Tag Archive: Charismatic

Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult

beni and bill johnson bethel redding

Bill and Beni Johnson, senior pastors Bethel Redding.

Bethel Redding, an Evangelical charismatic multi-campus church, is located in Redding, California. Its senior pastors are Bill and Beni Johnson. What follows is a compendium of information about Bethel and its methodology.

Bethel offers a surefire way parents can help children troubled by depression and discouragement. Let me introduce you to Vintz, the puppet.

vintz puppet

According to the product listing:

Great for Ages 4-10

Included in the Curriculum:

*Vintz the Puppet: He lives in a barrel and brings the message of God’s presence and joy as priority number one.

*Manual: The manual contains 13 lesson supplements. Short lessons designed to incorporate joy into every week in your children’s ministry.

*DVD: On the DVD is a demonstration of one of the lessons, as well as an interview with Seth Dahl.

Seth Dahl believes in raising a generation of children who are strong (joyful) in the Lord. One of his passions is for them to encounter God and experience His works, preventing them from living a life of Christian form without the Reality. Seth and his family live in Redding, California where he is the Children’s Pastor of Bethel Church.

Here is a video from Bethel detailing how children are taught to prophesy and speak in tongues:

Video Link

This video shows that Bethel is serious about indoctrinating children in the charismatic way of life.

In the following video, Seth Dahl, Bethel’s children’s pastor, details Bethel’s four core values for children:

  • God is in a good mood
  • Jesus’ blood paid for everything
  • I am important
  • Nothing is impossible

On Sundays, children gather together at Bethel and recite the Bethel Kids Declaration:

Video Link

On Sundays, children gather together at Bethel and recite the Bethel Kids Declaration:

bethel kids I declare

Here is another I Declare statement Bethel uses in its children’s programs:

bethel kids I declare 2

I think I can safely add Bethel Redding to the list of churches that emotionally and mentally manipulate children in the name of Jesus.

Bethel Redding attracts thousands of people to its services. Attendees come expecting to see God work in supernatural ways. According to a 2010 Record Searchlight article, Bethel provides healing rooms for those in need of a touch from God. Amanda Winters reports:

Every Saturday morning from 9 to 10:30 a.m., two large rooms in Bethel Church are transformed into the Healing Rooms Ministry; a place where people can come and receive prayer for any kind of ailment.

Randy Castle, who was acting director that Saturday, said the healing rooms generally see 100 or so visitors – and up to 300 on a busy weekend.

Four teams with about 70 people each work the Healing Rooms. Many pray over visitors, commanding the body to be healed, speak in tongues and invite the presence of the Holy Spirit through impartation, or laying on of hands. Others, Castle said, play worship music in the “Encounter Room” where people can go bask in the presence of God.

Music performed in the Encounter Room made its way through the Healing Room speakers, repeating “God is good, God is good, God is good,” while worshippers prayed, danced, laughed, cried, fell down and lay on the floor under what they say is the power of God. According to Bethel leadership, this is the room where people are cured of cancer, broken bones, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and a host of other diseases.

Later in the article, Winters writes about an interview she conducted with Bethel senior pastor Bill Johnson:

Bill Johnson, Bethel’s senior pastor, settled into a plush black couch in his office, his arm around an animal-print pillow. Before anything else, he wanted to talk about healing.

“We just had another brain tumor case of cancer healed,” he said. “We have a lot of that kind of stuff happen. It’s verified by doctors, they do the tests and the cancer’s gone. We have a lot of that sort of thing – miracles.”

Johnson, who himself required hernia surgery last year and wears prescription glasses, teaches that the supernatural miracles that happened in Biblical times still happen today if people just value God’s presence and open themselves up to receiving it.

“Because we have such value for his presence with us, things just happen,” he said.

Johnson said that healings happen all the time and he doesn’t feel he needs to provide any documentation or hard evidence to inquiring minds. He also said he doesn’t check up on people who come to Bethel for healing – he doesn’t have the time.

“If you’re sitting here and you say, ‘I’ve been deaf in my left ear since childbirth,’ and I pray for you and then I have you close your right ear and I whisper 10 feet away and you can hear me, I don’t feel like I need to get a doctor’s report,” he said. “I’m happy you’re happy you can hear. That’s enough for me.”

Though he had people praying for his hernia to heal early in 2009, the condition still required surgery and Johnson said that was OK because God can use doctors as well as he can use Bethel’s healing teams, though both are necessary.

“The doctors serve a great purpose but they’ll tell you they can’t fix everything,” he said. “Some things need to be fixed by a miracle or just aren’t fixed at all.”

Johnson said in his sermons he often tells the congregation stories of miraculous healings to encourage them. One such story was about a group in the small, rural city of Shelton, Wash., whose goal it is to raise people from the dead.

Bethel Redding also operates a college of sorts, Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) . According to its website, in 2012-13 over 1,800 students took classes through BSSM. Much of BSSM’s training consists of reading books. Students receive little theological training. The focus of the school is the impartation and use of supernatural gifts.

Think all this supernatural mumbo jumbo is funny and of no consequence? Think again. In 2008, Jason Michael Carlsen, along with Sarah Koivumaki and Zachary Gudelunas, both students at BSSM, traveled to a California cliff to have a party. Already drunk, Carlsen fell off the 200 foot cliff. Instead of immediately dialing 911, Koivumaki and Gudelunas decided to put their BSSM skills to work. The Record Searchlight reports:

Rather than call police when their drinking partner fell ? or was pushed ? off a nearly 200-foot cliff, two students at a Redding Bible school tried first to reach the severely wounded man and pray him back to life, a lawsuit alleges.

In a lawsuit filed this month in Shasta County Superior Court exactly two years to the day after he was pulled by search-and-rescue crews from the banks of the Sacramento River, Jason Michael Carlsen alleges that when Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry students Sarah Elisabeth Koivumaki and Zachary Gudelunas couldn’t reach him to heal him with their prayers, they spent hours debating whether to call the police.

Bethel’s members purport to have the ability to heal people through prayer and bring the dead back to life.

The two later told police they thought Carlsen was killed in the fall.

Worried that they would be exiled from the church, the two Bethel students also went so far as to try to cover up evidence they’d even been at the top of the cliff, the lawsuit alleges…

Carlsen, by the way, is now a paraplegic.

According to Beni Johnson, in 2009 Martin Scott came to Bethel and gave the church a prophetic word about the California drought. Johnson thinks the recent rains are proof that God fulfilled Scott’s utterance.

(video no longer on Vimeo)

Beni Johnson also practices what is commonly called grave sucking (or mantle grabbing). What follows is a picture of Johnson lying on the grave of C.S. Lewis, hoping to suck out of Lewis’ corpse some of his supernatural power.

grave sucking

According to a February 20,2016 Record Searchlight article, Bethel has submitted plans to the planning commission for a new church facility. If approved, Bethel’s new 39.3 acre church plant will include:

  • A 171,708-square-foot campus
  • 1,851 parking spaces
  • An auditorium that will seat 2,600
  • Classroom space at the School of Supernatural Ministry to enroll up to 3,000 students

There is no question is my mind that Bethel Redding is a dangerous Evangelical cult. While people often think of cults being small, secretive, out-of-the-way sects or churches, Bethel is a reminder that some cults hide in plain sight.

If you have ever attended Bethel or had any interaction with its members, please share your experiences in the comment section.

Updated:

Molly Hensley-Clancy, a writer for Buzz Feed, recently wrote a feature article on Bethel. Here’s an excerpt from her insightful article:

The basic theological premise of the School of Supernatural Ministry is this: that the miracles of biblical times — the parted seas and burning bushes and water into wine — did not end in biblical times, and the miracle workers did not die out with Jesus’s earliest disciples. In the modern day, prophets and healers don’t just walk among us, they are us.

To Bethel students, learning, seeing, and performing these “signs and wonders” — be it prophesying about things to come or healing the incurable — aren’t just quirks or side projects of Christianity. They are, in fact, its very center.

….

 

This is the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry’s real goal: creating spiritual warriors, young people who will go out into the world armed with just the kind of supernatural gifts that Bethel believes will bring people into the Kingdom of God.

“Jesus is bringing the Kingdom, and he’s doing it through signs and wonders,” says Dann Farrelly, BSSM’s dean. “They’re the things that make people go, ‘Huh, there’s something about you, about this.’ Jesus even said: You don’t have to believe in me, you believe in the signs I’m doing.”

