BAM! I solved the sucker. Ever since I saw a good chunk of video of this guy pushing people over while laughing maniacally, I HAD to find out who it was. Wasn't that easy to track him down. Had to keep looking under search terms like, "Evangelist who heals while laughing". Found out a bit about the phenomenon of "holy laughter" and "the Toronto blessing" (which I vaguely remember from years ago). It basically means laughing your ass off in the name of Jesus. Yeah, OK.
Well, this ol' guy, see, after years of a more-or-less Oral Roberts-like life of preaching with some head-pushing on the side, decided to get on the cackle-and-guffaw bandwagon, taking an entire congregation with him. This is the other part of the original video I saw from the compilation, with much better picture quality (aren't you glad?).
So I have solved the mystery. This is one Kenneth E. Hagin, who also made numerous videos of reasonably sane preaching along evangelical lines, so I am not sure exactly what it was that pushed him over the edge. And I was right, this was at some kind of conference in St. Louis, something called a Holy Ghost Meeting, with everybody all dressed up in suits and ties and lovely '90s dresses with puffy hair. Compared to earlier videos, Hagin looks bent and frail (he died in 2003, alas), and I've finally figured out why three or four guys had to hold him up: if they didn't, he would literally die laughing.
This holy laughter stuff induces a kind of oxygen-deprivation trance which, combined with a mass-hysteria effect, makes large groups of people stoned out of their minds and prone to completely wacky behaviour. To my eyes at least, the so-called convulsions are completely fake in almost every case, though the occasional genuine orgasm of faith might have squirmed through. (And you can't tell ME this stuff isn't pretty orgiastic in nature.)
Watching this again, though, even the laughter sounds extremely phony, and the expressions on people's faces are - oh, get real, people, this isn't funny! Hagin looks like he should be committed, and the guy in the red tie, well. . . If I was a standup comedian, which this guy is, I suppose, I'd expect better laughs than this, at least more spirited than the "AHAHAHAHAHA" I'm hearing. When the whole thing degenerates into moans and howls, with men in suits flailing around on the floor, it all gets a little tiresome.
I found a web page that has links to seemingly hundreds of articles furiously denouncing the holy laughter/Toronto blessing phenomenon as the work of the Old Scratch himself. I didn't read any of them because I was beginning to go totally numb. It's a defense mechanism, see, when things get overloaded. I just sort of short out. . .
. . .a. . .n. . . d.. . . .
. . . excuse me.
Post-Blog Thoughts. Typical of me, since I am a bloodhound and a bloodthirsty busybody, I had to poke my nose into the subject of "holy laughter" in all its manifestations. It ain't a pretty sight. What I came up with was extremely polarized, both for and against. True, the "for" camp didn't seem to need much scriptural justification for all that screaming and rolling around: it was fun, and I suppose there's nothing wrong with fun so long as no one gets hurt. But I refuse to believe that no one ever gets hurt.
This doesn't appear on the videos, which are no doubt edited, but things MUST get out of hand sometimes. Out of hand might take various forms - flailing so violently so that you hurt yourself or others, peeing yourself, peeling off to get hot and heavy with a favorite flailing partner (for it's well-known that uncontrollable laughter has a sexual component, a slap-and-tickle effect), biting and scratching, unwelcome (or welcome?) grabbing of someone's none-of-your-business, and basically falling into a violent mass hysteria that has absolutely nothing to do with spirituality. The worst of it, though, is looking like a damn jackass (on YouTube no less), and not even caring who sees it.
Here is a partial list of "symptoms" of this phenomenon (and the more I read about it, the more I am dying to try this thing for myself). It's from a site called Unholy Laughter, one of the many purse-lipped, disapproving screeds which condemns all that carpet-lint-gathering-on-one's-Sunday-suit:
Some other phenomena that take place at these laughing revivals include: "shaking, jerking, loss of bodily strength, heavy breathing, eyes fluttering, lips trembling, oil on the body, changes in skin color, weeping, laughing, 'drunkenness,' staggering, travailing, dancing, falling, visions, hearing audibly into the spirit realm, inspired utterances--i.e. prophecy, tongues, interpretation, angelic visitations and manifestations, jumping, violent rolling, screaming, wind, heat, electricity, coldness, nausea as discernment of evil, smelling or tasting good or evil presences, tingling, pain in body as discernment of illness, feeling heavy weight or lightness, trances--altered physical state while seeing and hearing into the spiritual world, inability to speak normally, disruption of natural realm--i.e. electrical circuits blown, the 'fire of God' burning you that you have to remove some clothing, pawing people and roaring like a lion, walking like a chicken, howling like a wolf, digging the ground with hoofs like a bull while prophesying, flying like an eagle, throwing communion bread around to show your joy in the Lord, screaming AHHHHH as a mighty warrior to stop the preaching of the word of God during a service, incoherent babbling, pounding the floor with your arms while holding a conversation in tongues with the minister in charge of the service, feeling electricity shoot through your body, affecting electronic scanning devices in airports, etc."(22)
It's that (22) part that just devastates me.
Listen, I've had my own strange experiences, things which I still don't understand, but they've never been communal. It's hard for me to believe I could experience real revelation in the midst of a cacophany of cuckoos. I'm of two minds about all spiritual experiences: they often seem dodgy because they're self-proving, i. e. it MUST be God because God's telling me it is; I don't need proof because I have faith, etc. But at the same time, the game could be vastly more complicated than we can even comprehend (in fact, this seems likely), in which case logic falls down like a house of cards, blown away by the howling winds of Pentecost.
So it comes down to the question, for each of us: what is authentic and important to ME? This is my sticky spot. All this guffawing and staggering around isn't individual; it's surrender to a bizarre group mood or group energy in which the participants dance around like marionettes controlled by some force outside the self. It's NOT coming from within or everyone wouldn't be goose-stepping to it so gleefully. These people have thrown their individual will away and surrendered to a sort of collective will, which is the most frightening force there is. Think how suggestible such a gibbering mob is. If half the "symptoms" I've listed above are real, there are aspects of the experience that are downright frightening. At very least, it's disturbing, especially (Land o' Goshen!) that "affecting electronic scanning devices in airports, etc." thing.
They say "affecting", however, without spelling out exactly how. Could I disable the security scanners with the Holy Spirit and smuggle a 48-piece set of silverware aboard a plane, maybe hidden in the lining of my coat? Guess I'll never find out.