She was lonely and grieving. She came to the revival because she needed… something.
The speaker noticed the attractive blonde sitting by herself in the crowd, eyes wide and glistening, and her head bobbing at everything he said. He caught her eye again and again during the sermon, staring just a beat longer than necessary.
When he gave his invitation he said, “The Holy Spirit has a special word for someone tonight.” (She nodded). “This person has been waiting a long time to hear from God.” (nod, nod). “This person has been separated from God because of SIN, but tonight is her time to RELEASE all that holds her back.” (nod, stifled sob).
Then he stepped off the podium and slowly walked up the aisle, pointing his finger at my friend.
“Sister!” he continued with building volume, “Won’t you allow the Spirit of the Lord to enter in and make his dwelling in your heart?”
Tears streamed down her face as she cried, “Yes, Yes, Oh yes!”
Then he did that thing that Pentecostal ministers do where he placed his hand on her forehead and she collapsed. Two big deacons had placed themselves behind her and caught her as she fell. The preacher moved onto his next victim.
Nothing mystical or spiritual happened here. The preacher’s practiced eye had seen a vulnerable person and to make the show more dramatic he took advantage.
It’s a form of rape.
In addition to vulnerable ones like her, shills placed throughout the audience are cued to fall at the preacher’s touch. Then the power of suggestion takes over and plenty of people will keel over, too. They have no idea they are being manipulated.
It happens every Sunday in churches all over the world.
I’m frustrated that people allow themselves to be so easily controlled. And it makes me angry that someone would use the pulpit to manipulate and brutalize others.
When I was a pastor I never practiced that “faith healing” crap. I was always aware of the power people gave me and I tried not to harm them. I didn’t scream, accuse, or manipulate people. I didn’t claim any special word from on high. And I didn’t let the music go on and on, holding the church hostage until someone came forward to be “saved.”
Yet even with my muted style, I could see people looking at me, waiting for a holy message to make them feel less desperate. It disturbed me to be given so much power.
Want to know a secret? I used to feel inadequate and embarrassed that I got so few responses from my sermons. But now I’m glad I was a failure.
I was never comfortable taking on the “Man of God” role, showing a confidence I didn’t feel, demonstrating a faith that was never so firm as my voice. I hoped one day to grow into it the role but instead I grew out of it. It only took me thirty-five years.
I have many minister friends who are humble and want only to help. But the culture in which we function compels us to wield way too much power where people will accept anything we say without critical examination. It’s one of the dynamics that allows many religious leaders to get caught up in scandal.
I still want to help those who are lonely and grieving but now I do it as one person to another, with no magic tricks, no gimmicks, and no power trips.