More simply: Miracles are a really good way to convert people.

BSSM is built on the idea that we are all “naturally supernatural”: We all have the potential to heal the sick and to hear God’s vision for the future. It’s ours because it’s Jesus’s, says Farrelly: Jesus does the work, and humans act as conduits. The school’s job is to foster the supernatural gifts of signs and wonders — to teach people to hear God’s voice and turn it into prophecy.

…..

Stefan, who spent three years at Bethel before eventually leaving evangelicalism, felt for his first few weeks at Bethel like he was really seeing miracles: healings and prophecies that felt like they had come directly from God. Eventually, that changed.

Stefan looks back at his time at BSSM and sees an array of “psychological mind games” — healing via placebo, prophecy through confirmation bias. He’s done some reading lately, he says, on how magicians convince crowds that they are seeing magic and not magic tricks; how believing that you are going to recover from an illness or that your injured limb has been healed can, sometimes, be enough to accomplish healing.

“I think, for me, Bethel was the beginning of realizing, like, this is all bullshit,” says Chris, who went to Bethel in the mid-2000s and asked that his last name not be used because he still has close friends in the church. “When you do it, you convince yourself that this is all really real. But it’s cold reading, that’s what it is. You just dress it up in Jesus.”

Chris was a good prophet, his teachers told him. While he was studying at Bethel, he once had a vision from The Song of Deborah as he prayed over a woman whose name he did not know. As he told her this, she cried out in surprise: Her name was Deborah.

“What I see now is, those are random thoughts,” Chris says. “Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, your prophecies are horrible misses. But you don’t remember them being a terrible flop — you remember the one time it worked.”

At BSSM, Chris said, the focus was on testimonies of success — retelling to a group of fellow students the stories of the one “holy shit” moment when their prophecy had worked. No one talked about the times they had failed.

….

Bethel has offered tens of thousands of people a chance to be healed at its massive conferences and on mission trips across the globe. And hundreds of people make the pilgrimage to their Healing Rooms in Redding every week. Many, I am told, practice Bethel’s brand of Christianity, but others are mainstream Christians, dipping their toes in the waters of more radical faith. Others, like me, are not religious at all.

On a Saturday morning, I sit in the lobby of the Healing Rooms, clipboard in my lap and a pen in my hand. On my right knee is the big, ugly black brace, one that I’ve been sporting for six weeks, since a soccer injury left me with two completely torn ligaments. I’m here to have my knee healed — or at least that’s what I write on the Healing Room intake form I’ve been given, which asks me to list my “Physical Prayer Needs.”

I have a lot of physical prayer needs: At the moment, I can’t ride a stationary bike, go down stairs, or even bend my knee at a right angle. I write those down. The form also asks whether I’m “born again” and if I’ve been “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” I check “no” for both.

After an introductory class on the “Biblical foundations of Healing,” we’re led into the main sanctuary, a kind of holding room which is already buzzing with people. Concentric circles of chairs, some of them draped with colorful blankets and pillows, have been set up around a large group of easels where people are painting prophetic art on giant canvases: a pair of hands touching each other, a tree shedding blue leaves. A praise band of beautiful young people wearing flannel plays up on the stage, crooning hypnotic, repetitive strains of viral Bethel Music songs. In the corner, in front of a cross draped with sequined gold cloth, a woman lies prostrate and unmoving, her forehead pressed to the carpet. She does not move the entire time I’m in the sanctuary.

In the back of the room, a row of people with telemarketer-style headphones and laptops are conducting healing sessions via Skype. A pair of large screens in front of us remind us that only Bethel’s ministry team are allowed to heal.

I settle in the corner, waiting for my number to be called, and watch as a trio of prophetic dancers, barefoot and carrying colorful scarves, gather around a woman near me who looks very much like she has just emerged from a brutal chemotherapy treatment. They ask if they can dance for her. She begins to cry, clutching her husband’s hand, as they twirl around her.

After a while, a woman interrupts the praise band to tell us that there is a “healing pool” forming in front of the stage. “It’s a pool where the impossible is possible, where oil and water mix, and here there’s going to be real healing,” she says. As dozens of people come up to the pool, collapsing to their knees or raising their hands in the air, the woman’s voice becomes a hypnotic chant: “Oil and water mix here, outside in the world they don’t, but in here they doooo. Oil and water mix here…”

The ailing woman and her husband make their way to the pool and begin to dance with each other, swaying slowly.

Later, we’re herded into another, smaller room, one where intense healing is going to take place. We wait our turn and watch Bethel’s healers do their work, stationed in pairs in front of people clutching their intake forms.

The woman next to me, who looks about my age, has a squirming little boy on her lap. I peek at her form, which lists just two ailments, scrawled in all-caps: PARASITES and HEARTBREAK.

Finally it’s my turn. “So, you’re not saved, and you’re not born again, right?” one of my healers asks, scrutinizing my form.

I explain clumsily that I was “raised Catholic,” which is only barely true. With my utter lack of faith made clear, the prayers focus not just on my knee, but on my own relationship to God, asking him to “help me on my journey towards faith.”

I can tell I’m a tough case, because a third healer comes over to us, and then a fourth. Soon I’m surrounded by people praying for me, one woman’s hand on my shoulder, another on her knees in front of me, and the force of their expectation — desperation, almost — is palpable. Unrelentingly, every few minutes, they ask me how I’m feeling, whether I’m better.

I try to deflect some of their questions, but it never works. When one healer asks me what I feel, I tell her I feel “your energy and prayers.” She jumps back, “But what about your knee?”

“Well, it’s a really serious injury,” I try. “So I think it might take some time.”

The woman seems almost offended. “Time?” she says. “Jesus doesn’t need time! Jesus can heal you right away.”

We start praying again, and I start feeling a little desperate, like I’ll never get out of here. The next time they ask me how my knee feels, almost automatically, without thinking, I lie.

“I think it’s more flexible now,” I say. I move it back and forth, and I can see my healers’ eyes light up. “I think it’s getting better. Thank you.”

“Thank you, Father!” one of them cries out, taking my hand. We’re both, I think, relieved, though maybe for different reasons. “Thank you for beginning this journey to healing.”

It’s finally over, and my healers ask me to give them my intake form. When I take the paper off of the clipboard, I notice there’s a back side, too, meant to be filled out by Bethel staff: a checklist labeled “Miracles Performed.” It includes healed shoulders and knees, zapped tumors, cured cancer, and limb-straightening, as well as soul-saving. At the very bottom of the list is the very miracle that the Stanford professor told Stefan would convert him: “Limb regrown.”

I hand the form over, wondering if they’re going to check me off as a Miracle Performed. As I leave the room, I think I see one of my healers do just that.

A week later, when I’m back in New York, I pull myself up onto my physical therapist’s table, facedown. The excruciating process of recovering from my injury has, so far, involved forcing my locked-up knee to bend slightly farther at every appointment, a process that always makes me cry out in pain, and sometimes leaves me with tears in my eyes.

“All right, let’s see how you’re doing,” she says. Before I left for Redding, I had told her where I was headed and why, and as I lie there on the table, she jokes, “Maybe you’re healed! This could be our last day.”

I squeeze my eyes shut and feel her bending my knee back. “Wow,” she tells me. “You’re doing really well. You’ve got much more flexibility, actually. I’d say at least 20 degrees.”

I had a lot of downtime in Redding, and I spent most of it doing physical therapy — several hours a day of excruciatingly painful work, lying on the hotel room floor and using a strap to force my knee to bend farther and farther. But still. I turn around to my physical therapist, and she and I exchange a look: just a split second.

You can read the entire article here

Here’s a deeply troubling video of a woman from Bethel Redding putting her beliefs into practice:

Video Link

Do Evangelical Beliefs Lead to Mental Illness?

lisa haven

Charismatic Evangelical and Conspiracy theorist Lisa Haven

Do Evangelical beliefs lead to mental illness? Yes and no. Certainly, Evangelicals, thanks to their religious beliefs, are, to some degree, deluded. They believe things that aren’t true, but I am not inclined to think that this means they all have some sort of mental illness.  All of us are capable of self-delusion. That said, I do think some Evangelicals are mentally ill, and thanks to their beliefs, they see their illness as God giving them some sort of inside information about the world. These Evangelicals are the religious version of Mel Gibson in the movie Conspiracy Theory. Let me illustrate this with a YouTube video put out by a Charismatic Evangelical named Lisa Haven.

