Thursday, August 7, 2024

This Dude Thinks He’s Jesus

Benny Hinn visits Houston, Free Press pays Benny Hinn a visit

by Mills-McCoin
Illustration by Timothy Tuxedo

I was practicing my short game in Omar’s front yard when he walked out to complain about the noise. Tim was drawing pictures and keeping bar from his lawn chair situated next to the record player but safely behind the tee box. He was serving Bloody Mary’s on this particular Saturday morning in July.
I chipped another ball. Omar grabbed my nine iron with anger and expletives; and asked that I no longer hit golf balls at his bay window. I grabbed his shoulder and said, “Hey, man... this dude thinks he’s Jesus.”
Omar was stunned, so Tim threw a paper airplane from behind the bar and hit him square in the belly. He unfolded the airplane and found a ticket to Benny Hinn’s Holy Spirit Miracle Service. He looked up at me with the joy of a boy trippin’ on Christmas. Tim cued up the record player to Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard” and thoughts of good old-fashioned trouble poured over Omar’s brain.
We ran around the yard like children until the song ended; then jumped in the car and headed to Rudyard’s to brief over beer and burgers. Omar was familiar with this crazy bastard, but I had done some “research” and felt the need to share. So I began to regale the mythology of Benny Hinn.
Toufik Benedictus “Benny” Hinn is a smarmy mad man that lays claim to special powers of healing given to him by God (specifically, the one from the Bible). He moved to Orlando and founded his first church in 1983, the Orlando Christian Center. That’s right, this jackass opened shop on Walt Disney’s turf. Normally, the idea of someone trying to compete against Walt Disney in a contest of “who’s got a bigger imagination” seems silly and predictable. But no. No. Nope.
But back to Benny and his jet. The alarming success of his “healing services” has allowed Benny to relocate to Southern California’s Orange County with his family and television show, which is called “This Is Your Day.” The name of the show never changes. It’s always YOUR day.
Benny Hinn lives lavishly in his ten million dollar home and flies around to his various “miracle crusades” on his jet (I wasn’t just making a pun earlier- he actually has a jet that costs nearly $200,000 a month to operate). And he doesn’t just go to the local pentecostal church downtown. No. No way. There’s no money in that. This dude fills stadiums with people- that either believe he is actually a circus freak with magical powers or skeptics, like me. And on this day, Benny’s Travelling Bullshit Show was at the Toyota Center.

