Monday, July 28, 2014

Todd Bentley on History Channel Canada

[Posted at Bene Diction Blogs on July 4, 1014

(My main post on Todd Bentley's appearance on History TV Canada June 1, 2 and 4.)

Todd Bentley, the noted faith-healing Canadian evangelist, was featured in a History TV Canada program in early June.

The second episode ever of Miracles Decoded, which featured Bentley along with the late Padre Pio and what the show describes as the "white witches" of Poland.

Not that it wasn't a useful introduction to faith healing, which aired June 1, 2 and 4 for viewers across all of Canada. It was. But the wrinkle is this specific man who was featured. Todd Bentley, a native British Columbian now living and ministering in the US, who is in some ways is not typical, even of faith healers.

It would help viewers to have Bentley put into context. Once over lightly may mislead. So, what follows is a brief analysis of that episode for those who were unable to see it.

The Reno Outpouring site has pictures of the "History Channel" cameras at Bentley's visit to the church in 2013. This probably means that Bentley was interviewed at that time for this episode. Others featured in the show may have been interviewed at that time as well. But the various "experts" are filmed on their own.<.br>
That doesn't discount the possibility that a camera was sent down early *this* year to do interviews and re-enactments. So, if I make a reference to "2014" it is to this obvious follow up work.

Throughout the how, there are references to "now" or "today", so History Tv Canada was working on the assumption that things would carry on without change up until when the program aired.

I think that most of my readers missed the show, so here is my report on it, in some detail.

Actually Bentley was supposed to appear on the very first episode of Miracles Decoded the Sunday before. An ad with Bentley aired as late as 3 hours before the premiere of the show. Evidently it was pulled at the very last second, as that promo aired all that week.

Last second editing? Who knows?

Miracles Decoded is kind of a catch all show on the miraculous. This episode also had sections on Padre Pio and the "white witches" of Poland. The part on Todd Bentley, interspersed throughout the show, is all I will be writing about. [Time notations, such as 28:15, are cued from the start of this episode.]

The section on Bentley starts the show. He is filmed in Reno, Nevada. The narrator [0:41] says in a voice-over: "can Todd heal the sick or is he just a travelling showman?"

Now Pastor Eric Moen, Bentley's friend and a sympathetic expert.
Eric Moen, pastor of the River Rock Christian Fellowship, has been trying to get the Reno Outpouring going for several years.

Had the producers done a little research on Moen, perhaps they may have thought he may be not the best expert on Bentley. He may have an ulterior motive in speaking favourably of Bentley. (His opinions may well be valid and helpful, but some background may also help.

To briefly summarize, Moen is a self-described "friend" of Bentley's, who has ministered with him overseas. That is all right, but Bentley and Moen collaborate on what is likely a failed prophetic word--predicting the future wrongly--might hve been interesting to mention.

Also, I wonder--if the History TV Canada producers had known that Moen and Bentley in the past had collaborated on a "revival" in the past at a time that Todd Bentley was pitching the idea of a reality show to the Discovery Channel--would they fear that they were being played? Here's my audition tape for the show I want to do with you, it aired on History TV Canada as part of their show...

We do know that Bentley has recently acquired a little ministry complex with broadcasting facilities. Home every night and people travel to you to be on the "revival" show.

[An earlier post on what he obtained is here:
Following up on the first episode, the producers group Bentley with Padre Pio of the '60s, and the "white witch' whisperers of Poland. should be quite a how. All three segments are interspersed throughout the program, but I will only be discussing Bentley.

A caution before I get in to the program proper.

This is a "re-enactment" type of reality show. Unlike news, which would have, say, live footage of gunmen robbing a bank and a brave security guard stopping them, they re-enact what happened using actors.

I have a friend who is an actor. He appeared on the program Untold Secrets of the ER. He played a doctor, even though he is neither a doctor nor the actual doctor involved in these events. He was dressed in hospital whites and said his lines and played his part. Now, what he was relating could have been accurate, but it also could have been tweaked to make for good television.

The reason that I mention this is that the producers of Miracles Decoded had a "plan B" in readiness in case Todd Bentley was unable, or didn't want to, appear in the show.

I found this as it was one of the first links on Google related on the program. You may find it here.

The site Showfax is a resource for actors. Ihe page linked to shows that Miracles Decoded *casting director* Larissa Mair was looking for people to *play* several people on the show if necessary. One of the roles offered is "Todd Bentley".