The following video details Haven’s belief that the United Nations is a secret front group for the nefarious New World Order.  This video has already been viewed over 40,000 times (85,000 people subscribe to Haven’s YouTube channel). The video is 11 minutes long, but I do hope you will watch all of it. Doing so will allow you to understand what follows. Be prepared to see lots of air quotes.

Video Link  (Sorry, for some reason embedding this video causes my RSS feed to break, so you will have to view it on YouTube)

As I watched this video, I was, at first, amused, and then quite sad. I told Polly, Here’s a young woman whose mind has already been ruined. Imagine, for a moment, where Lisa Haven will be 25 years from now? Will she still be, to use her words, “digging deep and finding truth…spread (ing) truth no matter where it lies?” Or will she be taking psychotropic drugs, wondering what went wrong? I’m sure some Evangelicals will object to me categorizing Haven, a mother of four children, as mentally ill, but any non-religious interpreter of her video would come to the same conclusion.  Remove the religious context and Haven’s rant sounds eerily like the rantings of a crazy person.

In a video titled 18 Unsettling Predictions For 2016: Warning You May Get More Then You Bargained For!, Haven makes 18 predictions (all grammatical errors in the original):

  1. Increased crime and more terrorist threats (due to mass immigration and influx of Refugees, he wants to bring in 10,000 alone in 2016)
  2. Rise of Islam and anti-semitism. Christianity will either stay stagnant or decrease.
  3. Economy will continue to falter, maybe even a “Global Recession.”
  4. America will becomes more third world in nature.
  5. More gun laws and restrictions will be enforced.
  6. An Increased amount of race riots and civil riots.
  7. More movement into the New World Order, Pope Francis will continue his push in this direction, likely embolden it.
  8. Increased earthquakes, tsunamis, weather activity as predicted in the Bible and the warning letter sent to FEMA by prior presidential advisor John L. Casey.
  9. More fusion centers, NSA surveillance and more suppression of truth over the Internet (things like Facebook, twitter, Google, will all work together to oust truths and suppress reality).
  10. A move in the direction of policed streets in the name of “safety.” Increased activity of military helicopters, drone activity, domestic military drills, etc. More laws will be passed promoting this.
  11. Possible World War III due to numerous rumors now transpiring with Russia, who is currently preparing for war against the United States and they want the battlefield to be Syria.
  12. Patriots, Christians, Conservatives, Libertarians, Gun Owners and Veterans will become more of a target.
  13. Activity in the Middle East will embolden! More war activity in Jerusalem, more attacks on Israel as the Bible predicts.
  14. If Obama has his way, due his clean power plan, our energy prices will increase.
  15. Increased demoralization done under the banner of “political correctness.”
  16. More technological advancements, including more movement in the direction of a global ID, Mark of the Beast style (however their goal is not to have this fully in place until 2030)
  17. World governments will become bolder in their tyrannical moves.
  18. America will either have a revival or be apathetic.

While there is an element of truth in some of Haven’s “predictions,”,  it should be clear to readers that her conspiratorial thinking is being driven by her Evangelical beliefs concerning the Bible and eschatology (future events).  Over the years, I have met numerous people such as Lisa Haven. Every one of them had one thing in common: Evangelical Christianity.

In a recent News2morrow interview, Haven shared how she views the world:

Another one – and I just put this story out yesterday, don’t know if you saw it – we could be having a repeat of what had happened in the Soviet Union here in America. And what I mean by that, in order to silence political opposition the Soviets started labeling political dissidents as a psychiatric disorder. The official label was sluggish schizophrenia.

They started labeling people with these titles, basically silencing any opposition that they had.  When I dive through some of the information I see in America, I see some of that being mimicked here. However they’re labeling it as conspiracy theorists and that could open a whole realm. I mean, you can say bible prophecy is a conspiracy theory. You can say a certain realm of patriotism is a conspiracy theory. The term is so broadly used.

There are various reports of research being done at colleges basically studying the minds of conspiracy theorists and labeling them with personality disorders. Again, when something like that happens, I’m like “Ahh!  What is the game here?”

….

I think, what could happen, is that they’re targeting political dissidents, basically the ones that are in opposition to what they want to play out – which would be your patriots, constitutionalists, veterans, Christians. They’ve been specifically targeted on numerous documents. We were targeted on Project Megiddo. There’s the right wing extremist documentation that we have today, and the presentations that they’re giving to our military. These are some of the, quote unquote, “right wing extremists” that are being labeled and targeted.

I think the reason why they’re doing that is, when something happens with the economy and we go into chaos, they’ll have reasons to go round up those dissidents – right wing extremists, as they label a lot of us. They could say that they’re rounding them up to prevent riots, and would send them to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) camps that they’ve set up. And they don’t call them FEMA camps – the official government term is internment camps.

….

Persecution can come in many forms. Right now there is a huge push of persecution against the reality of Christ. Right here in America! — that’s what we’re seeing starting. And that’s being turned into the lunatics that believe a lie. And part of that psychiatric diagnosis is that they are bringing in religion. So you can see what we might be headed in the future with something like that. They’re even claiming in some studies that I’ve read that it could be a medical diagnosis.

….

It’s hard to say, but I think we can push it back. We can delay it definitely. We’ve also seen the leaking of possible false flags that were planned by the government but were diverted because people in media have gotten it out. Sometimes people will say, “Oh but it never happened!” No, it didn’t – thankfully! Because it got diverted through media outlets, especially the alternative media.

The mainstream media seems to be government run. They can’t regulate the alternative media and that’s why they’re pushing that net neutrality (legislation) to put it on the lap of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).  Now if they can silence alternative media, they can implement their plans. But it can be diverted by waking up the masses.

What is it that drives Haven’s thinking? What leads a bright young woman to think that chem trails are poisoning all of us and that drinking tea will cleanse us of its deleterious effects?  What causes Haven to abandon her youth and devote her life to chasing after black helicopters, the New World Order, and Jesus? Two things: her belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Words of God and her literalistic interpretation of these words.

Haven is the poster child for what happens when someone really, really, really believes the Bible. Haven attends a charismatic church that, week in and week out, reinforces her end-times, conspiratorial beliefs. According to Haven’s website, she is taking classes through the International School of Ministry (ISOM), an online Charismatic Bible college. ISOM is operated by Berin Gilfillan and his wife Lisa. Both have secular degrees (University of Michigan, Michigan State), proving yet again that educated people can be quite deluded.

According to the ISOM website:

Each Trimester of ISOM study consists of 32 teaching sessions of training. You can click on each of the blue buttons below to explore the wonderful content of those five Trimesters. They contain a total of 160 sessions of teaching from 30 renowned instructors such as Jack Hayford, John Bevere, Joyce Meyer, A.R. Bernard, Reinhard Bonnke, Marilyn Hickey, Brian Houston, T.L. Osborn and Bill Winston to name a few.

This ISOM program is tried and tested and has been used around the world by over 330,000 students with wonderful results. Now that ISOM has make-up and review classes online, it is even more friendly for use by pastors and churches. Please note, however, that ISOM is NOT focused on high theology, but on practical training and impartation.

….

Many people who previously graduated with doctoral degrees from another institution have commented on how ISOM was so impartational and so different to their previous studies. It is possible for people to start ISOM at a higher level, but not recommended as ISOM core really contains some classic content. We allow students of any age to participate in ISOM. I have graduated two 11 year old students and one 91 year old.

The Gilfillans also give pastors an opportunity to have an ISOM in their church. According to the ISOM website, “ISOM is the world’s largest video Bible School and is being used in more than 15,000 locations, in 142 nations and in more than 70 languages.” The skeptic in me says, I would love to see ISOM’s and the Gilfillans financials. I suspect a lot of money is being made through “training” gullible Evangelical Christians for ministry. One such person is Lisa Haven.

Will Haven’s ISOM training encourage her to think critically? Of course not. The Gilfillans readily admit that ISOM ” is NOT focused on high theology, but on practical training and impartation.” In other words, all that ISOM training will do for Haven is reinforce her belief that she is called by God to expose the evil New World Order and all its attending conspiracies. Here is a list of some the classes Haven will have to take to get a degree from ISOM:

  • Foundations of the Faith
  • Supernatural Living
  • Praise & Worship
  • Fear of the Lord
  • Old Testament/New Testament Survey
  • Living by Faith
  • Jesus Our Healer, Today
  • Church-based training (or how you can start your own ISOM franchise)
  • Altar Call
  • Spiritual Breakthrough
  • Wilderness Mentalities
  • Spiritual Warfare

I have no doubt that the training provided by ISOM will only increase Haven’s conspiratorial delusions. While it would be tempting to put all the blame on Haven for her craziness, the truth is her church, pastor, parents, husband, ISOM, and tens of thousands of adoring YouTube followers, have made Haven into the person she is today.

