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Wednesday 22 August 2012

Todd Bentley: Punching for Jesus!

Given that the Edinburgh Fringe is currently in full swing, you could be mistaken for thinking that a certain preacher named Todd Bentley is a brilliant comic creation; an astutely observed parody of much that is the worst in the North American evangelical tradition. Whereas readers will doubtless be familiar with scenes featuring believers speaking in tongues, handling snakes, and preachers giving vent to hysterical confessionals accompanied by telethons aimed at fleecing the faithful of their hard-earned cash, they may be less well acquainted with Bentley's approach, which often involves punching the lights out of members of his flock. If you think that that in itself seems strange, be prepared for more revelations (although not of St John).

The now 36-year-old Bentley, it is said, was convicted of sexual assault at the age of 15, before going on to overdose on amphetamines and hallucinogens. Now, of course, I really wouldn't want to make any link between such goings on and his conversion to evangelical Christianity at the age of 18. Heaven forbid that the ingestion of certain potent mind altering chemicals had anything to do with the precipitation of his sense of divine mission, which was doubtless a consequence of his acceptance of the Holy Spirit. Anyway, I digress.

The colourful Mr Bentley went on to lead 'Fresh Fire Ministries' in the late 1990s, and then the Florida-based 'Lakeland Revival' in 2008. Although the latter may sound like a Cumbrian regeneration project, it has nothing to do with small business start-ups in Keswick, but rather, something dubbed the 'Florida Healing Outpouring'. If that term sounds odd to your ears, you are not alone, for it sounds about as everyday as Moon Unit Zappa, and makes even less sense. As its title would suggest, quite unbelievable things 'occurred', with people being 'healed' of diabetes, cancer, deafness and paralysis. Whilst perhaps this blogger and rational readers may look upon these claims with a degree of scepticism, there is, as ever, something that is more quantifiable than miracles: money. Indeed, quantities of money seemed to manifest themselves in abundance, providing an outpouring capable of paying for $15,000 a night venues. Quite how much was generously donated to the miraculous Mr Bentley, we do not know.

All good things come to an end though, and the 'Lakeland Revival' petered out after Bentley had had his fill of curing people through landing blows upon them, knocking out teeth and kicking an old woman in the face. Miracle workers, it seems, often need to take time off from their good works, especially following television documentary exposures. The Lord truly works in mysterious ways! So, why mention Bentley today? Well, The Daily Telegraph informs us that this agent of the divine will has been denied entry to the UK, with the Home Office stating: "The government makes no apologies for refusing people access to the UK if we believe they are not conducive to the public good." 

Evidently, many people across the country who had been looking forward to a kicking from the Canadian evangelical will be sorely disappointed. It would seem that if they wish to be physically abused by this particular preacher, then they will have to purchase flights to visit him on his home turf or elsewhere in Europe, where he has recently been knocking seven shades of something out of sundry Norwegians. Whether he has lately repeated his pièce de résistance of punching someone when they have a broken sternum, has not been revealed. 

The first of the videos below provides a sample of Bentley in action, although the punches that he lands are on this occasion on the gentle side: "If we had twenty cancers here, we could get twenty cancers healed". Don't give up on the NHS or Bupa just yet though!

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