‘Selective Rationalism’, dangerous than ‘Superstition’
The great miracle healer from the United States or Canada, Benny Hinn is coming to Bengaluru to demonstate for the second time his God given miracle powers to heal the people of Karnataka suffering from serious diseases including cancer and AIDS. With the arrival of this great “visiting doctor” or faith healer , we may close down all those speciality hospitals !
One wonders what has happened to all those rationalists or those with a scientific bent of mind who were till recent days arguing in support of the Siddaramaiah Government’s proposed law to put down superstitions, faith healers and possibly even astrology. It goes without saying they are concerned with superstitious practices among Hindus and not the followers of Christianity and other religions. The Congress has put on hold the adoption of the Karnataka Prevcntion of Superstitious Practices Bill, 2013.
Ours is a strange land. Many in the country had disbelieved the claims of Sri Sai Baba of Puttaparthy , but have faith in Benny Hinn , who has been questioned and condemned in his own country, the United States. The late Dr H Narasimhaiah, well known former vice-chancellor of the (Bengaluru) Bangalore University had in 1977 headed a committee to investigate the miracles claimed by the Sai Baba. It had been styled the Committee to Investigate Miracles and Verifiable Superstitions. As a journalist I had accompanied the committee to the Sai Baba Ashram at Whitefield near Bangalore in May 1977. Of course the committee returned empty handed as it was not allowed inside the Ashram by militant devotees of the Baba. One cannot however dispute Dr Narasimhaiah’s commitment to science and scientific temper. Let it also be clarified that though I do not believe in the claims of godmen including Sai Baba, the rationalists and the so-called progressive cannot claim any monopoly over rational thinking.
Benny Hinn will be arriving in Bengaluru to attend the National Christian Prayer Conference to be held from January 15 to 17. The Bethel AG Church of Hebbal in Bengaluru will be organising the event. The last time Benny was here was in 2005 and he held his “Faith Healing Summits” at the Jakkur Airfield. We might recall that the then chief minister Dharam Singh had attended that summit and the State Government had helped the organisers in various ways. The one miracle one can remember is that Dharam Singh lost his Chief Ministership in 2006 though he had been “blessed” by Benny Hinn.
His coming visit has thrown up the best opportunity for our rationalists to investigate the miracle powers of Benny Hinn if they really have the scientific temper of those like Dr Narasimhaiah or the atheism of people like EV Ramaswamy Naicker or other leaders and intellectuals who had preached and practised humanism or Manavathavadha. With their Mounavratha on the Benny Hinn visit, our rationalists have allowed some thinkers in the State in Karnataka like the scholar Dr M Chidanandamurthy to demand a ban on the Benny visit.
Who is this Benny Hinn , who goes from place to place in the world preaching his brand of Christianity raising hopes among the believers and inviting criticisms and disbelief ? Toufik Benedictus Hinn is his full name and he was born in Israel in December 1952 in an Eastern Orthodox Christian family. The family later migrated to Canada , where Hinn converted to Pentecostal Christianity. He is described as a tele-evangelist , faith healer and miracle crusader. He has his own Television Channel in the US and gives a talk show every day called “This is Your Day”.
He is also called a Christian evangelist and a Bible teacher. All his summits are held in large stadiums and Binn claims that he has addressed over 100 crore people and cured many of their ailments. It is noteworthy that his own family had questioned his ways and called him a religious fanatic. Even his claims of a troubled childhood have been questioned. Mainstream Christians including the orthodox have called his doctrine and practices “unusual” for a true Christian. Hinn like the many Godmen in India and elsewhere claims that God Almighty had blessed him with the power and a vision to predict the resurrection of thousands of the dead. In short Benny Hinn has the power to give rebirth to the dead ! Should we believe it ? His miracle crusades are stated to have healed those who attend the summits of blindness, deafness, physical injuries and even cancer and AIDS.