Is Lisa Haven mentally ill? I don’t know. I’m not a doctor, so I am not qualified to make such a diagnosis. I can say, based on the videos I have viewed, Haven does exhibit the signs of someone who is mentally disturbed. Sadly, as many former Charismatics will attest, mental illness is just a typical Sunday night worship service at the local Charismatic Evangelical church. (If you doubt this, take some time to read the posts on WorldnetDaily and Charisma websites.)

Unless Lisa Haven has some sort of rational epiphany, there’s little that can be done to help her. Sadly, being deluded is not a crime (even though Haven thinks she will one day be imprisoned for her beliefs). She has been taken captive by her Bible and literalistic Evangelical beliefs. She will remain imprisoned until she sees the light and comes to realize that her entire worldview is based on lies.

Note

In the future, I plan to put on my investigative reporter hat and investigate ISOM and the Gilfillans. I’m particularly interested in following the money trail.

Shemitah: Those Crazy Charismatics and their False Gloom and Doom Prophecies

shemitah

Michael Snyder recently wrote an article for CHARISMA titled 10 Things That Are Going to Happen Within 15 Days of the End of the Shemitah.  Snyder thinks that bad times are coming soon:

Is a great shaking coming to America? An amazing convergence of events is going to take place during the last several weeks of September 2015.

Many are suggesting that this could indicate that something really big is about to happen. In fact, some vendors of emergency food are reporting shortages because so many people are stocking up on food and supplies in anticipation of what is coming…

…It all starts with the end of the Shemitah year on Sept. 13. During the last two cycles, we witnessed historic stock market crashes on the very last day of the Shemitah year (Elul 29 on the Biblical calendar)…

…On Sept. 29, 2008 (which was also Elul 29 on the biblical calendar), the Dow plummeted 777 points, which still today remains the greatest one-day stock market crash of all time in the United States.

Now we are in another Shemitah year. It began in the fall 2014, and it ends on Sept. 13, 2015.

So will we see a stock market crash in the United States on Sept. 13, 2015?

No we will not, because that day is a Sunday. So I can guarantee there will not be a stock market crash in the U.S. on that day. But as author Jonathan Cahn has pointed out in his book on the Shemitah, we have witnessed major stock market crashes happen just before the end of the Shemitah year and we have also witnessed major stock market crashes happen within just a few weeks after the end of the Shemitah year. So we are not necessarily looking at one particular date.

And this time around, a whole bunch of critical events just happen to fall in the period of time immediately following the end of the Shemitah year.

The following are 10 things that are going to happen within 15 days of the end of the Shemitah:

Sept. 14: Rosh Hashanah

Sept. 15: The Jade Helm military exercises are scheduled to end.

Sept. 15: The 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly begins on this date. It has been widely reported that France plans to introduce a resolution that will give formal U.N. Security Council recognition to a Palestinian state shortly after the new session begins…

Sept. 20 to Sept. 26: The “World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel” sponsored by the World Council of Churches.

Sept. 21: The U.N. International Day Of Peace. Could this be the day when the U.N. Security Council resolution establishing a Palestinian state is actually adopted?

Sept. 23: Yom Kippur

Sept. 23: Pope Francis arrives at the White House to meet with Barack Obama….Francis is the 266th pope, and he will be meeting with President Obama on the 266th day of the year, leading one Internet preacher to wonder if “something is being birthed” on that day, since 266 days is the typical human gestation period from conception to birth.

Sept. 24: The Pope addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Sept. 25 to Sept. 27: The United Nations is going to launch a brand-new sustainable development agenda called “The 2030 Agenda.” …

…”Unlike Agenda 21, which primarily focused on the environment, the 2030 Agenda is truly a template for governing the entire planet. In addition to addressing climate change, it also sets ambitious goals for areas such as economics, health, energy, education, agriculture, gender equality and a whole host of other issues. As you will see below, this global initiative is being billed as a ‘new universal Agenda’ for humanity. If you are anything like me, alarm bells are going off in your head right about now.”

Sept. 28: This is the date when the Feast of Tabernacles begins. It is also the date for the last of the four blood moons that fall on biblical festival dates during 2014 and 2015…

…Many have also suggested that the Large Hadron Collider “is scheduled to perform a controversial experiment in September,” but so far I have been unable to find any solid confirmation of this.

Just recently, author Jonathan Cahn released a new video in which he expressed his belief that a “great shaking is coming to America and the world.” He points to the biblical pattern of desecration preceding judgment, and he is convinced that we recently witnessed a historic act of desecration here in the United States…

Snyder makes sure he covers his prophetical ass by saying:

I am fully convinced that the months ahead are going to dramatically change life in America, but whether it happens right now or not, I am 100-percent convinced that a great shaking is coming to this nation at some point.

Snyder operates The Economic Collapse website, a site with dozens of affiliate and advertising links. While Snyder dispenses all sorts of financial advice, the real purpose of his site is to make money for Michael Snyder. While the world collapses into to chaos, Snyder wants to make sure that he has a pile of gold and silver so he can continue to live the good life. Wait a minute, I thought the rapture was imminent? No worries, Jesus is delaying his return so people like Snyder, John Hagee, Jim Bakker, and the numerous charismatic TV preachers can gather up enough wealth to make them quite comfortable in God’s new heaven and earth. Either that or these preachers of doom and gloom are the descendants of Elmer Gantry, out to fleece the flock. My money is on the latter.

Thewhoopass charismatic landscape is littered with false prophecies, yet spirit-inspired prophets continue to utter prophecies, hoping that the gullible will forget the past, fear the future and keep sending them money. Driven by fear of the unknown, well-meaning Christians buy into the what people like Snyder are selling. Sadly, for many Christians, they’ve spent their whole life fearing things that never happen.  Could the U.S. stock market collapse? Sure. Could the U.S. economy collapse resulting in massive unemployment, inflation, and poverty? Sure.  But, if these things happen, is it because of God?

Uncounted Evangelical prognosticators are certain that God is going to judge the United States because of abortion, homosexuality, the legalization of same-sex marriage, or any of a number of Sodom and Gomorrah like sins. But, here’s what I don’t understand. If God judges wicked, vile, sinful America, won’t his judgment fall on devout, sincere Christians, the very people who are watchman on the wall and standing in the gap, two of the popular descriptions for those who love what God loves and hate what God hates?  What kind of God punishes people for doing what he commanded them to do? Shouldn’t God open a can of whoopass on people like me and give the faith the keys to a Mercedes? Why punish Team Jesus?

The U.S. stock market could collapse and the global economy could slide into a worldwide recession or depression, but the reasons for this will be greed, consumption, and market manipulation. No God needed. Humanity is quite capable of plunging the world into financial chaos all on its own.

Linda Italiano Says God Delivered Her From Lesbianism

deliverance

Linda Italiano is the latest person to publicly profess that Jesus has delivered her from a life of carnal relations with the same sex.  Italiano, age 52, was a practicing lesbian for 34 years. In 2014, she started attending Life Church in Williamstown, New Jersey, a garden-variety Evangelical church with a charismatic flavor. Italiano writes:

It wasn’t until I started attending church in early 2014, that I saw a different way of living and thinking. This was where my plan and God’s plan collided. As I began attending week after week, I started to understand the Word of God, but I had it in my mind that lesbianism was going to be the deal breaker. I thought that if the church wasn’t going to condone it that I would leave. I also thought that once everyone found out about me I would be asked to leave or I would feel unwelcome.

Thankfully, I was wrong about all of this. I requested a meeting with the pastor where I told her everything and I was met with love and respect. I was also shown exactly what the Bible says about homosexuality and it was made clear to me that it was unacceptable and wrong. I came away from that meeting still feeling welcome and accepted in the church, but understanding that homosexuality is a sin like any other sin. I understood that the Word of God is more important than anything else, and He is the answer to all of my problems. It did not take very long before I was completely delivered from the homosexual lifestyle and I totally renounced it. God did for me what I had been unwilling or unable to do for myself.

