Last week, American-Canadian televangelist Benny Hinn announced to his congregation that, four weeks prior, he’d been asked by Kenya’s first lady, Rachel Ruto, if he’d visit Kenya for what he called a “nation-wide, nation government-sponsored crusade.”
Hinn’s announcement, and the subsequent media coverage, was met with mixed reactions. Many of the articles covering the news limited their content’s stance to disseminating the announcement, steering clear of judgment-based analysis of how Kenyans might be expected to feel about this news and where this crusade sits within larger narratives of present realities facing Kenyans.
Kenya’s netizens, entering the conversation with posts on X or through comments left beneath the articles, did what their media houses had largely failed at: quickly placing the story into the bigger picture.
Hinn’s crusade was celebrated as an answer to food insecurity in a Kenya presently suffering with a cost of living crisis, and it was condemned as a waste of taxpayer money. The crusader’s visit was framed as the arrival of a great man at a time of obvious weakness from political leaders, and also bemoaned as yet more lionising of deceitful, self-serving profiteers. For some, the crusade would bring rain and a period of plenty, for others it was an obvious and illegal contravention – from an individual connected to government office – of Kenya’s constitution; article 8 of which reads ‘There shall be no state religion.’
In a time of austerity, why (and with whose money) is our first lady courting a crusader?
Kenya is presently in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis. A variety of internal and international pressures have pushed the prices of basic foodstuffs up and above what the average Kenyan is capable of paying for them.
Internal and international could also be the labels given to the two pinching teeth presently enclosing on Kenya as part of a tightening economic pinch. Kenya’s government is under increasing pressure from the International Monetary Fund to increase taxes in order that it can comply with present IMF loan repayment structures. Raising those taxes will obviously increase the burden already faced by Kenya’s struggling poor, likely resulting in a slow-down to the national economy.
Some have framed this as a question of whether Kenya further hamstrings the domestic market’s spending power and economic drive or, instead, pushes back against IMF directives and risks biting the hand so essential in feeding Kenya’s need for capital. It’s a difficult quandary, that’s certain. What’s also certain is that it is the poorest of Kenyans who will be paying the highest price.
In September of 2022, president Ruto announced that he was slashing the public expenditure budget by 290 billion kshs. Kenya’s 2022-23 financial year, was to be one defined by a tightening of belts.
Politicians were, however, going to play their part. Officials, Ruto suggested, would have to reduce their use of taxpayer money. Of course, this was only a suggestion and those of us who remember how the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) caved to the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) over allowances in 2013 – and actually gave MPs more than they originally asked for during a ‘horse trading’ sit-down at, wait for it, then DP William Ruto’s house – did not have much faith in government spending coming down on this front.
As it turns out, government spending has increased. As reported by Reuters, Kenya’s spending for the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year is actually up on the year previous. This is why the Ruto administration is now being forced to consider this new wave of increased taxation. With the previous regime’s fuel subsidies slashed, and the widely-felt ramifications of that playing an influential part in raising the cost of living for every Kenyan, and with new taxes already having come in, citizens have already played their part in bringing down the public bill.
With all this considered, can we be at all surprised at the desperation evident in those comments celebrating the announcement of this crusade? Does this desperation help us understand the other side’s fear and anger? Times are so obviously tough that there is both a sense that someone isn’t pulling their weight and, perhaps more worryingly, that the socio-economic climate is ripe for someone, someone just like Benny Hinn, to come and leverage that desperation for their own gain.
What can we expect from Benny Hinn’s crusade in Kenya?
In short, we don’t really know what to expect. We don’t even know when Benny Hinn is coming to Kenya. What we have at present, in terms of information elucidating on what Hinn will do when he’s out here, is that he’s coming to Kenya, he’s doing it at the first lady’s behest, we’re to pay, and that Hinn will likely also be visiting Uganda (hopefully not also on our dime).
We know all this from Hinn’s address of his congregation and the subsequent media coverage of that announcement. We’re yet to have comment on the news of Hinn’s invitation from the first family.
Without a government statement, with dates as of yet unset, and with no itinerary of this two-country crusade presently in the public domain, The Kenya Forum has taken it upon itself to satisfy the curiosity of those of you wondering what we can expect from this crusade. So, without further prevarication, your questions answered:
How much will Benny Hinn’s crusade of Kenya cost Kenyan taxpayers?
Despite that some media outlets limited their analysis of Hinn’s work to comments associating him with “regular revival meetings and faith healing summits”, the life of televangelist Benny Hinn has been the subject of not insignificant scrutiny.
That scrutiny hasn’t been amazingly fruitful but it does give us some indication as to what hosting this world-famous preacher may cost the Kenyan taxpayer.
The Benny Hinn Ministries organisation has an incredibly wide-reaching influence. According to its own website – through events, books authored by Hinn, a TV programme shown in over 200 countries, subscription services to the Benny Hinn institute, and many more outlets – Hinn’s teachings have reached over a billion people.
Many, if not most, of that billion have parted with a penny or two in order to hear, read or watch what the preacher has to say.
If you want a ticket to Hinn’s next event, the Fire Conference in Dallas, Texas, it’ll cost you $175 (nearly 26,000 kshs). For year-round access to Hinn’s teachings through the Benny Hinn Institute’s online archive of “exclusive resources” from one of the “greatest evangelists that have ever lived”, expect to pay $385 (57,095 kshs) for your annual subscription.
