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Charismatic Chaos… and Stupidity

September 20, 2010

I suppose if you are going to act like the people in the following video there has to be large chunks of the Bible you pretty much just ignore… large chunks of the Bible and reality, sanity, and common human rationality.

The video is undeniable proof that groups of humans can be very, very dumb.

I wonder if you were able to get these clearly delusional souls to sit still for a couple of minutes and stop screaming and flailing about, and maybe sit down with them and open the Bible to 1 Corinthians and start reading stuff like, “God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints,” or “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner,” what their response would be?

Most likely, they would say God is doing a ‘new thing’ and then start screaming “Fire” while they shook like an imbecile…


There’s so much insanity going on in this clip it’s hard to single out one episode, but if you can make it that far, can someone please tell me what the Sheol the lady is doing at the 4:00 minute mark?


19 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2010 9:09 am

    where do you find these things?

  2. phil_style permalink
    September 20, 2010 9:22 am

    Isn;t there something in the bible about “self-control” being produced by the spirit? ….

    • September 20, 2010 9:31 am

      As opposed to the deeds of the flesh evidenced in this video, I believe you refer to:

      But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Ga 5:22–24.

  3. phil_style permalink
    September 20, 2010 9:30 am

    Well, I made it to four minutes. Fortunately I had my headphones on, so my colleagues didn’t have to listen to that painful experience too (that’s just me doing my bit for work-place morale).

    At least the dudes had the charity to lend sheol-girl a blanket. That was nice. I’ll jot that down as benignitas and.. say bonitas (those two kinda go hand-in-hand don’t they?). That only leaves blatant contradictions of continentia, pax and mansuetudo.

  4. EricW permalink
    September 20, 2010 9:38 am

    Been there, done that. Was present when the Arnotts, the Toronto Airport Vineyard pastors, brought “The Toronto Blessing” to Lewisville, Texas. The second time they came they brought the animal noises/behaviors.

    It’s a mixed bag. You can find both positive and negative testimonies about this and related things. Some persons’ lives were seriously messed up. Others’ lives were profoundly impacted by the Lord.

    Who the Sheol knows?

  5. September 20, 2010 9:39 am

    Who spiked the punch? It looks like the ghost of Tim Leary paid ’em a visit.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
      September 20, 2010 11:44 am

      “I put 1500 mikes of LSD in his beer.
      Dat’s enough to launch a repressed ELEPHANT!”
      — Vaughn Bode, “Cheech Wizard”

  6. Josh Mueller permalink
    September 20, 2010 9:51 am

    Every time I think there couldn’t possibly be anything more insane out there, you still manage to top it with more proof to the contrary!

  7. September 20, 2010 11:43 am

    I have to agree with EricW. I’ve been there too and it is often a mixed bag. The pastoral work though is in processing such things. We adopted a stance that if you are still shaking a year later and there has been no change in your life, maybe you need to re-assess that. The problem is that there is a psychological element active too – the need to belong, the need to feel included, and the need to feel like you are special to someone (in this case God). Despite the probable exhibits of simple joining in, there will often be those people who are radically transformed in such environments (often for the good). I have a love hate relationship with ecstatic expressions. What I wonder about is what possess anyone to publish such video footage on the web?

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
    September 20, 2010 11:43 am


    (And just what is with those little pink blankets?)

  9. Jake permalink
    September 20, 2010 5:00 pm

    We can all call this whatever we want, ecstatic expression, anointing with fire, whatever. But the bottom line is that this behaviour is known by one term and one term only: Mass Trance.

    The thing about hypnosis, whether you view it as a positive thing or a negative thing, is that it’s end goal, no matter the context, is always the same. Hypnosis is always about exerting control. You can justify putting people in trance (which is exactly what has happened here) for many different reasons such as therapy or comedy but the end game is that one strong person exerts control over another, more suggestible person. I think this is dangerous and I think it’s nigh on impossible to be in such a position of control and not abuse said position.

    That poor girl at 4:00 was in such a suggestible and vulnerable state that she LITERALLY thought she was on fire when Goatee’d Douchebag started repeating “Fire” over and over (inductive triggering anyone?). I’m sorry, but I fail to see how putting a group of people in that sort of mental state is beneficial to them at all. I’ve seen the fallout from this “mixed bag” of mass trance before and the long term psychological well being of people involved points me to the conclusion that this mixed bag isn’t mixed at all. It’s just full of crap. A bag full of crap that damages people who are too vulnerable not to reach in and grab a big handful.