Normally, I would leave sexually confused people like Italiano alone. It’s her life, each to their own. However, she has published her story and it was recently featured on the CHARISMA website, so I thought I would give her story the attention it deserves. Italiano recently posted a link to her coming-out story on Facebook. (link no longer active)  Here’s how some of her friends responded to her born-again heterosexual experience:

linda italiano facebook

According to Italiano, her slide into decades of scissoring began at age 18 when her older brother was killed in a car accident:

In 1980, a month before I turned eighteen, my older brother was killed in a car accident. This was the event that changed everything for me. I went from a stable person with goals and dreams to an angry, hopeless, directionless person. My family started growing apart immediately after the accident as we each dealt with the loss separately. This began many years of victim mentality thinking, which hindered me in a big way as it colored all of my decisions going forward.

In 1980, the drinking age was eighteen, much to my detriment. It had become increasingly difficult for me to spend time at home because my mother was taking out all of her unhappiness and hurt on me. I had become her target for all that was lost in our family. I began to spend much of my time in bars. I drank to excess from the start and I quickly became an alcoholic. I also met a woman who introduced me to lesbianism. I chose this lifestyle for thirty years or so until I became a Christian in 2014.

Drinking for me was like a job. I lived in fear of withdrawal and tried unsuccessfully to walk that line between maintenance drinking and blackout drinking. Blackout always won. This lasted until the age of thirty-three when I finally stopped drinking.

Even though I was sober, I was aware that there was still a huge void in my life. I started living a more solitary existence and was full of fear. I had very little self worth and was settling for crumbs from people in my life when I should have been expecting more.

I developed a plan. I was going to find a woman who would treat me well and I would spend the rest of my life with her. I had convinced myself over the years that I was born a homosexual, even though there was evidence to the contrary, and I thought this was the only path I could take. Being around homosexuals for so long, the idea was reinforced in me that I was only attracted to women and that same-sex attraction was a positive thing.

Was Italiano a homosexual? Is she still a homosexual? I don’t know. Only she can answer that question. What I do know is that homosexuality is as normal as heterosexuality and bisexuality, and all the Bible quoting in the world won’t change this fact.

I find it interesting that Italiano sought out a church where most of the staff, including the lead pastor, is female. The pastor of Life church, Jamie Morgan, also has a deliverance story to tell. According to Morgan, at age 26, she was “miraculously delivered from alcohol, agoraphobia, fear, anxiety attacks, depression and nicotine.” In a blog post titled, Fear is a Liar, Morgan writes:

I was saved at twenty-six years old. I was an alcoholic, filled with fear, anxiety, worry, and depression. One night, I fell to me knees and said, “God, I can’t do this anymore. The way I’m living my life isn’t working. I’ve even tried living like others thought I should. That’s not working either. I want your plan for my life. I don’t know you, but your plan for my life has got to be better than anything that I can come up with. I give you my life. I give you my heart. I ask you, Lord, to take this messed up girl, and if you can do anything with her life, to do it.” And He did it. He delivered me from all my fears. He delivered me from alcoholism. He delivered me from panic attacks. I was agoraphobic. I was so scared of panic attacks that I couldn’t go anywhere. I was a prisoner in my own home. But I sought the Lord, just as Psalm 34:4 says. I cried out to Him and He delivered me. After I prayed that prayer of salvation, it felt like shackles fell from me. From that point on, I had to renew my mind according to the Word of God. As I did, I was able to maintain my deliverance.

Here’s Morgan’s Facebook response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage:

Dear Christian who has embraced the apostasy of same-sex marriage:

I ask you to prayerfully read, and somberly consider, this plea…

“Did God really say…?” was the strategy the enemy used in the Garden and the same cunning he uses today. Getting us to doubt any part of God’s Word remains his deadliest weapon. A true follower of Christ makes the quality decision, from which there is no turning back, that God’s Word is the Truth – no matter the cost, public opinion, philosophies of this world or political correctness – even if we have close friends or family members that are in the homosexual lifestyle. It is a non-negotiable for which the true Christian will die (and many have). If you are a Christian, and have caved to societal views on this or any issue, you have been deceived by Satan. Deception, when given root and not repented of, will spread to your entire life – and could eventually effect where you will spend eternity. I implore you to repent for doubting God’s Word as the Truth and for practicing “Cafeteria-style Christianity” which is no Christianity at all. And I implore you to recommit yourself to believe and stand on God’s Word as the only authoritative, inerrant and infallible Truth that exists on the face of the earth.

In Christ’s infinite love,
Pastor Jamie Morgan

The assistant pastor, Marie Campbell, also has a similar deliverance story, having been delivered by a divine encounter with Jesus from “IV drug addiction and alcohol.”

Cults like Life Church are the worst of their kind. They deliberately seek people who are substance abusers or are struggling emotionally and mentally. They offer them them a hot shot of Jesus, neglecting to share with those they prey on that once they are hooked on Jesus they will be expected to conform to Morgan’s fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. (Morgan is a graduate of Oral Roberts University)

Sadly, Italiano has surrendered her will and reason to Morgan, Life Church, Jesus, and the Bible. Whatever her problems might have been or still are, they have been swallowed up by Evangelical moralizing and puritanism. Time will tell if Jesus is enough to keep her from returning to the arms of another woman.

Yes Virginia, Some Christians are Crazy

demon of stupidity

Every once in a while, I read something that reminds me that there are Christians who believe things that in any other context would get them placed in a straight jacket and thrown into a padded room.

Jim Croft is a deliverance minister. According to Croft’s website (website no longer active):

Jim Croft’s ministry career spans four decades. The renowned Bible scholar, Derek Prince mentored Jim. Early on, it became apparent that Jim was an anointed Bible teacher and minister of physical healing and deliverance from evil spirits.

Croft is known worldwide for his unique ability to share profound biblical truths in a simple and interesting way that encourages people to incorporate the truths into their everyday lives. One of his primary delights is to train and liberate laymen into fulltime ministry. There are at least 40 ministries functioning globally that came up under his tutelage.

Jim has ministered in more than 40 nations. His books and articles have been translated into Spanish, German, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Armenian, Farsi and Swahili. He has written 13 books. The most recent are: The Muslim Masquerade; Faith’s Decision For The Abundant Life; Heaven on the Links; Charismatic Superstitions and Misconceptions; Dysfunctional Doctrines of the Hyper-Religious; The Heritage Factor; Miracle of Miracles; Bless the Chosen; and Invisible Enemies: How to recognize and defeat demons.

Croft is considered by many to be a foremost authority on Islamic Issues. He ghostwrites books and newsletters for several international ministries specializing in ministry to Muslims. Each week Jim’s Bible studies are translated into the various languages of the Middle East for distribution among secret house churches in closed Islamic nations.

Jim founded Good News Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It was the home church of Derek Prince. Jim serves as a pastor of pastors and on a number of ministry boards including that of Derek Prince Ministries. He currently pastors a network of house churches and is the senior pastor of Gold Coast Christian Church of Boca Raton, FL.

Croft says this about himself on his Facebook page:

I have authored 13 books. Invisible Enemies: How to recognize and defeat demons is the most recent . It’s a great read for those who have ongoing unresolved issues and those who have inlaws whom they suspect might be hosting uninvited passengers. I also ghostwirte books and articles for varius ministries. My emphasis of life is to be naturally supernatural. (spelling errors in the original)

According to the Gold Coast Christian Church website (link no longer active), the home church Croft pastors:

God is not boring! Christianity is not a religion designed to revolve around man-made rules. Redemption through faith in Christ paves the way for people to enjoy God; their relationships with His people; and to become the type of people whom God enjoys. Therefore, it is our conviction that all of life is spiritual. God enjoys His people when they are involved in their vocations, recreations and families as much as He does as when they are engaged in religious activities. Every aspect of life can be enhanced through one’s spirituality. Proof of one’s devotion to God is not determined by interjections of religious language into every conversation 24/7. We believe that God’s purposes are best served when people take the relaxed stand of becoming naturally supernatural. Our leaders teach our folks to minister salvation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the unconverted in an unobtrusive manner during the routine events of everyday life. By the leading of the Lord, hearing someone in a store checkout line saying they feel ill can turn into a spontaneous healing event. It can be accomplished without the fanfare of a revivalist’s campaign. If you are looking for biblical Christianity without the religious hype, we could be a safe haven for you.