If you were and actor with $1 US on your credit card, you could apply to have the "Todd Bentley" side sent to you, so you could apply to play "Todd Bentley" on the show!

I'm not a faith healer, but I play one on TV.

Cooler minds prevailed, and that is the real Bentley on the program. No doubt Bentley is well known enough that they felt they needed him in person.

But let's note that they have an "actor in mind here. Todd Bentley, in parts of the show may have been coached and directed. Todd Bentley, however, is theatrical enough that it should have been easy for the director to get what they wanted.

One note though. The end credits for the show credit "Casting Director" Muir, a "casting associate" and a "background casting director". My guess is that at least in Bentley's segment, the real people--Moen for certain-- wanted to be in the show and be on camera.

But bet they may have been coached as needed.

And now into the program proper. Time notations are correlated to the time things are done or said on the show.

Todd Bentley is in Reno Nevada, at River Rock Christian Fellowship where Eric Moen is pastor. We are also introduced to him in this post here.

The narrator of the program ponders out loud whether "Can Todd heal the sick or is he just a travelling showman?"

At 2;08 Eric Moen introduces Bentley this way: "His persona is very loud, very charged. I think that God like to use people Todd because they challenge people's ideas of what a man of God should look like.

Dr. Karen Stollznow, author of the book God Bless America, is the first quoted expert.

Don't know if she's ever seen Bentley live, but at 2:22 she has an interesting take on him.

"Todd Bentley is a very likable guy. You want to go to his service then have a beer with him afterwards. He's just very friendly, very reasonable," she says.

The narrator then says that Todd is not merely "colourful", as people believe he can channel the "healing power of God." Cut to Todd being interviewed about how he started yelling "Bam!' and striking people to that end. Please note that this is something he says, not a nickname of his. He's never referenced himself as a name with "bam", and as someone who has followed him for 13 years, I know this for a fact.

Next is Crystal R. Innis, of the Reno Nevada area, who during the course of this show will share how she was "healed" by Todd in the past.

Although she's shown on TV, the program cuts to her daughter, Summer M. Cottam who says that her daughter who explains that due to her mom having an alcoholism problem, her mom developed "pancreatitis". The narrator says this disease is life-threatening, which Wikipedia seems to agree with. {It can causes organ failure, which snowballs.)

At 3:44 Summer says "I had the doctors tell me 'I don't know if she's going to make it...her organs are shutting down.'"

Then the narrator says that Bentley's ministry is "on the rise" and Moen argues that Bentley's ministry built up from "a few hundred people at a conference".
If viewers aren't wise, they could think that where Bentley is now in 2014, is the best situation he has ever been in. Not so, and they would think this due to inexact editing.
The Lakeland Revival of 2008 is well known to Christians, but much less so to the general public who would watch Miracles Decoded. Much simpler not to get into that, I know, but that is more honest. Do we want to imply that Bentley has built from success from success when he has flared across the sky and then crashed and burned at least once?

But the producers of Miracles Decoded DO know about Lakeland. You know Roy Petersen's feature documentary on the revival, Lakeland: The Movie? The Miracles Decoded people mention "Lakeland The Movie" by name in the credits for this episode. And if they had at least watched in, as their mention implies, they would have known of the fall of the revival as Petersen finished it *after* the revival's collapse!

There are many voiceovers in this program, with footage of Todd Bentley doing his thing. It seems to be all Reno footage, and interestingly tight angles are being used at the "Reno outpouring". Under 100 there for sure, I'd guess.

The other two segments are introduced, and the show returns to Todd Bentley at 20:55. The next expert, Prof. Irving Hexham, explains the background of Bentley's charismatic Christianity, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

At 21:48, Todd is interviewed on camera and says: "Some people might call us (?) a faith healer. I don't really like that label. I do pray for people in faith and we hear some amazing stories and testimonies of lives that are changed."

If Todd backs away from being a faith healer and says "stories" and not "news" or "accounts", that's a neat disclaimer. Please note.

Introducing Crystal Innis, who gives another testimony here:

The narrator of Miracles Decoded introduces her in a voiceover at 22:01. " 2010 Crystal was diagnosed with severe pancreatitis brought on by drug and alcohol abuse."

Innis is at last on screen and explains how her plight led her to cry out to God for help.

What follows is a feature for both Innis and Kimberly Gomez. Both were healed at the Reno Outpouring at some time, but there is no live real-time footage of them being "healed" back then. So,there will be re-enactments with a director who is used to actors and knows what looks good on TV, overseeing how they re-enact what happened.

