Friday, July 02, 2010

Todd Bentley--A new American

[Originally posted at Bene Diction Blogs On, Nov. 7, 2009]

Evangelist Todd Bentley marked a significant milestone in his life about a week ago, if you keep an eye on his Twitter feed. He’s “iamtoddbentley” on Twitter.

On the afternoon of October 31, which was a Saturday (continuing his policy of announcing things when the media is not at work just in case they are still following him) you would have read that he was…

“Celebrating his permanent USA residency.2:04 PM Oct 31st

Todd Bentley, you may remember, was born in Canada and lived in British Columbia until he decided last year to trade his wife in on a newer model. Said newer model, Jessa Bentley, is younger, perhaps prettier and not permanently disabled as first wife Shonnah is. You may also remember, from the recent video interview of Jessa, that she is a United States citizen, hailing from the Sacramento, California area.

Bentley has often remarked—I’ve heard him in person talk about this—that he has had problems coming into the United States for work purposes. He’s hinted that this is because the U.S. customs officials fear that he is taking work from American faith-healers. (I think there may have been another reason, which I will get into later.)

If Todd Bentley’s marriage has been in trouble for years, and he has lived in Canada for years, we can perhaps wonder why he didn’t happen to marry a Canadian as his second wife? Why did he choose to fall in love with an American?

I would bet dollars for doughnuts that he won’t answer any questions about “Why did you decide to leave Canada and becoming an American?” in a future webinar. So, I’ll make some educated guesses that may help you to judge for yourself what is going on.

I wonder if Jessa being an American made her more attractive To Todd Bentley? It’s common knowledge up here in Canada that if you marry an American, it’s a lock that the United States has to let you stay in and work in the country. They even make movies—like “Green Card”—making fun of this.

The big money in the charismatic wing of Christianity is in the United States. Bentley’s friend and fellow evangelist, Patricia King, has basically moved to Arizona for this reason. An evangelist with a damaged reputation—step forward Mr. Bentley—needs to secure his access to this market. So, Todd may have been, all along, idly thinking, “If only I was married to an American…”

(In passing, we can also wonder what this decision means in regards to Todd Bentley’s kids with his first wife. He can note in his Twitter feed that he wants to take them to Disneyland again, but becoming a permanent resident of the United States would stop any plans for Bentley and his new wife, living in Canada close to his kids. Living in Abbotsford B.C. with Jessa would allow him to share custody of his kids. He could have them stay a lot at his house during the school term. He could feed them dinner. He could do their laundry. Help with their home work. Raise them and not just be a vacation host.)

(When Todd Bentley says how much he loves and misses his kids, we can wonder why he is making an effective shared custody of them impossible. Is taking up permanent residence in another country something that a loving father does?)

American critics of Todd Bentley might say “You Canadians have dodged a fusillade of bullets….” As a Canadian though, I confess to being a little dismayed that he is moving towards becoming an American in order to do his work when he doesn’t necessarily have to.

An old document of Bentley’s is very interesting in this context.

A few years ago, Bentley’s ministry started a series of meetings—Canada Ablaze—to evangelize across the country, holding crusades in larger cities. The series of crusades, if I recall correctly, were prompted by a leading from the Lord or a vision or such.

Meetings were planned for Vancouver—the “Vancouver Ablaze Miracle Festival & Outreach”—on November 9-12 2005. I went to all the meetings at Vancouver’s Glad Tidings Church, but as this was in the immediate aftermath of his first extramarital affair—er, his first “dark night of the soul”—Bentley was nowhere to be seen, as substitutes covered for him.

I did hang on to the promotional brochure for the crusade however, and the reasoning for the crusade is very interesting. We can assume that the other cities in his proposed tour were picked for similar reasons:

“….As part of the eighteen city “Canada Ablaze schedule, Evangelist Todd Bentley, along with Canadian Revivalist Noland Clark, will bring the gospel of Jesus Christ—with miracles, signs and wonders—to the people and streets of Vancouver. As well, invited guests and the Fresh Fire Ministries team will be training and equipping Christians from all over North America to hit the streets of Vancouver to share the gospel every day during the festival.”

