over. I opened the doors and let them all leave.

Sure enough, when I went down the front last night, when the auditorium was empty of "congregation", there were two girls down the front getting attended to by First Aid. One of them had busted her ankle. The other one, I'm told, got a cracked rib or sternum. She got carted off in an ambulance.

And that kinda sums up he Freddy experience. It's all show and extravaganza, but in the end it just leaves people hurt.

What I saw these last two nights was offensive and I was offended (take note community). This man comes to town preaching Jesus and promising healing and just takes people's money, manipulates them and leaves them with the same old illnesses and feeling like they don't have enough faith.

If Jesus were to pay a visit I can't help but think he'd take a whip to Freddy's ministry, do some real healings and let people keep their money.

As for me, I can't wait for next week. I've got a whole new Televangelist to look forward to. Sweet.

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets...are like jackals among ruins... Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, "The LORD declares," when the LORD has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, "The LORD declares," though I have not spoken?" - Ezekiel 3:3-4,6-7

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. - 2 Peter 2:1-3