Derren Brown changed my life. I was only marginally aware of him at first but then I saw 'n clip from his series "Messiah" where he managed to convert a bunch of atheists into believers simply by touching them. People were falling over when he touched them, there was some uncontrollable crying, basically they had the same kind of pentecostal experience that I was all too familiar with having grown up in the Charismatic Christian tradition. After seeing this mentalist - an atheist himself - work the same kind of "miracles" I've seen in church since childhood I knew I had to learn more so I immediately bought his book, Tricks of the Mind. (I heartily recommend that by the way, its a great read). Church was never the same for me after that.
So then it should be no surprise that I was very interested to see his latest show on Faith Healing called Miracles for Sale. Full disclosure, I nearly died because I put my faith in Faith Healing instead of going to the doctor so this is a topic I feel very strongly about. Now if you are unfamiliar with the Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian movements, have never been to a healing service and don't know who Benny Hinn is then you probably won't enjoy this program as much as I did. It's not as spectacular and exciting as some of Derren's previous projects like The Events. On the other hand, if you do know what terms like "slain by the Spirit" means and you have heard preachers claiming to heal the blind and deaf and cripple at their services then this is a must see.
As James Randi has demonstrated so well in the past, the best way to test and/or debunk a claim of supernatural powers is to show how easily it can be replicated using nothing but natural means. In Miracles for Sale, Derren finds a charismatic young scuba instructor and within a few months teaches him all the necessary tricks of the trade, transforming him into Pastor James, faith healer. They then travel to Texas and he preforms "healing miracles" indistinguishable from those you may see at an actual "Miracle Crusade". For the finale he hosts a full blown Revival service, again identical to the real thing, without having any actual "anointing". Here he ended off by giving a stirring sermon about how people asking money to heal others by the power of God are doing something utterly opposed to what Jesus taught and warning them to stay away from anyone who would advise them against seeking medical treatment because that would constitute a lack of faith.
I liked this program for several reasons. First of all it wasn't an attack piece on Christianity. In fact several Christians were involved in this project. They didn't attack the flock, they took square aim at the wolves who fleece the faithful with false promises of health and wealth. There was one scene in particular that just destroyed the Jack Chick view of non-believers as vile creatures slobbering at the prospect of destroying the lives of good Christians. At first they were planning on using a Christian PR firm in order to break into the Texas Christian community. But then they realized that once their deceit was made public they would be destroying the reputation of a good and honest man so they decided to rather take the risk of doing it without PR. That's hardly the picture many Christians have of atheists!
Then there was of course the nuts and bolts of the faith healing business that I found fascinating. If you ever watched Benny Hinn do his shtick and asked yourself "how does he do it?!" then you have to watch this show. Derren actually demonstrates how to "heal" a blind person and a deaf person. No stooges either, these were people who were legally blind and legally deaf. Of course they were still deaf and blind afterwards but it turns out that it's surprisingly easy to make someone look healed when they aren't.
Unfortunately I couldn't find it streamed online anywhere but I will post it if I ever do find it. If you see it in your TV guide, make a note to watch it if you have any interest in the faith healing business. If you have the bandwidth however, here are some links you can use to download the entire thing.
Found it! Guess I just needed to look harder!
File Name ..........: Derren.Brown.Miracles.For.Sale.WS.PDTV.XviD-C4TV.avi
Total Size (MB) ....: 699,93 MB
Video Length .......: 01:13:32
I spent most of my life as a fundamentalist and discovered Reason much later than I would have liked. I'm still dealing with the trauma and this blog is my therapy. So this is me: non-conformist, heretic, fan of delicious flavour and a man without a home. I’m a cynical optimist and a really angry zen master. I am just a man trying to make sense of it all. This is my life in juxtaposition.