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TV Review: “Our America With Lisa Ling,” Newest on OWN

by Caryn James
February 15, 2011 2:01 AM
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Our America with Lisa Ling (premiering tonight at 10 ET) has a lot that’s promising, and even more that reveals why Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network is struggling with its ratings, why it will be a challenge to move beyond devoted Oprah-istas.

Ling travels the country finding people who might appear marginal but are also part of America’s texture: tonight's subject is faith healers, next week people living transgendered lives. She personalizes their stories by interacting with them as a friendly, intelligent, sometimes skeptical interviewer.

This first episode offers a fascinating look at a world most of us never come close to, as Ling and her camera crew visit Todd Bentley and attend a healing service at his Morningstar church in South Carolina. She describes Bentley as a rock star among faith healers, and also points out he is a former drug addict whose adultery almost derailed his ministry.

Among the hopeful, she focuses on Steve (above), who has been in a wheelchair for years. Doctors say he will not ever walk again; he is convinced that he will be cured during the last ten minutes of Bentley’s group session. She talks to students at Morningstar’s school for would-be faith healers - I had no idea you could just sign up - many of them with addictions and violence in their pasts. And she visits two middle-aged sisters who have paid $600 each to attend the sessions, hoping that when they bring their mother she will be cured of her untreatable cancer. Faith healing is, Ling points out, a multibillion dollar industry, and the sisters say these sessions are cheaper than medical treatments their mother’s insurance does not entirely cover.

Ling asks many of the right questions, even as she indulges the Oprah-esque strategy of putting herself in the center of the story. She cannot bear to watch what will happen if Steve doesn’t walk, and stays outside as the cameras go inside the healing service. We watch Bentley briefly lay hands on those hoping for a cure then move on to the next person - there appear to be hundreds - as if he were going down some miracle-working assembly line.

I don’t want to spoil the drama, but if Bentley were making the paralyzed walk and curing cancer, wouldn’t you have heard about it? Yet Ling concludes that maybe faith overrides everything, pointing especially to the student-healers who have turned their lives around. She glosses over the harsh fact that we all understand faith healing to mean physical cures. And by twisting that to include the spiritual awakening that can help a person leave an abusive relationship or give up drugs, she avoids the deepest implications of what she has just witnessed. After all the wrenching, disappointed hopes she has exposed, she waffles.

That strenuous effort to have it both ways - not to offend believers or skeptics - feels like an OWN signature, and it threatens to make Our America soft-headed as well as soft-hearted. Lisa Ling and Oprah Winfrey are both too smart for that. Or maybe they’re smart enough to know how to cater to OWN’s audience?

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  • SPRINGSTEEN FAN | August 8, 2012 6:08 PMReply

    This is GREED at the give people HOPE at $600.00 each, is by far the worst sin one can do...
    What a arrogant SOB, as he shows Lisa all his material possessions...I am sorry, but the man is NOT a man of GOD but of GREED..I know I will NOT see him in Heaven!!!

  • Robert Winkler Burke | April 23, 2011 1:33 AMReply

    Drowning Prophetic Church Loathes its Rescue
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Copyright 4/22/11

    The Prophetic Church is near dead, drowning!
    Isn’t it sad?
    Because it calls each great, God-sent rescue,
    Horrid bad!

    Several thousand boats called Higher Teachings,
    Pass by with oar, line and warm blanket,
    Shivering prophet leader man says, No!
    This stinks more than Lazarus stanketh!

    A navy armada called Western Enlightenment,
    Passes by with submarine, ship and aircraft carrier,
    Drowning prophetic leader says, I see: this isn’t help!
    Saying no to the Devil, makes me always merrier!

    Finally, a gigantic Enterprise-class space ship,
    Called Christ-in-You hovers perfectly overhead,
    ‘Tis a pity, we could have beamed prophet man aboard,
    But he flipped us off! was all its Captain said.

    Slowly, excruciatingly,
    The prophetic man drowned,
    He died with a lie on his lips,
    He said, My soul is sound!

    The Prophetic Church knows all and sees all,
    And that, friends, is the problem!
    It knows nothing but pride and hates rebuke,
    Inside it lives a goblin!

    The terrible goblin of pride,
    Destroys other churches as well,
    This goblin is tough as nails,
    For its hosts think rebuke: hell!

    Higher Teachings, Western Enlightenment,
    Corrections and Christ-in-You bring remedy!
    Oh prideful church leaders get demons out,
    In That Day will test You: Got humility?

  • ShaneMac1 | April 22, 2011 1:48 AMReply

    I have watched this for the 4th time now , and I am sickened by the greed of Todd Bentley and Morningstar church!!!!! . This is Tammy Fay and Jim Baker all over again, Plain as day!!!!! And I am not proud to say I am from South Carolina anymore!.
    I grew up in a very profound Christian home and have studied the Bible relentlessly as I have had a Mother that made sure we as kids were at church every Sunday and Every Wednesday and every time the doors of the church were open.
    There is one thing I know for certain, the Masaya Jesus Christ never charged for his service, miracles or messages and never sported rings on every finger of his hand as a symbol of self wealth. This goes without saying the boasting Todd had for his truck and mutable Lazy boy recliners !!!! This is not concurrent with the life that a messenger of god would partake. Shame on all of you, as there were no real healing revealed in this airing.
    Shane Mac

  • brucie loomer | April 10, 2011 10:23 AMReply

    this is the worst piece of journalism I have seen Lisa Ling do.She shld have gone back further and looked into the healing Todd was supposed to have done before. He said that a woman in Africa grew a new eye and could see. Before he got into trouble with adultery he was putting on shows in Lakewood and he kicked an older lady when he was treating her and said his usual bam. You should have done a more through investigation of him. This has nothing to do with his drinking and drugging. It has to do with taking money from people that can't afford it and promises that don't happen.

