Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Miracle Man

Not many newspapers have commented on what happened recently in Bangalore when an American Christian 'faith-healer' put up a big show of 'faith-healing' to the utter disgust of many rationalists. Deccan Herald (January 19) noted that the alleged faith-healer, one Benny Hinn, had in the past been criticised even by the orthodox Christian church for his alleged heretical theology, prophecies and claims. A Christian research institute reportedly found that Hinn's claims were not true and a charge, besides, was made by rationalists that Hinn resorted to mass hypnosis and worked on auto-suggestion, leading his patients to believe that they had been cured when they had not. Wrote Deccan Herald: "India has its own share of quacks and godmen who constantly dupe the gullible with stories of miracle cures, playing on their faith.... Accepted that in a secular democracy, everyone is welcome to expound his views and beliefs, but the state should not be seen to be associating with a pastor with dubious claims of miracle cures". But that is exactly what Karnataka's former Chief Minister Deve Gowda and current Chief Minister Dharam Singh had done. They were present at Hinn's open charade. Commenting on that Hindustan Times (January 28) wrote: "By performing 'miracles' - and selectively at that - American evangelist Benny Hinn was, at best, giving faith a bad name and, at worst, taking advantage of people who are willing to believe in anything.... To find nothing awry in Hinn's performance of 'miracles' is a dangerous way of encouraging faith being sold in a Tupperware fashion. To condone Hinn's healing marathon is bad enough. But to find Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh sharing the stage with him really takes the cake. Mr. Singh had no business to lead his support to Mr. Hinn - or, for that matter, anyone in the business of religion.... Last heard, we were still a secular nation. And we can definitely do without mass-party tricks".

Dharam Singh's excuse was that Indian sadhus and gurus go abroad to preach, so why shouldn't an American evangelist do the same thing in India? One answer is that, to the best of one's knowledge, no Hindu guru has addressed mass meetings in the United States promising to cure people of their illnesses. He would have been laughed out of town. Secondly, to equate India's illiterate and poor masses with the more sophisticated and certainly literate American citizens is plain silly. But even otherwise, for any Chief Minister to attend an evangelist function to prove his secularism is downright stupid.

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