It goes without saying that Benny Hinn belongs to the section of ultra orthodox Christians living in what is called its “Bible country” of the United States, who have been exporting Christianity and converting non-believers to that faith. It is no surprise that even a former Pope, John Paul had invited protests when he had said on Indian soil in November 1999 that the time was ripe for conversions to Christianity in our land. No doubt he had spoken in metaphors and not in so many words. At about that time, the then Prime Minister ABVajpayee had called for a national debate on religious conversions. One of the dictionary meanings of evangelism is to convert people to Christianity. The Karnataka Government is reminded of the Supreme Court judgment in the Reverend Stanislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (1977) case that the right to propagate a religion under Article 25(1) of the Constitution does not mean the right to convert a person into a different faith. The Court headed by the then chief justice of India AN Ray had upheld the Freedom of Religion Acts of Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, which were meant to prevent forcible conversions. It is noteworthy that those laws had been adopted by Congress Governments.
Benny Hinn is a controversial preacher even in his one land. He has been condemned and investigated even in the US. The media in that country like the Los Angeles Times , NBC Dateline, CBC “The Fifth Estate” have questioned his claims through investigative journalism. With the help of hidden cameras, the CBC showed that Benny Hinn was guilty of fabrication of evidence to prove his claims. Like the godmen in our country, his personal staff carefully choose members of the audience who go on the stage to proclaim miracle healings. Not everyone is allowed on the stage . He is no different from our godmen who produce vibhuti or even a necklace from nowhere but refuse to produce a pumpkin (kumbalakai) to oblige the critic. The last was the challenge thrown to Sai Baba which he ignored. Benny Hinn has also been accused of misappropriation of funds. His organisation claims that it is supporting 60 Christian mission organisations all over the world and every day one lakh orphaned children are being fed.
Those in our country who are deriding astrology as a pseuo science or bunkum, should be startled at the predictions of Benny Hinn. He had prophesied the destruction of homosexuals in the US , the death of the Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the 1990s and the end of the world in 1992 and 1999.
However in fairness to Hinn, it must be said that in 2007, he and his organisation cooperated with an American Senate investigation of his finances . It had been headed by Senator Chuck Grossley of the State of Iowa.
However Benny Hinn should be allowed to come to Bengaluru and demonstrate his super powers and also enable our rationalists to investigate his claims. The “progressive” Siddaramaiah Government has to help the investigators and not use the police to throw them into their vehicles. It is an opportunity to investigate and expose Benny Hinn and not protest. Moreover Benny Hinn being another preacher with mischief on his mind does not need any VIP treatment from the State Government.
Prasad S Joshi
In a meeting held at Shiv Sena chief’s residence ‘Matoshri’, a leading organisation of farmers ‘Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana’ headed by their leader Shri Raju Shetty joined NDA as its forth partner in Maharashtra. Senior BJP leader MP Shri Gopinath Munde, State BJP President MLA Shri Devendra Fadanvis, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Shri Vinod Tawade, Shiv Sena Chief Shri Uddhav Thakre, Shri Subhash Desai, RPI leader Shri Ramdas Athavale and MP Shri Raju Shetty were present at the meeting. ‘Swabhimani’ has decided to give support to NDA as they agreed on the implementation of the recommendations of Swaminathan and Rangnath Committee reports.
It is threat to the Cong-NCP alliance because RPI has already joined NDA which is a traditional vote-bank of Cong-NCP. Politics on farmers issues has been continually on Cong-NCP’s agenda. Many of the ministers in running State Cabinet have their co-operative sugar factory. So the sugarcane manufacturing farmers have a key role in the regional politics. ‘Swabhimani’ has a huge support of farmers in Western Maharashtra, Vidharbha. So it can dramatically change the power game in upcoming elections. On this background, NDA’s winning possibility has increased.Possibly, two Lok Sabha seats, maybe give to ‘Swabhimani’, one each from BJP-SS.