Last night, ABC continued its series, "Faith Matters," with a report on a so-called spirit revival taking place in Mobile, Ala. Spurred by faith and viral Internet videos, thousands of people from throughout the United States come to this revival several times a week in search of relief from ailments as serious as paralysis.
"We're hoping, number one, for a miracle for my wife," says Lee Frost at the Mobile Convention Center before the revival begins. "She is blind and almost totally deaf."
People like the Frosts have come convinced that God has descended on the arena to heal the physically and spiritually infirm. Once inside, the more than one thousand attendanees are led in song and spontaneous prayer for two hours. Nathan Morris, a visiting evangelist leading the event, then declares that the healings have begun.
"I see a young boy being healed of brittle bone disease right now," he says from the stage with eyes closed. Then, after he asks for testimony from the congregation, believers who attended the revival in the preceding nights recount how they too were healed.
Morris then moves into the sermon-and-offering portion of the evening. People stream to the front to give money so that the revival can continue in the future.
Pastor John Kilpatrick, who went from obscure Florida preacher to Pentecostal sensation in the 90s when he claimed to have been paralyzed for hours by the power of God, presides over this revival.
"It was the most wonderful feeling that I have ever felt in my whole life," Kirpatrick said. And later, interviewed by ABC's Bill Weir, "It's almost like gas collecting in a room and then someone lights a spark or lights a match and the room just explodes into the presence of God."
A Florida newspaper investigated the Brownsville revival, which lasted five years, raising questions about its financing. Kirpatrick called the investigation a vendetta. Fifteen years later and not far from Brownsville, another revival is going strong. The pastor says there is no cause for questioning. In response to a question about how much a typical revival night brings in through offerings, Kirpatrick says that it costs them more than $16,000 to put on the event each night and that it is not unusual for 7,000 people to attend.
YouTube and word of mouth drive much of this attendance. One such video shows Morris and Kilpatrick helping a struggling paraplegic pastor out of her wheelchair -- proof, to the believers, of the healing power of God. ABC was unable to reach the pastor for comment on how she's doing, but others were eager to discuss their improvements.
Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute and author of Counterfeit Revival, is sure that these people have been duped. He has been critical or Kirpatrick since the Brownsville revival. God can heal, he says, but revivals like the one going on now in Alabama are merely "group hypnosis."
"It's fast-food Christianity on steroids," he said. And people are putting themselves at risk thinking otherwise.
Still, Kirpatrick wants to fight until the day he dies to believe that God can do anything. "I want to be one of the ones who says with a child-like faith, 'I do believe.'"
The revival in Mobile reaches its peak as Morris and others move slowly through the crowd, placing hands on heads and sending believers to the ground. Lee Frost's wife, Janet, is eventually reached. Though she is still without sight at the end of the night, the couple keeps the faith. They will have opportunity to return as the revival has been extended indefinitely.
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