There’s clearly a huge amount of revenue-generating capacity within the Benny Hinn Ministries machine. In order to gauge how much its leader makes, however, we are forced to rely on his coyly given testimony; this is because the Benny Hinn Ministries have made no effort to become a part of the US’ Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability – an American financial standards association committing members to financial transparency
In an interview with the US’ ABC network, Hinn told his interviewer: “I’m not gonna give you an exact amount but it’s, uh, over a half-million.” That’s obviously in dollars and presumably per annum. If we’re to do some quick maths here, assuming that half a million dollars is a ball-park figure for his salary expectation, Kenyans can expect that, in Hinn’s wages alone, we’ll be parting with nearly 6.2 million kshs a month.
Let’s hope he gets this crusade done in a timely fashion.
Hinn’s wages are one thing, what about the cost of hosting him?
How far should we expect to take our responsibility as hosts to this international crusader? Will he be allowed to set up shop on Kenyan soil, and charge what he does his American clientele for admission at one of his events? Or will we be the gracious host Kenya often assumes itself to be and foot the bill for our citizenry’s entry into its own stadia?
These are big questions and with what we presently have to go on, there aren’t any easily-discoverable answers.
Answering the question of how we can best play host to the lifestyle expectations of Hinn and his family, who comprise a bulk of the leadership positions within the Hinn Ministries, is somewhat easier. This is because, back in 2019, Costi Hinn, Benny’s nephew, grew disillusioned with life in the Hinn inner circle and, in stepping out, shed some light on how Hinn and his family live.
Costi Hinn described life for the Hinn clan as “lavish”. His father is Benny Hinn’s brother, and they “lived in a 10,000-square-foot mansion guarded by a private gate, drove two Mercedes Benz vehicles, vacationed in exotic destinations, and shopped at the most expensive stores. On top of that,” he went on to state, they owned “a $2 million ocean-view home in Dana Point, California, where another Benz joined the fleet.”
He later expanded on how the Hinn’s holidayed abroad. There were “$25,000-a-night royal suites in Dubai”, “tours of the Swiss Alps”, “shopping sprees at Harrods in London”, much more in between, and all of it conducted by flying their own “private Gulfstream” jet.
Kenya, fortunately for us as the Hinns prospective hosts, doesn’t lack in the tourism department. There are some magical camps in the Mara, a few decent shops in Nairobi, and our beaches can rival any other. We’ll be able to show them some sights they’re unlikely to find anyplace else.
Let’s just hope they bring their own aircraft; considering how many of ours are falling out of the air recently. The death of a self-styled prophet is the last thing we need on our hands right now.
What shall we expect from the faith healing and revival meeting ‘Miracle Crusades’?
There is always a degree of planning, preparation and the consideration of cost when one prepares to play host to someone. But it’s often – though certainly not always – the case that, in the end, its all worth it. When all is said and done, usually after your guest has left, you get to look back on the company shared and the memories created and you realise why you invited out your guest in the first place.
Despite that this will be his first state-sponsored crusade, Hinn has been doing these ‘Miracle Crusades’ for quite some time. So, fortunately for Kenyans, we needn’t simply wait with wide-eyed anticipation, we can titillate ourselves with what will be, based off what has happened at his events before.
Faith healing will be one of the things citizens of this beautiful but impoverished, bountiful but infrastructurally-underdeveloped country will be most excited about. The idea that ailments that, in some cases, have no cure, may be removed in an instant is a very exciting one. It’s an idea that human beings have latched on to for as long as we’ve lived alongside hardship, and it will likely continue to excite us for as long as we continue to contend with it.
That excitement, which blinkers us in and shoves aside rational, cumbersome scepticism, is the reason why charlatans continue to ply their trade. That and the fact that there’s often convincing testimony to back them up.
Arguably one of Benny Hinn’s more convincing illustrations of ‘faith healing’ talent comes from the account of his having cured American former boxing heavy-weight, Evander Holyfield, of a career ending heart condition. Sceptics have tried to rationalise away this ‘miracle’ many a time and for those of you reading this that are inclined to believe, those rationalisations will be as unconvincing as the idea of faith healing actually working is to those of us who don’t believe. So, this writer won’t enter into that dogfight.
Instead, for Kenyans, a reminder: Hinn has been to Kenya before. Though coverage of this crusade’s announcement was strangely absent of any analysis of this previous visit, there is some record, if you’re willing to look for it, of how Benny Hinn’s crusade of Kenya, in the year 2000, went.
In April of 2000, Hinn conducted one of his ‘Miracle Crusade’ meetings in Nairobi. It resulted in the deaths of 4 individuals, two of which were young children. All four of these individuals had left hospital, and the presumably life-preserving healthcare provided there, in search of a miraculous cure. The choice of wording on the memorial page created for the dead hints at the fact that the deceased never managed to see Hinn.
And perhaps the 2019 testimony of Costi Hinn could be used to inform us as to why. One of Costi’s first doubts about his family’s operation arose when he asked his father if they could go and heal one of his friends, a “friend from school who had lost her hair due to cancer”. His father said no, and that, instead, they should pray for her.
Healings, according to Costi Hinn, only happen at ‘Miracle Crusade’ events. Not just anyone is allowed up to have one, however. There is a team of screeners at each event, standing in the congregation, who will intercept anyone looking to receive the miraculous cure.
Ostensibly, this is to ensure that cure-seeking patients are approach Hinn with the correct amount of faith. The Fifth Estate, a Canadian investigative tv programme, conducted an investigation, entitled Do you believe in Miracles? in 2013. In that investigation, they uncovered evidence suggesting that, in fact, this is to ensure that no-one with a physically obvious ailment – quadriplegia, brain or spinal injuries, obvious disfigurations – is allowed on stage.
Now, why would a miraculous healer want to do that?