Friday, June 3, 2011

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker

This is somewhat of a phenomenon. I could just jam these pictures of the couple in this blog entry and in fact that would already be quite something, but the story is something else and it would be a shame not to include it.
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were a televangelist couple. They somewhat started out in the 1960s on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network but in the 1970s started their own television ministry, which they called PTL (Praise the Lord). They professed what was described as "feel-good preaching." It was very emotional and dramatic: "Tammy had the gift of being able to weep at will and sometimes, appearing to be emotionally transported by her interviews with born-again guests, let the tears flow freely. Her mascara was so heavy that it mixed with the tears and flowed down her cheeks, creating a Gothic web of black tracks."
They were also obviously in it for the money, if not for anything else: "One main theme of the Bakker's feel-good preaching was that money, comfort, and success are all signs of God's favor. If God likes you and you trust him, you will get rich. [...] The first stage in "prosperity theology," however, is willingness to give generously as a sign of faith [...] Bakker discovered that by disclosing a real financial crisis at the network, or manufacturing the appearence of one, he could persuade TV vieweres to send in more money than if he gave the impression that everything was under control. [...] Nothing made [Tammy] weep more than a falling-off in donations, and nothing seemed so well calculated to bring forth more cash than another bout of sobbing."
Above all though, they seem to have been just a gifted couple of entertainers: "The Bakkers' blend of storyteling, preaching, and folksy Christian chat shows was intoxicating; even people who should have known better found themselves powerless to switch channels when the magnetic couple was on the air."
It all ended in collapse and scandal though in the 1980s: "It was discovered that Tammy had been treated at the Betty Ford Clinic for drug addiction, and [...] Jim had, a few years earlier, had a sexual affair with a nineteen-year-old church secretary named Jessica Hahn." Moreover there were serious charges of fraud. Their empire in time crumbled, to make complete their drama.

Source: Patrick Allitt. Religion in America since 1945: A History. Columbia University Press. New York, 2003.

1 comment:

  1. You can tell the rest of the story. Tell how JB was in jail and how actually read the Bible from cover to cover in jail for the first time, and realized that propserity is not a Biblical teaching, but forgiveness and ascetism is. That he is more serious about his faith than before. That however isn't what jokes are made of.