  • karenina | March 15, 2011 12:49 PMReply

    i think this isnt about whether this is wrong or right - its about recognizing that this is not a small group of 5 or 10. This is recognizing what is a belief that thousands of Americans believe. As stated 50% of Americans believe faith can heal - these people just seem to see it in a more direct possibility. This show isnt about showing you something to agree or disagree with but showing you the factions that make up the diverse and amazing fabric of America - Like admitting the existence of an undesirable relative.

  • Teej | February 22, 2011 6:13 AMReply

    Is it God's plan that faith healers force the lame to come to them--and make them pay for it--instead of volunteering their miraculous talents at hospitals and seniors' homes?

  • Kevin | February 17, 2011 12:07 AMReply

    Its not about casting the first stone this guy is in error with his teaching and should not be doing what hes doing the bible is quite clear on this hes way out on the fringe of christianty, cant find any thing in the bible the resimbles his behavior, as I said he gives christianty a bad name , I believe Jesus can heal , but this guy is way off beam.

    God Bless Kevin

  • Kevin | February 16, 2011 8:16 AMReply

    I thought this guy was, put out to pasture with the whole lakeland thing boy people are gullible, please this guy is a bad advertisment for christianity. For one he is in aultery, and preaches false droctine this is just not exceptable please stop this guy from further decracing the christain faith.

    God Bless Kevin

  • Kathi | February 16, 2011 7:37 AMReply

    We all are guilty of sin!! Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!! I suggest you take the log out of your eye before you try to take the splinter out of Todd's eye. God uses anyone who makes themself available to Him. God does not need our abilities, he need our availabilities and Todd sure is available to Him. Maybe Todd is not perfect like some of you seem to be, but he is making great strides towards the life Jesus would have us live.
    God bless you Todd and may you grow with Jesus's teachings.

  • keeyop | February 16, 2011 5:44 AMReply

    Well, here's further explanation as to why mass [mush] media keeps churning out this tripe.

    Only 1 out of 4 commentors have the sense to recognize the absurdity of faith healing; The others either give magic beings special dispensation, or cling to unsubstantiated claims and beliefs... Ugh. Wanting something to be true doesn't MAKE it true. Simple.

  • Jane | February 16, 2011 5:33 AMReply

    I loved the show. i have attended many healing services (not at Morning Star), and I know of quite a few people who have been healed of cancer. Do I understand why some are healed and some are not? No.....but I do know that God is always good had His perfect Will if for there to be no cancer here, on Earth, as it is in Heaven. We live in a horrific world that is no where near the way God designed it to be. We have fallen very, very far. But God is good no matter what the circumstances look like. Steves story is incredible......his faith is not dependent on whether or not he is healed or not. His faith is in God. Tod Bentley can not heal anyone.....only God can. Its a shame to think you will not believe in faith healings because of the actions of one man.

    I have been healed by God...all praise, credit and glory go to God alone. I am grateful that God has placed people in my life that led me down the right path, but all praise goes to God.

    It was nice to see Lisa's perspective on was nice for her to be a real person, not judgmental and condemning. We do not know how many people were healed at that service, we may never know. But, we do know that Lisa was changed.....maybe that is something to be grateful to God for. Steve focused on God....Lisa focused on Steve.....Maybe this is the time for her to revisit her roots and turn her focus to what God can do, instead of looking at what doesnt happen.

    Thanks again for the was a real treat.

  • Eliz | February 16, 2011 4:54 AMReply

    Watched the premiere episode and I was kind of disappointed.

    I wish they would have featured some stories of real healing like these:

    And I can't believe this Todd guy. "God crushed me so I could be healed". That's bull. Nothing bad ever comes from God.

    Quote: "I don’t want to spoil the drama, but if Bentley were making the paralyzed walk and curing cancer, wouldn’t you have heard about it? "

    Sadly no. People get healed from stuff like this every day and from some reason we don't hear about it.

    I wish ministries would have been featured in this episode. It would have been perfect for it.
    No fake healers and people screaming. Just reality.

  • David | February 16, 2011 4:31 AMReply

    I've got one question: Why can't God heal amputees?

    This pseudo-investigative piece of "journalism" made me sick. She witnessed people pouring their money, energy and time into a charlatan's illusion of false hope- and simply waxed philosophic about the "spiritual" benefits of it afterward.

    Steve was devastated that he couldn't walk, and afterward, he pointed the finger at HIMSELF, rather than that buffoon who runs around yelling "bang" like he watched too many episodes of Emiril's kitchen.

    This was a disgusting display of suffering humans being distracted from the one thing that could bring them true peace: ACCEPTANCE

    Lisa Ling: how dare you call yourself a journalist? You are OWNED by Oprah

    Where is James Randi when you need him?

  • Bud Press | February 15, 2011 5:15 AMReply

    Hi Caryn:

    You brought up some good points. People need to realize is that most faith healers claim to have the ability to heal--through the power of God--but the sick and dying show up at "healing crusades" and leave the same way they came in--sick and dying.

    Todd Bentley claims that God anointed him to heal, and he proclaims people healed in the name of "Jesus". Yet, he has not produced one shred of evidence to back it up.

    2,000 years ago, when Jesus Christ healed the crippled and lame, they didn't need assistance, limp around, and struggle to maintain balance--after their healing. When the Apostles used their gift of healing through the power of God, there were no excuses, no gimmicks, and no deception. The crippled and lame were immediately healed and made whole (Matthew 15:30-31; Acts 3:1-10).

    While I look forward to watching Lisa Ling's show tonight, and while Todd Bentley will have his few minutes of fame, don't expect any true miracles, because Bentley is just a fake healer who operates outside the boundary of Christianity.

    Bud Press

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