Please note that back in 2010, when Todd Bentley was also at the Reno Outpouring and angling for his own TV reality show.

And thus, for both women, it alternates between a re-enactment of what happened back then (my guess is in 2010) and their interactions with Todd more recently. Much soft focus, tight shots, to make you think, if you don't look too closely, that this is live and real-time.

For example, at 22:15, Innis' voice-over narrates as we see a montage of a out of focus shot of an empty church, then Innis' legs walking forward, then a close up of her face, then a close up of Todd's mouth speaking into a mike, then a close up of her face, then a close up of her face and Todd lays a hand on her.

Then the narrator says:

"All of a sudden something happens that will change her life..."

Makes for dramatic TV even though it's gussied up a bit.

Narrator: "As Todd lays his hands on Crystal, something happens that will dramatically change her life."

On cue, Innis is dramatically slain in the spirit and falls down. Good thing the Holy Spirit can take a cue. Oh, you mean she falls backward on purpose for the camera?

Then a rabbit trail. Todd talks about a "flash of lightning" that happens just then, This is nicely debunked at another blog's post here, but Miracles Decoded instead shows a screenshot of the picture Bentley is talking about.

Unless Bentley is recycling an old trick of William Branham's?

"It was like a supernatural sign!" Bentley says of his photo.

The narrator carries on over footage of Innis worshipping in church, asking whether she was healed by the "power of God" or is there "another explanation".

Next expert up is Andrew Galloway, the noted Canadian "addictions therapist". His take is that anyone going up on stage is "open to the idea of change." Whatever works for you to kickstart your change is "great".

There's footage Of Innis worshipping happily at the "Reno Outpouring" recently, At the front, she says at 23;49, "iwas honestly and truly healed!"

Well and good, but as the Reno audience is cheering and clapping, and she has the mike in 2013 or 2014, she is talking about her healing in 2010. Innis may have clarified this, but it appears to have been edited out of the 2014 revival footage we are seeing her in.

Innis: "All of a sudden it felt like all this twisting and everything and I was like..."

Todd Bentley, standing alongside her: "Electricity?"

Innis: "Yes! And when I got up and I got in line, I was like "i want some more!"
Audience: "Yeah! Yeah! (clapping)"

Innis is then prayed for and is promptly slain in the Spirit. Innis remembering what happened to her in 2010? Or did something else that is new happen to her in Reno while the Miracles Decoded cameras were there? If so, why not develop what happened recently, so it van be examined carefully?

Or did she carefully talk about her 2010 healing in a way that led her audience to think this was happening now. If so, was this so Miracles Decoded could try to get footage of the Reno Outpouring audience reacting to a live "miracle"?

Maybe I'm slow on the uptake, but I was a little confused here.

Andrew Galloway follows up on his point: "I don't think it matters what we connect to, if it's God, great> You know, I tell clients if reading the Yellow Pages works for you, every morning for an hour keeps you sober...whatever it takes."
Br/>[My theologically conservative friends would give pause here that an evangelist's actions would be seen that way. Miracles in the days of Acts brought people to Christ, but now we have "Whatever works" being seen as the important thing.]

Back to Innis, who is still on the ground "slain" being covered by a blanket. At 24.18 though, the camera catches an offscreen Todd Bentley saying, "I love testimonies of healing!"

Was he talking about Innis? If so, which healing and when? Or did Todd Bentley have a hunch that sloppy editing might imply that Innis was being healed right then in 2014 in front of the Miracles Decoded cameras?

Matthew Baxter, a "paranormal and supernatural investigator" has a take on Bentley which is also a voice-over over some footage of Todd doing his theatrical ministry at the front.

Baxter says: "he is a combination of a circus ringleader and a drunken hillbilly and that's a good approach, toe be honest because he acts like he's the everyman, the normal guy that God chose, and if God can choose *him* to become a healer, I could have that connect with God as well."

Miracles Decoded leaves Bentley to address its other subjects in this episode.

But at 32:49, the program reintroduces Bentley in Reno by saying "Hundreds of people have come to this evangelical revival in search fo miracles."

Hundreds? The few shots of the Reno Outpouring that we see in this episode, show that the facility they use seats well less than a hundred. Perhaps around 75 would be my guess, but it's hard to tell
As they are showing Todd, there is another insight by Dr. Karen Stollznow, which starts as a voiceover, but then cuts to her on screen.
,br/Sollznow says,: "These [evangelists} are people where often their services are like rock concerts. You go along and they've got a band playing, or they've got a choir singing, people clapping and shouting and singing, and testifying and they're very emotional."

