Johnny Lever claims he had prayed to Jesus, for Hrithik Roshan and the famous Bollywood actor was healed of a cyst problem!
The late Dev Anand, Bollywood superstar of yesteryears, followed the controversial US-based televangelist, Pastor Benny Hinn, in his later years!
I had no idea about all of this until recently, when a dear uncle from our church family handed me an article on current Christianity, and that, in a mainstream Indian tabloid. Best gift in weeks- thank you!
Is it not so “cool” to see Christians influence celebrities? While Hollywood has had it’s Kirk Cameron-moments, it would be exciting to have Indian movie stars or politicians convinced of the Christian faith!
Or so it would seem to a lot of us, bechara Christians, what with the we-are-only-2%-of-our-country’s-population collective sigh, looking for some way, any way (apart from maybe speaking the truth about Jesus?) for a massive, nation-jolting affirmation of the Christian faith from someone “big” enough.
But our tiny sparks of hope will fizzle out if we don’t keep in mind two very important questions:
1. How is the Christian faith largely perceived by fellow citizens today?
2. Is the Christian good news that is prevalent among stars and celebrity-pastors in India, really the original Jesus-brand or some cheap (contaminated Maggi?) variety?
Starry Succour, (pages 18-19, Pune Times Mirror, May 17, 2015) points to the trend of Christianity moving out of the Church “as Mumbai’s private messengers of Christ use their star appeal to guide the aimless”. It has interviews of pastors and healers like Brother Johnny Lever – yes, the comedian from Bollywood movies and the once-famous South Indian actress Naghma, now off the radar and happily singing Christian songs spreading “the Lord’s Word”.
The article says that Mumbai in the last decade has seen growing numbers of men and women, outside the usual “church” setting. With impeccable communiation skills, jokes and charm, they hold sway over people with ease and “heal” people by praying or “waving their hands over them”, as Lever fervently remembers Pastor Benny Hinn at his “miracle” meetings. “That several of them have connections with the world of glamour only serves as advantage”, it continues.
Members of MANS, an anti-superstition organisation, thinks such pastors and people can be booked under ‘The Drugs and Magic Remedies Act‘. “They are also thought of as agents of Western outfits that wish to tap into developing nations”.
Hamid Dabholkar, associated with MANS believes that “It’s in this schism between expensive private sector services and ineffective government medical services that frauds thrive”.
I wouldn’t easily scoff at the reality of the power to heal that some of these pastors do possess- just to mention one case I’ve heard first-hand: people who had been flown to Boston for surgeries were miraculously healed from life-threatening illnesses because some Christians prayed to Jesus for them.
At the same time, I have my doubts about the source of many of these pastors’ healing powers. Indeed it is any Christian’s duty to warn others about and guard against false teachers who come in the name of Jesus (2 Peter 2:1-3, Matt 7:15-17, Matt 7:21-23, 2 Tim 4:3).
Pradip Thomas’ insights
Strong Religion, Zealous Media: Christian Fundamentalism and Communication in India (Sage, 2008) by Pradip Thomas draws attention to religious fundamentalists primarily, Christian ones in India today.
I am yet to read Thomas’ work completely and at first glance, it seems to make the assumption that any kind of fundamentalism is wrong (Does not that line of thought, seem like yet another kind of fundamentalism?). This book defines contemporary fundamentalism and explains the history of Christian fundamentalism in India.
Here are some of his intriguing comments on Pastor Hinn.
“Benny Hinn is a full-time global crusader, backed by a sophisticated global management and marketing machine. His religion is tailor-made for the era of wall-to-wall television and he himself is a representative of a resurgent, global and largely mediated form of Christianity” ( page 157).
“The market is a perfect environment for “Prosperity Theology” for it validated religious consumerism – the consumption of books, DVDs, CDs and other Christian paraphernelia that are necessary to ‘making it’ in life, to become someone, to become successful” (page 164).
“As Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar and, for that matter, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar advocate, to be prosperous is to be blessed by God. After all, who wants to be poor? Since all goods and services are aspects of God’s blessings..religion ought to nurture prosperity, communicate the feel-good character of the Gospel message and emphasis Christ’s largesse rather than his empathy.
The market urges the church to identify with success – with the testimony of stock brokers, financiers and IT specialists who have been blessed by God – rather than identity with failure and the poor.” (Emphasis mine; page 172).
These insights expose the fake brand of Christianity that people like Pastor Hinn have made popular in India.
Whether Mr. Thomas knows this or not, he succeeds in uncovering the yawning chasm between such sad techniques and the recorded healings in the Bible. Did not the healings that the first church perform, point to Jesus Christ as the One who had removed the penalty for their sins by His own sacrificial death?
Did not Jesus’ miraculous healings bring before the sick, a parallel of their own (and our own) dire spiritual need to be cured from the guilt and power of sin?
Can anyone defend celebs or commonfolks before God when He judges? The Bible says Jesus alone can.
The fact that Brother Johnny Lever looks up to Pastor Hinn makes me uncomfortable. Has truth been compromised? Do miracles in themselves mean good news for the patient?
Healings happen dime a dozen in India, what with the swarms of godmen we have. If a pastor can’t bring healing, a Hindu Babaji could. If not a Babaji, a Muslim Fakir could. And on it goes.
We Christians in India need not waste time speculating whether Hrithik Roshan was really healed or not. The question we must ask is– was Jesus’ own message ever told to Hrithik Roshan?
Was it “Jesus loves you and has a plan for you”?
Or was it “our spiritual hollowness and moral failures are bare open before the living God, who is impartial and will require justice; of you and of me”?
It finally shouldn’t matter to us if he never believed the truth. But, did Brother Lever ever tell the truth about the condition of Mr. Roshan’s soul to him?
I am hoping with all my heart that he did.