With this biographical background information in mind, here’s an excerpt from an article Jim Croft  wrote for CHARISMA. The title of the article is When Demons Attack Your Children With Sickness. Croft is an older man, so the story he tells about his daughters took place decades ago. Here’s what he had to say:

Our two oldest daughters, Kari and Sharon, were born with serious asthmatic conditions. Regular medical treatments kept them functional. Then, shortly after I became a Christian, Prudence and I prayed for the Lord to heal them. We thank God that He erased every symptom from their lives.

The situation with our third daughter, Holly, was quite different. She was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit at an early age. Nonetheless, her health history and certain aspects of her behavior puzzled us. None of the symptoms she exhibited was alleviated until she received deliverance ministry at the age of 5.

Holly had a stubborn streak that was uncharacteristic of her siblings. In the area of health, she did not respond to prayers for healing in the same way as her older sisters. For instance, all of the girls would catch the sniffles and we would pray for them simultaneously. Invariably, Kari and Sharon would be completely healed within several hours of our prayer—or they would recover fully within a day or two at most. But that was never the case with Holly. Her condition always seemed to worsen…

…Prudence and I grew weary from concern, sleepless nights and enormous medical bills. Above all, we were both disappointed by the fruitlessness of our prayers for her healing. And we were mystified that our every attempt to help her cultivate a more agreeable attitude failed.

One evening, Prudence came to me full of optimism. She told me that while she had been praying about Holly’s condition, the Lord had given her a spiritual revelation. He had reminded Prudence of several pertinent facts. Holly had been born under traumatic circumstances. First, she was more than a month premature. After her birth, she was hospitalized with a life-threatening respiratory ailment. In addition, after the delivery, Prudence had approached death’s door due to massive hemorrhaging.

As she shared all this with me, Prudence beamed with confidence. She was certain she had heard from the Lord.

“Jim, God gave me a vision of demons of infirmity and death entering Holly during her birth. The reason she doesn’t respond when we anoint her with oil and pray is because we are dealing with evil spirits, not routine sicknesses. We must take authority over them and cast them out in the name of Jesus.”

As Prudence spoke, something like inner agreement clicked within my spirit. I knew that what she was saying was absolutely on-target. We were very familiar with seeing people liberated from evil spirits, and I was filled with hope sensing that we were on the brink of a breakthrough for our child. Prudence and I both agreed that the best approach was immediate action. So we asked Holly to sit down with us in the living room for a talk.

As we all sat on the couch together, I explained to her as best I could what we were going to do. “Honey,” I said gently, “God has shown Mommy that there are some naughty spirits inside of you that make you sick all of the time. Daddy is going to tell them to come out of you in Jesus’ name.”

Holly looked a little unsure. Prudence slipped her arm around Holly’s waist, and I continued to explain.

“I’m going to speak very firmly to those nasty spirits while I’m looking at you, and I’m going to tell them to come out. It may sound as though I’m angry, but I’m not mad at you. We know you want to be a healthy and good girl. I am mad at the devil and the mean spirits that make you sick.”

Holly nodded at this point, seeming to understand, so I went on.

“I want you to look straight at me. When I tell the spirits to leave, you just open your mouth a little bit and breathe them out through your mouth.”

At that, Holly again looked puzzled. I thought to remind her of her experience of being baptized with the Holy Spirit. “Holly, do you remember how you breathed in the good Holy Spirit?” She nodded. “Well, after I tell the bad spirits to come out of you, I want you to huff and puff them out so the good Holy Spirit will have more room.”

What happened next was astonishing. As soon as I commanded the demons of death and infirmity to come out of my daughter, she gagged as though something were lodged in her throat.

Her tiny frame shook convulsively. Her face went ashen white, and her eyes rolled back into her head with only the whites showing. She then collapsed on the couch as though dead. In fact, she actually looked like a little corpse. But rather than panicking in concern at her appearance, I picked her up and began to laugh and sing and thank the Lord. I knew the troubling entities were gone.

Suddenly, Holly opened her eyes and smiled shyly up at me. She looked different. Her face was bright and her eyes were clear. Prudence and I knew in that moment that Holly was free from the chronic sicknesses and demonic forces that had attempted to snatch her life…

Now go

puke

Bruce, What Do Think of the Marjoe Gortner Story?

young marjoe gortner

Marjoe Gortner

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Geoff asked:

Hi Bruce .. what do you think of the Marjoe story?

For those not familiar with Marjoe Gortner:

Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner (generally known as Marjoe Gortner; born January 14, 1944 in Long Beach, California) is a controversial former evangelist preacher and actor. He first gained public attention during the late 1940s when his parents arranged for him at age four to be ordained as a preacher, due to his extraordinary speaking ability; he was the youngest known in that position. As a young man, he preached on the revival circuit and bought celebrity to the revival movement.

He became a celebrity during the 1970s when he starred in Marjoe (1972), a behind-the-scenes documentary about the lucrative business of Pentecostal preaching. This won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Film. This documentary is now noted as one of the most vehement criticisms of Pentecostal praxis…

…Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner was born in 1944 in Long Beach, California, into a long evangelical heritage. The name “Marjoe” is a portmanteau of the biblical names “Mary” and “Joseph”. His father Vernon was a third-generation Christian evangelical minister who preached at revivals. His mother, who has been labelled as “exuberant”, was the person who introduced him as a preacher and is notable for his success as a child. Vernon noticed his son’s talent for mimicry and his fearlessness of strangers and public settings. His parents claimed that the boy had received a vision from God during a bath, and started preaching. Marjoe later said this was a fictional story that his parents forced him to repeat. He claimed they compelled him to do this by using mock-drowning episodes; they did not beat him as they did not want to leave bruises that might be noticed during his many public appearances.

They trained him to deliver sermons, complete with dramatic gestures and emphatic lunges. When he was four, his parents arranged for him to perform a marriage ceremony attended by the press, including photographers from Life and Paramount studios.Until his teenage years, Gortner and his parents traveled throughout the United States holding revival meetings,[7] and by 1951 his younger brother Vernoe had been incorporated into the act. As well as teaching Marjoe scriptural passages, his parents also taught him several money-raising tactics, including the sale of supposedly “holy” articles at revivals. He would promise that such items could be used to heal the sick and dying. He was however for the majority of his childhood unknown and “relatively insignificant” as an evangelist, as he found fame much later from his documentary…

…Gortner spent the remainder of his teenage years as an itinerant hippie until his early twenties. Hard-pressed for money, he decided to put his old skills to work and re-emerged on the preaching circuit with a charismatic stage-show modeled after those of contemporary rock stars, most notably Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. He made enough to take six months off every year, during which he returned to California and lived off his earnings before returning to the circuit.

In the late 1960s, Gortner experienced a crisis of conscience about his double life. He decided his performing talents might be put to better use as an actor or singer. When approached by documentarians Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, he agreed to let their film crew follow him during 1971 on a final tour of revival meetings in California, Texas, and Michigan. Unbeknownst to everyone involved – including, at one point, his father – he gave “backstage” interviews to the filmmakers between sermons and revivals, explaining intimate details of how he and other ministers operated. The filmmakers also shot his counting the money he had collected during the day later in his hotel room. The resulting film, Marjoe, won the 1972 Academy Award for best documentary…

If you have not watched the documentary Marjoe, I encourage you to do so. While it is over forty years old, it still provides a behind the scenes look at what goes on in pentecostal and charismatic tent meetings, revivals, and healing services.

Video Link

Video Link

As a Baptist, I had a healthy mistrust and hate for all things pentecostal and charismatic. I saw their preachers as charlatans and false prophets. A good friend of mine and fellow non-believer was a charismatic pastor for twenty years. We never could have been friends while we were in the ministry because I thought people like him were being used by Satan to deceive the masses.

When it comes to stories like Marjoe, the question I have is whether the person was sincere. Were they a true blue believer? Did they really believe they could heal people? Did they really believe God used them to work miracles? In Marjoe’s case, he was conditioned and indoctrinated by his parents to believe that he really had these gifts. Were his parents true blue believers? That’s the bigger question. Were they just passing on the gifts to their talented, precocious son or were they con artists, Elmer Gantry-like hustlers for God?