The narrator then pipes up with "The star attraction is one of the most popular faith healers in North America, Todd Bentley..."

One of the most popular? Really in a lasting sense? Lakeland made Bentley a "nine day wonder", as they used to call it in newspapers, but like a meteor, in my opinion, he flashed across the sky and disappeared in the minds of the general public. Thus Miracles Decoded felt a need to introduce Bentley from scratch.

Then, the program turns to Todd Bentley about to call out words of knowledge, which he does. Prof. Irving Wrexham then comes on screen to explain the Holy Spirit gift of "knowledge and how Todd Bentley would use "words of knowledge" at his meetings. (Assuming he actually does, I am sure Prof. Wrexham would probably add in a caveat.)

At 34:01, Bentley himself comes on to describe how he gets "pictures" or "visions" to help him with prayer for healing.

As Bentley is explaining this, however, we have a cut to footage of Todd Bentley sitting at a desk with a Bible open before him. His eyes are closed.

Bentley: "I'll see a woman's face..."

{A close-up of the side of Bentley's face, his eyes closed.)

Bentley: "...The colour of her dress...

(A close up of Bentley's pen-wielding hand writing in his Bible)

It then cuts to Todd being interviewed on screen: "Things in my body..."

I get the feeling that the director of Miracles Decoded wants me to think that Todd is quite pious.)

Bentley welcomes a man responding to a word about "kidney failure" Bentley prays and the man is "slain."

The narrator then makes amends for the above by asking if Bentley really hears from the Lord, or whether this is "just a trick".

Dr. Karen Stollznow. first in a voice-over and then on-screen, then has a fine insight.
Stollznow: "Faith healers use a technique known as 'shotgunning'. And that is when you've got a large audience and you're wanting to whittle down that audience to ond audience member..."/br>
The producers of the show cut off her thought right there in mid-argument. My guess is that she was going to say that he would start off with something broad and then narrow it down with more details. Would have liked to have heard it though.

In Bentley's defense, though, his Reno audience is probably less than a hundred, so were he to get a real "word" which is specific. shotgunning may not apply here.

Matthew Baxter, the next expert, has a different explanation which may apply in this case.

Baxter says: "If people are coming to a place for faith healing, he can spit out a couple of different ailments and there's going to be people in the audience who have those ailments...because he's got an audience of people with ailments that are looking to be healed."

Then, at 35:15, Todd Bentley says something that is so stunning I'm dealing with it in a separate post. He says that he doesn't expect people to "accept" that what he says or does is real.

Then, at 35:31, Kimberly Gomez, and he 2010 healing, is introduced.

I think she is in one of the photos of Todd Bentley's 2013 Reno visit here.

Gomez apparently does some teaching. She's shown at 35:39 worshipping and then it cuts of a re-enactment of her accident. We see her walking from the waist down, she falls, and then there is only a shot of her kegs prone on the ground. Then there is a shot of her using a walker.

At 35:40, Gomez starts to explain what happened to her, first in a voiceover and then on camera. She says this: "I had had a mild stroke and I collapsed and I did a great deal of damage to my ankle and I had pain that went all the way up my ankle [She touches her left leg]. And it went all the way up, almost all the way up to my knee and I was in constant pain...
The narrator says she was "unable to walk and facing the prospect of painful surgery." Yet the accompanying footage at 25;56 shows her using a walker. Properly this would be "unable to walk without support".

Then in a re-enactment, she is using a walker at church. She says that she was skeptical at first, but decided to give the Todd Bentley meeting a try. (She had her accident in 2003, so when was this. Had to be when Bentley was in town, but when this was is unspecified.)

At any rate, Gomez says she was "looking at nine surgeries down the road."

Miracles Decoded goes to commercials. After the commercials, the episode discusses the other subjects of the episode.

The subject of Todd Bentley returns at 51;24. Bentley is on camera saying "We believe in the supernatural, we believe in miracles."

Narrator: "In 2003, Kimberly Gomez fell and badly injured her leg. Doctors told her she would need a series of surgeries.."

Gomez relates how Bentley called everyone with problems being ambulatory up to the front, with an accompanying tight shot of her using a walker to get up to the front.. She appears to be at the "Reno Outpouring" site. The camera is tight on her, so I can't tell if this re-enactment was shot during a meeting there, or whether the building was empty.

