The famous illusionist, Darren Brown, has taken on faith healers with a new show called “Miracles for Sale”. He was interviewed about it in the Guardian here prior to broadcast. It reads …
Brown grew up Christian and saw faith healers as “worrisome” but not to be taken too seriously – a view he didn’t change until he abandoned his faith. “Coming out of Christianity altogether and having a slightly clearer sense in my own mind of what I believed and what I didn’t believe … it was much clearer to me: no, no, this is just a scam,” he says.
And so, Brown recruited a volunteer, and taught him the tricks of faith healing: how the blind are made to see, the deaf hear, limbs lengthened. And then “Pastor James” and Brown headed for America to see if they could play the healers at their own game. The pair’s adventures make for some great television – but Brown also wants to make a serious point: that faith healing exploits those it claims to help.
“You have the despair of all those people who are no better – and it’s despair because they’re blaming their own selves and their faith for it not working,” he says. “And then you have these hordes of people who are following these healers round America; chronically ill people going from gig to gig to gig – and it just never happening, so there’s that wake of despair. And then there’s the money side of it.” The top healers, Brown says, earn more than Hollywood A-listers – and what’s more, because it’s religion, it’s all tax free.
Well, its done and I’ve watched, so did it live up to expectations? It did indeed. It was fascinating to watch Darren take a random non-religious guy and turn him into a US style faith-healer by simply training him with all the scams they pull to suck in the gullible. The poor bloke was put under quite a bit of stress, and as he went through the process, lost his cool with Darren a few times whenever he was given something unexpected, yelling, “For Fuck’s sake”, but they kept at it and polished it all up.
They ran an actual crusade and did the full works, including the miracles. They even had folks come forward so that “Pastor James” could lay hands on them and have them slain in the spirit (that’s where folks who come forward fall over backwards as the power of God apparently touches them). By simply cranking up the emotion, it was very easy to replicate this and so illustrate that nothing supernatural is happening. Prior to all that “Pastor James”, was not at all sure, as a non-believer he was having a real struggle with the ethics of pretending, and was truly worried the punters would see through him, but he need not have worried at all. As prep, Darren took him out into the street, got him to pick out random folks, inquire what pains they had, then pray for a cure. We saw miracles … from this non-believing fake pastor. Oh… the power of Jebus in action … except for one little detail, nothing supernatural was going on. They came clean and told these folks afterwards what they were doing (hopefully a few eye were opened). But more importantly, its about showing the audience that this whole game is a complete money making scam. These con-artists usually have a giant 30′ cross or similar on stage that the stand in front of. I’d like to suggest that this is the wrong symbol, they really need to be standing in front of a 30′ dollar symbol if they were to be honest, but then honesty is quite clearly not on the agenda.
All in all, it was quite watchable. I’d love to be able to share it with you, but Channel4 (I suspect) block the video in some locations. However, here are a couple of video links that just might work …
Here is a your tube video that promotes the show …
Now (this might not work), here is a link to the full show.
Oh, and if curious to know more about Darren, then here is a link to him being interviewed by Richard Dawkins,
With thanks to Antitheists, here is a link to the entire show.