Thanks to modern technology and dogged investigative reporters, we now know that many of the pentecostal and charismatic evangelists are frauds. People like Peter Popoff, Ernest Angley, Robert Tilton, WV Grant, Leroy Jenkins,Bob Larson, and Benny Hinn are hustlers out to fleece the flock of God. Many of the prosperity gospel preachers are con-artists who have found a way to become fabulously rich off the pain, suffering, and poverty of others. One quick way to judge an evangelist or ministry is to look at their checkbook. Where’s the money going? Whose being enriched by the “ministry” of Bro Heal Them All? In the case of Marjoe, not only did he make quite a bit of money, so did his parents. The family business was hustling for Jesus and it paid quite well. In the end, Marjoe’s father ran off with the cash and left his son and wife behind.

When I was in college, I cleaned a local Sweden House restaurant. One night, a couple of pentecostal evangelists had rented one of the banquet rooms for a healing service. After the service, not knowing I was standing around the corner, I heard the evangelists bitterly complaining about how poor the offering was. This was my first taste of money driven Christianity. As I would learn later, Baptists had their own problem with money-grubbing con-artists, men who preached up a storm only so it would rain twenty-dollar bills. I think the average Christian would be shocked to find out how many of the preachers they love, trust, and support are in it for fame and money. I know of several well known IFB preachers who retired from the ministry as millionaires. Ain’t God good?

In the mid 1970’s, I lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I worked for a local grocery store. Every week, several van loads of Pentecostals would come into Food Giant to shop. They were from Miracle Valley, Arizona, the home of evangelist AA Allen. Allen, an alcoholic died in 1970 after a heavy drinking binge. He was 59. The van loads of long dressed women were from one of the Miracle Valley pentecostal ministries or colleges. This was my first exposure to Pentecostals. At the time, I thought, nice looking women, too much clothing. My girlfriend, at the time, wore skirts and dresses that were in keeping with style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s In other words, I could see her legs.

As I was doing some research for this post, I came upon an interesting story on Wikipedia about one of the pentecostal groups that took up residence in Miracle Valley:

In 1978-80 approximately 300 members of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church (CMHCC) moved from Mississippi and Chicago. They purchased property in the subdivision on the north side of Highway 92 across from the bible college. Thomas was a former disciple of Allen’s at MVBC and attempted to purchase it after his death. Over the following two years numerous conflicts arose between the church and its members, and the local community and law enforcement on the other. Tensions escalated when it was discovered that five young children of church members had died over the previous year, with one and possibly four due to the church’s refusal to seek medical attention. Faith healing was a major component of the church’s teachings. Conflicts also arose when the church refused access to parents and law enforcement in retrieving he children of at least two families who had been illegally transported to the Valley against their parents’ wishes. Racial tensions arose between the African American church members and the mostly white residents. In late 1982 a variety of incidents with law enforcement culminated when local sheriff deputies, with backup by state law enforcement, attempted to serve bench warrants for the arrest of 3 members of the church. A large group of church members confronted the officials and in the ensuing “shootout” two church members were killed and seven law enforcement officers were injured. One church member and one sheriff’s deputy would later die of their injuries. The church and its members departed Miracle Valley in early 1983.

My brother lives near Miracle Valley in Tombstone. He was, at one time, the marshal of Tombstone. He can tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of crazy that went on in out-of-the-way places in Cochise County, Arizona.

I attended a charismatic healing service in the mid 1980’s at the Somerset Elementary School in Somerset, Ohio. At the time, I was pastor of the Baptist church and I want to see firsthand what went on at a healing service. The show was quite intense and towards the end the evangelist started going down the rows laying hands on people. Next to me was an old scruffy woman with dirty and greasy hair. When the evangelist came to her, he looked at her head and kept his hand a few inches above it. Right then and there I knew that this guy was a con artist. What, a bit of greasy hair going to keep you from healing someone? When he came to me, I gave him my keep on moving look. I wonder, did I miss out on God healing me? Am I cursed with sickness to this day because I didn’t let Elmer Gantry’s cousin lay hands on me?

Here’s my take on Marjoe, pentecostal evangelists, and faith healers. I think some of them are true blue believers. Indoctrinated from an early age, they sincerely believe what they are preaching. When it comes to the money they make, they view it as God blessing them. But, I also think that a large number of preachers, evangelists, and faith healers are scam artists, frauds who have found a way to make lots of money without doing much work. They are, at best, entertainers, at worst they are predators who prey an ignorant, gullible Christians.

1972 Roger Ebert Interview with Marjoe.

Marjoe Gortner by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman

Note

If you happened to watch the videos above and see the emotional craziness that went on at Marjoe’s meetings, I should let you know that I saw similar behavior at Baptist revival meetings, preacher’s meetings, camp meetings; especially those held south of the Mason-Dixon line. The only difference? Everyone spoke in English. I’ve seen aisle running, pew jumping, flag waving, shouting, and screaming at countless old-fashioned revivals or camp meetings. I’ve seen churches and preachers collect Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets of cash; thousands of dollars collected for “the Lord”,

Book Review: The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven

boy who came back from heaven

The internet is buzzing over Alex Malarkey’s repudiation of his earth-to- heaven-and-back story. Alex now says the story is a lie. In a recent press release, Alex stated:

An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”

“Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.

I did not die. I did not go to heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.

It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though He committed none of His own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of heaven outside of what is written in the Bible … not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.”

Alex Malarkey

The gist of what has happened here is that Alex and his mother Beth, have repudiated the fundamentalists charismatic/pentecostal beliefs that are the foundation of Alex’s book. Sadly, they have taken up with a different group that is almost as bad. To the best of my knowledge, Alex and Beth are now in a John MacArthur-like Reformed/Calvinistic church. Their recent statements reveal that they have been deeply influenced by Reformed/Calvinist thinking, especially its emphasis on sola scriptura. For more information on this connection, please read the Pulpit and Pen blog and John MacArthur’s right hand man, Phil Johnson’s article, The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine.

Are Beth and Alex Malarkey in a better religious setting? That’s for them to decide. They should, however, realize that they have traded one form of fundamentalism for another.

What follows is the review I wrote when The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven first came out. I thought it was lost, but I was able to retrieve it from The Wayback Machine.

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, a remarkable account of miracles, angels, and life beyond this world is written by Kevin and Alex Malarkey.

At the bottom of the front cover are the words True StoryThe Boy Who Came Back From Heaven recounts the story of six-year-old Alex Malarkey, who was seriously injured in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed. While in a coma, Alex was taken to heaven and given the grand tour. He returned to earth and his body so that he could share with all of us the story found in the book. The book also records post-coma trips to heaven by Alex and even includes an angel appearance to Alex’s father Kevin Malarkey.

I almost stopped reading the book after reading the introduction. Kevin Malarkey, an Evangelical Christian therapist in Columbus Ohio wrote:

I’m not here to beat a drum, convince you of a theological argument, or force you to validate Alex’s experiences. But I humbly offer a challenge: suspend your judgment for just a few chapters. I think your life may be changed forever.

If Alex’s story is to be taken as a TRUE story, then why do I need to suspend my judgment? Should not the truth of the story be clear to all who read it?

According to Kevin Malarkey:

Heaven is real. There is an unseen world at work—an intensely  active spiritual realm right here on earth , all around us. And much of this activity keeps us from focusing on our future destination, the place where we will spend eternity. Alex has been there….

The only thing the book actually proves is that some people believe there is a heaven. The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven may be a true story, but it is a “true” story without one shred of provable truth. In other words, you are going to have to take the word of six-year-old (or 11-year-old by the time the book is written) Alex Malarkey that what he shares is the truth.

The story begins when Kevin and Alex Malarkey are involved in a horrific automobile accident. Kevin, while talking on his cellphone, turned in front of an automobile coming in the opposite direction. The driver of the other car was a woman with two young children. Alex was injured far worse than anyone else. The accident left him paralyzed and in a coma for 2 months.

At the accident scene, unconscious Alex saw:

  • Five angels carrying his father outside the car. Four were carrying the body and one angel was supporting his head and neck (the police report said Kevin Malarkey was ejected from the automobile).
  • The devil sitting in the front seat of the automobile accusing Alex of causing the accident.

While in a coma, Alex was taken to heaven. What did Alex see and experience while he was in heaven?