She relates how Bentley asked her if Jesus "heals today". she decided to go for it and Bentley prayed for her. She decided to gently jump up a little to see what happened "and it didn't hurt". She says she jumped higher and then higher, weeping and crying tat Jesus had healed her. This is accompanied by re-enactment footage showing this.

Cut to Gomez at an actual Reno Outpouring meeting. This is a jump cut right after the re-enactment footage and if you aren't paying attention, you might think this happened at the same time. Did they interrupt a later Reno Outpouring service to re-enact what had happened before? If so, was the later Reno Outpouring audience misled to think this was all happening live, right at that moment?

At this real, later, meeting, Gomez is shown being "slain", she is then covered by a blanket, as she keeps talking in a voiceover.

Gomez says: "The presence of the Holy Spirit is so strong on him [Bentley] and you physically cannot stand up, and once you're a believer, your life is changed."

The program then turns to explaining why Bentley's meetings look as they do.

Prof. Irving Wrexham explains it like this: "When you got for the first time [to a meeting] they look really wild and absolutely crazy. But then one realizes after a time that they are not wild and they are not crazy. There is an order. When you watch him [Bentley] long enough, you begin to recognize the order. This says something about the way the human mind works. The human mind thinks it some sort of order, but it also seeks the divine."

I have a question. The experts in the show are quite thoughtful about Bentley, but I am wondering what they are basing their observations on? Di they see him live? On video? Did the producers debrief the experts about Bentley and ask them to offer general comments o charismatics, specifically faith healers. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but it might affect what they have to say.

Matthew Baxter at 53:42 is responding to a question.

He says: "That's the big question. Is it hypnosis or is it God?" As he says this, Bentley is how holding a hand out at the audience. Commercial.

After the commercial break, Karen Stollznow explains how everyone at these kind of meetings "has their own emotional reaction."

Todd Bentley, on camera immediately after, argues well, what else would you expect?

Todd Bentley at 57:57 says, "When I pray for people, I'm thinking how can there not be some kind of reaction when the God of the Universe is moving through you with healing virtue>" That means something is going to be driven out with force. It's like putting your finger is a light socket. There's going to be a reaction."

About these reactions. When you are on the spot, as it were, you're going to want to be the sort of person that God's power flows through. So, you are going to want to co-operate, for good or ill, with whatever is going on.

"But is this ecstasy really miraculous?" asks the narrator.

Karen Stollznow had what I think is a helpful explanation. She says at 57:20:

"People aren't faking their experiences. These are very real experiences. However they're--that doesn't make them miraculous. They are following the social codes of everyone else there in the congregation. I call this a bit of pious peer pressure. It's important for them to participate. If they don't, they're going to be shunned by their group, they're going to be looked down upon. They need to play a part. So, there's an element of role playing and hypnosis there, where people are in the suggestible state, and they're all playing along."

The narrator adds while there always be skeptics, "believers like Crystal and Kimberley have no doubt."

Crystal Innis: "He (Bentley is an awesome man of the Lord. He is truly anointed. Truly anointed.

However, her daughter Summer chimes in with an "it doesn't Mom is healed" type a comment that is so disturbing that Im giving it attention in another post.

Kimberly Gomez, however, seems to be on surer ground as footage plays of her jogging with I presume her husband and dog. One is to infer that she is okay.

Gomez says: "I think God has given him [Bentley] the anointing. Absolutely, I do 'cause I've seen it. I believe God has given him the anointing to perform miracles."

Matthew Baxter is the last expert to speak. He says: "Frauds have been proven. So far, the 'power of God' has not. So it really comes down to a matter of faith."

Todd Bentley is given the very last words in the show.

Bentley at 59:01, says:

I always say to my skeptics. 'It's okay to be a skeptic. Uh, come and be a skeptic. Yu have nothing to lose but your sickness."

Imagine what you are losing out because you don't believe, I would paraphrase this as. God won't heal you unless you believe. *Don't* believe in me. I double dog dare you.

In the end credits, Larissa Mair gets a credit in this episode. Along with a "Casting Associate" and a Backgrounds Casting Director.

When I did some Extra work, I worked as part of the "background" in a program. I was coached regarding what I should do and how I should move while the main actors did their thing.

So, there is the possibility that when the "Bentley at the Reno Outpouring" parts were shown, the service was directed for a few moments by an "assistant director" and not the Holy Spirit.

The show received Canadian production funding credits, so it's likely to be a Canadian production. Americans may or may not see it, which may disappoint Bentley, as the US is now his bread and butter.