  10. TheTexasGuy permalink
    September 20, 2010 5:10 pm

    I’ve studied hypnotherapy for the last two years, and it’s been a real benefit to my counseling practice, and what was interesting to me was the stark contrast between valid, clinical hypnotherapy and stage hypnosis, which is a TOTALLY different thing.

    Without going into way too much information, crowd-manipulations like this video follow all the classic principles of stage hypnosis, and the “minister” runs the “show” in essentially the same way. Watch the video – there are some people who are “into it”, some who are neutral and not subject to the hypnotist, er… minister, and some (like the two young guys that the one young man has in a head lock) that are basically, WTF! If you scan this crowd, and then scan the crowd at a stage hypnosis event, you’ll basically see the same three classes of people. That’s the way stage hypnosis and crowd manipulation works.

    I agree that someone who has a lot of repressed emotions might find an event like this somewhat therapeutic as they are given full permission to feel and to express whatever is hidden deep in their psyche – and the positive effect might be lasting. That does NOT justify a gong show of epic proportions like this.

    Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up, I will draw all unto me” (Jn. 12:32). I hate to make blanket statements, but I suspect that there is not one serious seeker of truth that would be drawn toward a life-long commitment to Christ because of seeing something like this.

    That alone should be the criteria, not whether or not we can find someone who has some kind of a positive residue in their life because of it. The downside is so, so, so overwhelmingly negative that the use of the smallest amount of discernment and common sense should tell us that it is inappropriate manipulation at best and tragic, scarring and contemptible at its worst.

  11. September 21, 2010 6:03 am

    Two naughty thoughts:

    1. I thought it was illegal to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

    2. If I had been there, I would have been the one suddenly entering off screen to spray down SheolGirl with a CO2 fire extinguisher.

    (Yeah, Headless Unicorn Guy! I *went* there! ;-D

    Actually, I agree with Jake and TheTexasGuy. Headless will affirm that I’m a retired stage magician and though I never did a stage hypnosis act, I knew those who did. The “minister” is simply nothing more than a good trance inducer, but many of the crowd were quite willing to go along.

    I’m going to assume poor SheolGirl was damaged w-a-y before this encounter. I think it difficult to assume this experience helped her at all.

  12. EricW permalink
    September 21, 2010 7:25 am

    In all (some?) fairness, I suspect that many or even most of the ministers engaging in these kinds of prayer/Holy Spirit/whatever services/sessions do not realize that what they’re doing can easily be explained by crowd manipulation and/or mass hypnosis techniques and behavior, and that is in fact what they are in large measure. Just because one doesn’t realize the extent to which people in the right environment and with the right mindset are suggestible and manipulatable on a subconscious level doesn’t prevent the parties involved from having this happen to them.

    Being uneducated about or unfamiliar with these things, and being taught that these unusual manifestations and responses are from the Holy Spirit, that is what these ministers and people think and say and teach is happening.

    I went to several of the Toronto Blessing “soaking” meetings and saw many things like you see in the video. I was open to whatever the Lord wanted to do to or with me, but nothing ever happened. A friend I took, however, began doing some kind of barking/growling thing there at the meeting where the animal noises/movements manifestation was being “imparted,” and it continued for him in other prayer times at church (not the one where the Toronto Blessing meetings were occurring) that had nothing to do with being at a “soaking” meeting. While praying at my house, though, with a mutual friend, that mutual friend felt that it was demonic and not from God, and rebuked it, and my formerly-growling friend stopped doing it thereafter.


    • September 22, 2010 5:10 pm

      Agreed. That’s the saddest part. People actually believe that this is from God. Jesus died on the cross so we can twitch around on the floor and scream and bark like an injured animal.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
        October 7, 2010 2:06 pm

        “Grovel and gambol on all fours
        Til you have proved without refute
        That human dignity is freed
        Of all connection to the brute…”
        — G.K.Chesterton, commenting on a Pentecostal demonstration outside of the courthouse at the Scopes Monkey Trial

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
    September 22, 2010 1:29 pm

    You know, clip out the preacher-man/emcee’s patter and the soundtrack sounds just like one of the background tracks on some old Isaac Airfreight skits — the track they used for the Damned wailing in Hell.