  • His father was in heaven too, but only for a short time.
  • Alex saw the five angels that carried his father’s body outside the automobile. The five angels stayed with Alex so his father could have time alone with God.  He pleaded to trade places with Alex, but God told him no. God sent his father’s spirit back to earth and Alex remained in heaven. God told him that he would heal him later on earth to bring more glory to His (God’s) name.
  • While in the emergency room, Alex watched everything that was going on from the ceiling. Jesus was standing right there beside him. Alex felt safe and he was not afraid to die.
  • While in the emergency room, Alex saw 150 pure white angels with fantastic wings who were all calling his name. After a while, they said “Alex, go back.”  Alex did go back and Jesus came with him and held him during his time in the emergency room.
  • Alex found himself in the presence of God. God had a human-like body, but a lot bigger. Alex was only allowed to see God from the neck down because the Bible says anyone who looks on the face of God dies.
  • There is an inner heaven and an outer heaven. The outer heaven has a hole that leads to hell.
  • There are lots of colorful, beautiful things to see, and beautiful music too.
  • Heaven is a lot like earth, but it is perfect in every detail.
  • Angels are white, have wings, and are sexless.
  • Some angels are short, 2 feet tall, and others are much taller.
  • There are different types of angels, with different jobs to do.
  • There are lots of buildings in heaven, but Alex only really noticed the Temple. God never leaves his throne in the Temple. There is a scroll in a glass container that only Jesus can read.

After Alex came out of  his coma, he continued to see other world beings. Angels were present in Alex’s hospital room. The angels helped Alex and the angels talked to Alex and he talked back to them.

One day, Alex told his father that he had something important to tell him. He wanted to make sure his father would not be sad after hearing what Alex had to say. Alex said:

There are two days I look forwards to more than any others in my life. The first is the day I die. You see, I can’t wait to get home. It’s not that I want to die right now; I’m not sad…. The second is the day when the devil goes to the Lake of Fire. I can’t wait for him to be gone for good.

According to Alex, demons and evil spirits came to visit him. He was thankful that his father taught him how to pray and how to take authority over the demons.

Alex had this to say about the devil, about demons  and evil spirits:

  • They are evil, scary, and ugly.
  • They accuse Alex of things, bring him doubt, make him feel sad, tell him he will never be healed, and that God won’t protect him.
  • The devil has three heads and all three heads have hair of fire (is the devil a redhead?). Each of the heads speak different lies at the same time.
  • The devil has beaming red eyes with flames for pupils. His nose is nasty and torn up.
  • The devil speaks English to Alex. His voice is screechy like a witch and changes into different sounds. The devil’s mouth is funny-looking with only a few moldy teeth.
  • The devil’s body has a human form but has no flesh.
  • The devil wears a torn and dirty robe.
  • The devil personally appeared to Alex. Sometimes, the devil came along with other evil spirits but sometimes he came alone.
  • Demons are often green and they have hair made of fire. Their skin and robes are just like the devil’s. Their eyes are like the devil’s and they have long fingernails.

According to Alex, demons walk around telling lies. In Frank Peretti style, Alex says that there is a spiritual war going on—angels against demons.

Towards the end of the book, Kevin Malarkey lets readers know that Alex has continued to take periodic trips to heaven. Readers are also told that Kevin himself had an experience where an angel named John appeared to him.

The angel John gave Kevin  a message:

I have anointed you with a message of hope…for the church….for the body of Christ…and for those who will be the body…..that He will be raised up and seen in His true glory…This is the word of the Lord given to you by the angel John.

Speak of Me, for Me, and about Me. Use Alex to show who I am. I have chosen him as a screen upon which to show myself. I am unity, the Trinity, a complete circle. Your story will lead to praise and worship, there will be altar calls. Your bills are the least of my worries. I will be with you all the days of your life. I will speak to you, I will guide you, I am in you. I am about you, you be about me. My love is unconditional. My vengeance is restricted for the holy. My apostles died for Me, will you die for Me? I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.

Most of the book is Kevin Malarkey’s explanation of Alex’s trips to heaven and how God is using them to reach other people. One chapter is devoted to the things that Alex knew about his time in the coma. To many people, this is proof above all proof. Alex talked of things that were not possible for him to know.

The story is what it is. Either you believe it or you don’t. Just like the book Heaven is for Real, you have the story of a young child being taken to heaven. Both boys waited for years before their story was put into print. Both stories show clear signs of being shaped by adult human hands (whether by parents or book editors).

I have no doubt that the Malarkey family believes what is written here. As with many Christians, they are desperate to know that their lives matter and that when death comes there is a new life that awaits beyond the grave.

As a non-believer, I found that the story said little that I would consider as proof that there is a God, a devil, a heaven, a hell, or that life continues beyond the grave. I found myself angry, once again, at the idea of a god who paralyzes a kid in an automobile accident so he can get some praise and glory. With all the suffering, sickness, disease, and death in the world, it seems to me that God has plenty enough praise and glory.

My conclusion? Kevin Malarkey asked me to suspend my judgment as I read the book. I could not do so, and, in my judgment, the book is a bunch of malarkey (meaningless talk and nonsense).

In June of 2014, I wrote the following update:

Last week, I reposted a review of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. After my review hit the internet, Beth Malarkey, the mother of Alex, contacted me via Twitter.  She let me know that Alex, now a teenager, did not write the story and he does not agree with what is in the book.

On her blog, Life’s a Journey, Beth wrote:

I never intended this blog to be a place that I would have to defend my son ALex’s indentity [sic] let alone the journey that he and he alone has endured. I started this blog as a “fun” thing to do and with the intention of maybe sharing some hope and bits of wisdom that has been learned through the struggles. I have taken this blog down from time to time not sure what to do with it and NEVER wanting to make it appear as if any of the people that I write about are extraordinary individuals…

,,,This past week a movie based off the book Heaven is for Real came out. I have not read the book, do not plan to, and am strongly opposed to the movie. Let’s just say that the Burpo book and the book that has Alex’s name listed as coauthor (The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven), as does the Tyndale Publishing website (can not understand how that can be), have a few things in common which I will not get into on here. I am trying to defend my son and truth. Here is something to think about….

It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book The Boy who Came Back from Heaven to not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned. I could post facts and try to dispel many of the things contained within the pages of that book (have done a bit of that), I could continue to try to point out how Biblically off the book is (a few strategically placed scriptures does not make a book Biblically sound) and how it leads people away from the bible not to it (have done that as have others including John MacArthur and Phil Johnson), I could talk about how much it has hurt my son tremendously and even make financial statements public that would prove that he has not received monies from the book nor have a majority of his needs been funded by it (a fund that was set aside by a friend a few years ago has actually been paying for most things in the past few years but that fund is dwindling), I could…..but it seems like many people want to believe what they are given despite the wrong that it may be doing or the wrong that was done in the making of it.

When Alex first tried to tell a “pastor” how wrong the book was and how it needed stopped, Alex was told that the book was blessing people. Ok…first, Alex said that while he was struggling physically and trusting this person as someone who seemed to be concerned so the person was invalidating Alex’s feeling while justifying the wrong that Alex was trying to make that person aware of. . The person told Alex to “trust” him. Alex is the ONLY one that supposedly had the experiences being written about(Alex was a 6 year old and coming out of major brain trauma…note I am not saying what is true and not just that Alex was a kid with major brain trauma which alone should raise questions as to validity) Alex is the ONLY one who has endured not only a horrific set of injuries, but having his journey capitalized on. His struggles are NOT past tense nor is the “story.”

The ones making money from the book are NOT the ones staying up through the night, struggling for their breath, or were they the ones at six years old, waking up unable to move or breathe and in a strange place after last remember seeing a car coming right at the car he was riding in. What I have walked through with Alex over the past nine years has nearly broken me personally and spiritually. I have wept so deeply for what I have watched my children go through, been made aware of how ignorant I was of some things, how selfish I was, and how Biblically illiterate I was which allowed me to be deceived! Sure, I had read my Bible A LOT, but I had not studied it. I had listened to teachings but probably enjoyed more ear tickling than I am still even aware of(for that I repent and have experienced deep sorrow) I am so thankful that God is so merciful and patient. I am thankful that God allowed me to go ahead and fall for the junk that I did(and it was that junk)for I am fully aware of what it feels like to be pulled in.

There are many who are scamming and using the Word of God to do it. They are good, especially if you are not digging into your Bible and truly studying it. They study their audience and even read “success” books to try to build better and bigger…”ministries/businesses”. Please, examine what you see and read. I see many things from a different vantage point because of how much I have witnessed and am witnessing first hand…not second hand. I will remain puzzled and remain seeking truth in the Word of God! One more time..Alex did not write the book and it is not blessing him! Saying that it is blessing others to try to justify its wrong is just that…justification of wrong!

Beth is divorced from Kevin Malarkey and continues to be Alex’s primary caregiver.

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