Saturday, April 09, 2011

Acting like Todd Bentley's publicist

{Posted at Bene Diction Blogs On, Feb. 26th 2011]

Todd Bentley, the bush telegraph reportedly says, is pleased with the recent Oprah Winfrey Network program on faith healing, which features him. I think, sadly, that he has some reason to be.

Lisa Ling's OWN program, "Our America" is reportedly so good that it has alreday been renewed for a second season on the network.

Now that the entire episode featuring Todd Bentley has been put online, we can see how she did.

Please judge for yourself, but here are some brief things that jumped out at me.

The entire program is about a healing conference at the Morningstar complex last year. It was the one where the activists from Operation Save America staged a public protest in the middle of Todd Bentley's service and he had the local police remove them from the building.

[I was pleasantly surprised to see that the OSA protest got a brief mention in the program, especially in light of what was to follow.]

Ling talks to people wanting to be healed and others at Morningstar who try to minister to others. This is what allows her to have a generally hopeful attitude about the possibility of faith healing.

She acts and reports as if Todd Bentley is something totally new to her experience. Todd Bentley, she says at 14:30, "is about as close to a rock star as the preaching world gets."

Earlier, in a voice-over at 13:40, she had said that Bentley "is, quite possibly, the movement's most compelling and controversial figure."

This led me to wonder if there is a possible caution for those in the evangelical world who are either inclined to be charitable to Bentley, or are merely hoping that if they ignore Bentley he will just go away. Bentley, with all his flash and media savvy, is being seen as representative of everyone with an interest in healing--even if they are less flashy and have a better character than Bentley. If Bentley falls again, you folks might become "collateral damage" in the eyes of the media. Just a heads-up.

Bentley brings Ling to his house, complete with "5 Lazy-Boys" chairs. Reclining like a sunning walrus on the beach, he shares his story briefly.

"I grew up around sex drugs and rocakl and roll," Bentley says, "I got involved in all sorts of criminal activity. I was a thief, I was a liar..."

And what was the most part of your criminal activity is the eyes of the law. Oh that. Certainly less significant than what Bentley likes to mention, I am sure.

I empathize with Lisa Ling, as I was led down the garden path by Todd Bentley the very first time that I interviewed him. It is natural, when reporting on what seems like a good news story, to take people at face value.

However, in my own defense, I was one of the first people to report on Todd Bentley in the earliest days of the Internet.

With due respect to Lisa Ling, she can't say that as I was able to. There is quite a bit of evidence out there now to enable a reporter to take a more sceptical approach towards Todd Bentley, if they care to.

There is a blatant example of this in Ling's own piece. Blink, and you can miss what tips it off.

At 16:49, in a montage of critical coverage of Todd Bentley, we see a headline "Heal or Heel" of a story by Warren Cole Smith.

Obviously, Lisa Ling, or her staff, saw the article before their show aired. What does it say?

It's the famous 2009 article from World Magazine in which Smith reports that people who had been reported as being "healed" at the Lakeland revival had since died.

Hmm...wouldn't that lead an on-the-ball reporter to perhaps assume that Todd Bentley has a reputation for, well, not being entirely truthful? Perhaps things that he says should be double checked? It may even be germane to the entire subject in that there may be deceit and lack of character in the way that some people practice faith healing.

Not to Ling. If Todd Bentley sometimes lies like a rug, it hurts the thesis of her story. Best not to notice.

May we say that a journalistic "sin of omission" has taken place?