We parked downtown two hours before the show started and left Tim sitting on the hood of the car- drawing, of course (he was our getaway driver if it came to that). We walked into the Toyota Center and Omar’s head began to change colors as he tried to take in all the information from his new environment at once like a child.
As expected, it was crowded; and it didn’t take long for me to get separated from Omar. I knew he would show up later though, so I wasn’t worried. I continued walking about by myself trying my best not to participate in the madness but failing beautifully. The scene was surreal. It was a circus. When was the last time you went to church and the concession stands were open? Popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs, nachos- the usual suspects, but draft beer was not available. I was heart broken. Sorta. Alcohol and miracles do seem to go hand in hand though.
There was a table near the entrance where old women with blue hair were loudly selling books (no Bibles though) and other merchandise used to brainwash all of humanity. Amongst the propaganda was a DVD which assured me that if I believed in God (again, specifically the one from the Bible) and did whatever the DVD commanded me to- then my FINANCIAL CRISIS WOULD GO AWAY. I knew then that I was dealing with liars. Familiar foes of mine. And sometimes not foes at all.
In any case, I left the table and went to look for a seat before any of the old ladies could trap me with the magic they were hiding in their hair. I found a spot halfway up, between a middle aged black woman who was already weeping and a middle aged Mexican woman sitting with her children who were eating cotton candy. I felt very alone.
The air smelled like a thousand different perfumes battling it out to see which one can remind me of church the most.
The service began with songs being sung by a patchwork choir-for-hire (Benny Hinn doesn’t have his own choir because that would require him to pay people money- so he works the sympathy gig and gets the voices for free from different churches around whatever town he’s flown to on his jet). All of a sudden, Benny Hinn appeared in front of the pulpit on the stage. I had no idea what was going on until I saw him. I didn’t understand the mechanics of his show... until I saw him. He was clad head to toe in white- like a klansman almost. He sported tannish ostrich skin dress slippers with his white cruise director suit. I won’t lie, he looked godly. On his left was the music and on his right was a bullpen of pastors and other minions dressed in dark suits. Behind Benny was the choir. Earlier, when I said it was a circus- it got circus-ier.
The first act was an eleven year old girl that Benny called out of the audience to the stage. She looked like Rudy from The Cosby Show. Rudy proceeded to sing a song like a miniature Whitney Houston strung out on electric cocaine. I will concede- it was pretty miraculous.
The next act was a heart-warming lesson from Benny on how to dodge the IRS. He actually talked about it. I was shocked. With his forked tongue, Benny said that all inquiries into his ministry had been concluded and he’s cleared to continue stealing people’s money.
The third act was a music/salvation combo. The music was wondrous and probably scored by Andrew Lloyd Webber or whoever does work for Jerry Bruckheimer. Benny climbed back to the top of his mountain and asked that everyone who had been “saved” by that point- stand up. Omar magically reappeared on the floor, five or six rows from the front!
Omar was the first to stand up then hundreds of others scattered across the Toyota Center followed suit. Benny applauded their salvation and commanded them to come to the front of the stage so that he might bless them- closer. He ran up to the stage like he was going to sit in Santa’s lap. Everyone stood silently during the blessing of “the new people”; all except Omar, who was wiggling like a puppy dog. After the blessing, I made eye contact with him and he joined me up in the cheap seats.
Then it was time for the wallets and checkbooks to come out and vomit forth revenue into the belly of Benny the Hinn. Buckets were passed around to collect all of the booty. I didn’t donate but Omar scribbled, “You are a fraud,” on the back of his business card and dropped it in the bucket with hopes of a free lunch. Benny continued to preach words that encouraged people to donate and assured them that they would get something back- someday. For crying out loud (which is what a lot of people were doing at the time), he wasn’t even being Karl Rove about it. He laid out his evil right in front of us... and people bought it. He hadn’t even performed a miracle yet!
But then he did- and that’s when the shit hit the jet engine.
After the buckets were collected, Benny’s enthusiasm took a turn for the violent. His speech got darker and more condemning. Over and over again, he repeated exact phrases as if to cast a spell upon us. Then without warning, Benny screamed at the minions like a dirty old pirate, “Fire on ya!” and they all fell back into their chairs or to the ground. He did this several times while yelling and carrying on like a professional wrestler on pay per view.
And that was it- that was the “miracle”. After six hours, he healed, what was essentially, his entourage. You can’t “heal” people that work for you and call it a miracle. That’s flagrant. And the biggest surprise of all was that nobody asked for their money back. That’s what disturbed me the most. It wasn’t Benny Hinn that bothered me; it was the fools perpetuating his fraud. Benny Hinn simply manipulates people’s vulnerabilities for profit. He’s not the only one, so I can’t throw stones. But the people that “contribute to his cause”- those are the vipers. They are the ones aiding and abetting this con artist; and getting nothing in return but more lies.
If you ever see a man dressed in white with Bibles in his hands and dollar signs in his eyes- he ain’t Jesus.

Monday, August 4, 2024

Opiates for the masses

Prescription opiate addiction in Houston and the secret world that facilitates it

By Anonymouse

“Well, Doctor, I got into a car accident, hurt my back, and can’t sleep at night," I told the crooked doc as confidently as possible. We both knew that was bullshit. He mumbles under his breath and writes me a prescription, lickety-split. “That’s it?” I asked myself. So there I had it: A prescription in hand for 150 Lorcets, 100 Xanax, and 100 Soma. There are dozens of these crooked ‘Pain Management Clinics’ here in Houston and across the nation that conveniently facilitate legions of prescription opiate addictions.

I began experimenting with Vicodin pills in high school. Man, those things made me feel so good. They helped me shove everything else to the side and made me feel like what I was doing was worthwhile. However, back then, they were really hard to come by. That was until I met Brian. He was giving them to me at a cheap price, or so I thought, as I indiscriminately took what I could. It did not seem like anything bad. I mean, it was just a pill. Next thing I know, I am taking ten to twelve a day.