    As for what’s happening at the four-minute mark, in three words:


    She’s worked herself (or been worked) into such a frenzy she’s completely lost it. Completely out of control. Nothing human left operational at all. Only the Reptile/Hindbrain, screaming and feeling the FIRE FIRE FIRE as if it were real. (Who needs drugs?) While the preacher-man goes on like a DJ at a Jamaican street concert — “MORE FIRE! MORE FIRE!”

  14. John Green permalink
    September 23, 2010 1:38 pm

    I was struck by the similarities between the ‘revival manifestations’ and the behavior reported by the Report of the Royal Commission on Animal Magnetism from the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1874, regarding the effects of mesmerism:

    “Patients then display a variety of reactions depending on the different states they find themselves in. Some are calm, quiet, & feel nothing; others cough, spit, feel slight pain, a warmth either localized or all over, & perspire; others are agitated & tormented by convulsions. These convulsions are extraordinary in their number, duration, & strength. As soon as a convulsion begins, many others follow. The Commissioners have seen some lasting for more than three hours; convulsions are accompanied by murky & viscous expectorations drawn out by the violence of the exertions. Sometimes the expectorations contain streaks of blood; there is a young male patient, in particular, who spit out blood in abundance. These convulsions are characterized by quick, involuntary movements of limbs & the entire body, by a tightening of the throat, by the twitching of the hypochondria & epigastric area, by blurred & unfocused vision, by piercing shrieks, tears, hiccups & excessive laughter. They are preceded or followed by a state of languor & dreaminess, of a kind of prostration & even sleepiness. The slightest unexpected noise causes shivers; & it has been noticed that the change of tone & measure in the pieces played on the pianoforte had an influence on the patients — a faster movement, for example, agitated them more & renewed the intensity of their convulsions.

    There is a padded room, intended primarily for patients racked by convulsions, a room named des Crises; but M. Deslon does not deem its usage necessary, & all patients, regardless of condition, are gathered together in the group treatment rooms. Nothing is more astonishing than the spectacle of these convulsions; without seeing it, it cannot be imagined: & in watching it, one is equally surprised by the profound repose of some of these patients & the agitation that animates others; the various reactions that are repeated, the fellow-feeling that sets in. One sees patients specifically searching for others & while rushing towards each other, smile, speak with affection & mutually soothe their crises. All submit to the magnetizer; even though they may appear to be asleep, his voice, a look, a signal pulls them out of it. Because of these constant effects, one cannot help but acknowledge the presence of a great power which moves & controls patients, & which resides in the magnetizer.”

  15. September 24, 2010 7:19 am

    Despite the charges of mass hypnotism and the fact that I am not wanting to promote unchecked mass hysteria, let alone fruitless chaos. I think there is something that goes on, at least in some of the early events that I have been part of, that taps into what Harvey Cox calls primitive religion. And, like Cox, I am not altogether sure we should just casually dismiss it. As a theologian who studies the communities were this stuff is most likely to happen – I am more concerned with how this functions as a spiritual practice or even as part of the cult of the religion (I am using that term in the proper way). Historically, religions have been the home for many such primitive expressions, from the whirling dervishes to the ecstatic tongues of pentecostals. While it is helpful to note that there are plausible explanations for such activities, do we really think that someone in that environment cares that their behaviour can be explained away with psychology? As a minister in a movement that has been explicitly touched by such phenomena, understanding some of the group dynamics and psychology has been tremendously helpful in letting me navigate this in my own pastorate, but aside from my pastoral concerns there is also the mediation of the participant that needs to be examined.

    I’m still convinced that Wimber had it right by not encouraging or discouraging such activities – but rather focusing on what he called the main and the plain of the gospel. At least by doing that he was helping to provide a mediating framework for the participants to process their experience. In my experience with such phenomena there seem to be two extremes to the responses – those that become addicted to the experience and go off pursuing it (those people don’t stick around in any one community a long time and really do not contribute to the health of that community in any significant ways) and those who actually try and learn through the experience, process it in other words. It is those people who may sporadically experience such things, but tend to be just as surprised at it as the rest of the community. Often they find great wisdom, despite any questions about the source of the ecstatic experience itself, and actually move toward maturity. I think it was Ted Harrison’s book on Stigmata that talked about the commonality of such experiences, albeit often singular, in the lives of committed nuns. So while taken in extremes primitive religious expressions can be disturbing, especially when viewed apart from their context (and even sometimes when seen in context), I’m not able to just dismiss it as invalid.

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