“With its diverse cosmopolitan character, Vancouver is one of the most scenic cities in the entire world, capturing the title “Pacific Pearl” because of its picturesque setting on the B.C. coastline. Past events held in the city have given Vancouver worldwide recognition, and now this city is eagerly anticipating the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics.”

“Fresh Fire Ministries and the body of Christ in Vancouver are coming together with a flaming torch in hand to ignite revival fires in the city of Vancouver that will impact the region and beyond. Therefore, FFM is partnering with the body of Christ in the Vancouver area to lift up the name of Jesus Christ by hosting an exciting four-night Christian festival.”

“Come and join us for this festival! The time is ripe to re-dig a significant well of revival that has remained virtually untapped since 1923 when 250,000 people attended a three-week festival led by Evangelist Charles Price. The salvations and miracles that happened then can happen once again because God’s mercy endures forever! With this revelation at the forefront, Fresh Fire Ministries envisions a powerful supernatural move of the Holy Spirit bursting out from Vancouver across the whole province….”

A historical note. Some charismatics in the city today wonder if Vancouver’s indifferent response to the revival has hindered God’s work in the city since then. Price himself seems to have had fine motives, but the results of his work—according to reports in the city’s daily newspapers—the Sun, Province and World—were like any other revival with some good results and some bad. I spent a day in the library reading these newspaper accounts once and—like Lakeland—the reporters had a very hard time finding a medically confirmed healing. Bentley is correct though in implying that it made a big splash as the papers covered his crusade extensively.

To this day, there is a perceived need for God to work. Whatever you may think of Faytene Kryskow, her decision to hold The Cry in Vancouver this past summer—with a similar call to prayer and evangelism teams on the streets—reflects that much needs to be done.

Why then does Todd Bentley want to drop tools and leave the work site? Does Vancouver no longer have these needs? Are there dozens of Canadian evangelists who can take up the task that this Canadian has set aside? If we grant that Bentley was in earnest in feeling this burden for Vancouver and Canada, how does he explain that he no longer feels a need to pursue what God called him to do to help his (former)home and native land? No true patriot love here, and if God commands such in Todd, this son of Canada does not care to listen to Him.

This is why Bentley may never address why he has chosen to live in the U.S.. He is on record as working and speaking for “revival” in Canada, where the harvest is ripe and the workers--with his skills--are far fewer than in the United States.

Perhaps we can expect a vision from the Lord calling him to the United States. How convenient that would be.

There is another reason, in Bentley’s past, which may be relevant to the decision of American officials to allow him permanent residency in the U.S.. I want to be very careful in how I discuss this, in fairness to him.

It has to do with the most serious crime that he committed as a teenager. Follow the hyperlink to the text of a 2001 story that I wrote on this if you wish to know what it was.

This puts his decision to get permanent residency in the United States in a different light. Perhaps his occasional problems with entering the United States as much as he would have liked were really due to his criminal record of this specific crime. Perhaps there is something in his record that led law enforcement and customs officials to put a “flag” on him so that his comings and goings in the United States would be carefully monitored.

Marrying Jessa may permanently solve this issue. Todd may now have a little smile on his face, thinking that the United States has to let him stay.

Do I think that Bentley will re-offend? No, I do not. But, when I spoke to various experts in the area relating to this offense of his, I had to realize that a better answer is “I hope not.” The rate of re-offending in this particular crime is quite high.

Do I think that it is dangerous for Bentley to be allowed permanently in the United States? I think not. But allowing him permanent residency status in the U.S., it makes harder for U.S. officials to deal with a future problem should, God forbid, one occur. I hope not. I pray not.

I sincerely hope that Americans will have no reason to regret allowing Bentley to stay in their country permanently. If Bentley is to experience God working grace in his life, we may pray that God begins with this.