After growing tired of paying street value, I decided to ask Brian how he was getting them so cheap and how I could flip a few to make some money back. That’s when he introduced me to the glamorous world of Pain Management Clinics. Houston is bursting with these crooked doctors that make great livelihoods on others' misery. He took me to an innocuous building off of Beltway 8 at West Bellfort. I had no idea what I was getting into. You enter what seems like an ordinary doctor’s office yet it is teeming with armed security. You fill out your entry form as you watch junkies rushing to fill theirs out to get their precious goods. Now, the waiting room is packed full of hungry fiends exchanging information about better deals on their drugs and who they know that can help you out. People are there to get everything from Lean (Codeine cough syrup), Vicodins, Lorcets, Percocets, etc. But in the end, it’s all the same shit. Now, these places are so packed that they call patients into the doctor’s office in groups of ten. To give a veneer of legitimacy, they then scuttle patients momentarily into individual rooms. Even the nurses are shady. After a 45 second ‘discussion’ with the ‘doctor’, you are raced out of the door with the quickness in which you came in. The visit costs 90 dollars. Funny thing is that there are junkies outside the door propositioning you to buy a few from you. No way. Why would I let you in on my hard earned harvest? Then comes the doozy. The back of the prescription has a list of the shady pharmacies that will fill these out and give you the opiates. These are the kind of pharmacies with burglar bars. See, your standard Walgreens or CVS won’t touch these illicit prescriptions. So you are forced to make your way to ‘mom and pop’ pharmacies that are used to filling these orders as much as they get robbed. After handing over my 140 dollars, they doled me out my precious 300 pills. I remember sitting in my car staring at this huge, beautiful bottle thinking, “ I am set.” I made plans around these bottles. I had a few weeks of peace of mind. Opiate addicts always feel like their running out though. Nevertheless, the great thing was that I had legit bottles with my name on it. That means if I got pulled over, a cop couldn’t stick me with the felony per pill I was carrying. I returned to this place a handful of times. Unfortunately, at the time, patients were only allowed to enter this place once a month. Bummer.

For at least 18 months, I was steady taking nearly a dozen a day and feeling diminishing returns on the effects. One day, at my retail job in the mall, I ran out of pills and had one of the worst withdrawal episodes of my life. Waking up feeling like death, I got ready for work with cold sweats. I shit my pants on the way to work. Violently feeling the effects of no opiates, I lied down on the floor behind the cash register hoping no customers would enter the store. You see, opiate junkies get body pains, visceral stomach pains from their nerve endings desiring the drug. It’s like having the flu on steroids. I remember lying in bed punching the wall and being angry with God. I soon became tired of this life and found the fortitude to at least try to get off the opiates. I went through several unsuccessful attempts and worked my way back onto the drug. My life at the time was one big plane crash and Vicodin was my parachute. I struggled back and forth like this for months until I had the guts to look inward and see my desperation. I was no longer myself. I was enslaved to getting these pills. After many physical struggles, lots of soul searching and a few spiritual LSD trips, I have managed to stay away from the addiction for some time now. However, if you met the old me and you had a few ‘beans’ in your pocket right now, I would start to sweat. I would be oblivious to anything else. I just might think about breaking your neck and hiding you behind a building.

* Two million Americans use prescription opioid painkillers every year

* Abuse of prescription painkillers has overtaken that of cocaine and marijuana.

* About 9% of the U.S. population has used pain relievers illegally in their lifetime (according to the 2024 NHSDA--National Household Survey on Drug Abuse).

* An estimated 1.6 million Americans used prescription-type pain relievers non-medically for the first time in 1998.

* Among youths age 12-17, the incident rate increased from 6.3 to 32.4 per 1,000 new users from 1990 to 1998.

* Young adults age 18-25 increased in first use from 7.7 to 20.3 per 1,000 new users between 1990 and 1998.

* Prescription Opiate abuse is more prevalent than Heroin

* Source: SAMHSA U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration