As the crowds filed into the Philadelphia Civic Center, you could see the excitement on their faces. They came expecting a miracle, for the ads said there was to be a "miracle Explosion" and they believed it. After all, the "anointed man of God," Morris Cerullo, wouldn't disappoint his true believer. Many carried with them the musical instrument of a Pentecostal revival: tambourines and maracas.
The flyers announcing the September 5, 6 & 7, 1991 gathering used the slogan: "Let's TAKE BACK what the Devil has tried to steal from your life: - the same "TAKE IT BACK" theme that Cerullo used to raise funds to buy Heritage USA. The deal to take back the Bakker's Christian theme park ultimately filed amidst a scandal of fund-raising improprieties. But, Cerullo did maintain control of the PTL Network, now renamed the Inspirational Channel.
As the service got under way that Friday evening, an offering was taken. The announcer, who looked and sounded like Cerullo's twin brother, instructed the ushers to see that everyone had an envelope. He then began to berate the people saying, "Remember as you write your checks that those of you who sow sparingly will also reap sparingly!" He then urged them along, "Some of you can give $500 and some can give $1,000. Whatever you fell God telling you, give!"
Halfway through the service things started heating up. "You don't serve theology," Cerullo screamed. "You don't serve doctrine...you serve God who doe not change." The momentum increased. "COME ON, GIVE IT TO EM RIGHT NOW!" he wailed as he began dancing a jig. "IT'S LIKE LIQUID FIRE. Miracles are happening all over the auditorium. I have no control over what's happening! God is sending a new wave!" He bore an uncanny resemblance to evangelists Peter Popoff and Ernest Angsley as he spoke with a twang, organ music playing softly in the background.
The Civic Center's security personnel huddled together in the back of the building snickering and shaking their heads. Some of them put their hands over their mouths and walked together into the lobby whispering to one another. To them it must have seemed like they walked into a meeting of primal screaming lunatic. The people in the crowd, acting half-crazed, were jumping up and down, many of them shaking and shrieking in unintelligible babble. Like a gifted cheerleader the preacher roused the people into a frenzy, the place was total bedlam.
"Go on and peak in other tongues," shouted the preacher. "Go on it's all right. Release it! Release it! The miracle' in your blood, RELEASE IT." The volume rose to new crescendos as the people let go of all of their inhibitions.
"Someone's being healed of emphysema," the preacher proclaimed. Immediately the usher brought up a gray wrinkled old man along with his scuba-diver sized oxygen tank with a breathing apparatus in a leather carrying cases. They handed it over to the faith healer who asked the man what he was healed from. "Bronchitis" came the answer. "I also used to have lung cancer," the man added.
Cerullo raised the tank over his head, parading it up and down the platform and then handed it over to the song leader. The old man was then "slain in the spirit" as the healer touched him. He lay flat out on the floor until the preacher turned his attention elsewhere.
Cerullo called out more afflictions: those with hearing aids, heart disease and diabetes, among others. People responded. The TV cameras recorded people removing braces from their legs and leaping for joy. What a pity the ushers did not escort up the obviously deformed folks in the crowd. People remained seated whose figures were contorted by crippling ailments - effects that could not be psyched out. These with perceptible problems like Downs Syndrome and amputees didn't get hands laid on them.
(This same phenomenon is seen at evangelist Benny Hinn's rallies. Hinn is often seen laying hands on everybody in the audience who line up for his "healing touch." But those in wheelchair in the healing line are shamefully ignored.)
The tragedy is that non-Christians who witness such circus performances on television get the idea that this is Christianity. People become afraid to read the Bible for fear that it might transform them into an irrational, blithering idiot. The double catastrophe is that true Christians looking on might be so reviled by such scenes that they lose their belief that God still heals and delivers His people today as He wills, not wanting to look foolish like those seen on TV.
Recently new reports say Morris Cerullo was banned from television in Great Britain unless he can authenticate the miracles he supposedly performs. Too bad that isn't the case here in America because after the rally ended I walked up to the platform and asked the song leader, John Price, what was to become of the oxygen tank. "How would I know?" he snapped back.
Just then an elderly gray-haired woman walked up on the platform and retrieved the tank. I ran over to her and said, "What are you going to do with the tank?"
"Oh, does he need it again tomorrow night?" she responded, mistaking me for a crusade representative. "Who?" I asked. "Dr. Cerullo," she said, "because I have a $200 deposit on it."
"Why would you need it if your husband is healed," I inquired. "Maybe he might want to uses it again as a demonstration of how God heals," she said.
After further inquiry the lady admitted that the tank was used merely as a demonstration of a healing her husband received several years ago. The old man probably saw nothing wrong in reenacting something he believed to be real, thinking it would inspire faith in others. The culprit though is Morris Cerullo who cashes in on the naivete of others by using them in this manner.
This couple seemed rather typical of the Cerullo crowd. By far the majority of the audience appeared uneducated and in the lower middle-class income bracket. Most were poor and black, and due to their desperate economic conditions, were easy prey for the prosperity health/wealth gospel message.
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