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James Orsen Bakker (1940–) is the disgraced televangelist from the PTL Club (which stands for Praise The Lord, Pass The Loot, or Pay The Lady). Bakker came up with a vague claim that unspecified people were threatening to kill him for believing in the Bible. The exact nature of the allegations remains unclear.
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker (1942–2007) got their start in television on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network in 1966 with "The Jim and Tammy Show". By the early 1970s they had left CBN to help Paul Crouch get his fledgling California-based Trinity Broadcasting Network and their show "Praise the Lord" off the ground, then left for North Carolina to start their own show, the "PTL Club". This eventually became the PTL Network. PTL became the home network of such evangelists as Richard Dortch and John Wesley Fletcher, most of them associated with the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. He also built a Christian amusement park in South Carolina, Heritage USA.
Unlike many televangelists, the Bakkers made a point of keeping religious right politics off their show and instead preached a gospel of self-esteem and acceptance, but also one promoting conspicuous consumption and teaching that God wants everyone to be rich and healthy, often called the "prosperity gospel" and derided by critics as name it and claim it.
Jim Bakker has become best known for his adultery scandal in which Bakker and Fletcher committed adultery with a church secretary in 1980 and then arranged a payment to keep her quiet. The scandal broke in March 1987 after the revelations were made public by rival evangelists, John Ankerberg and Jimmy Swaggart. Swaggart's own televangelism empire would collapse soon after Bakker's after he was caught soliciting sex from a prostitute. Jim Bakker turned control of PTL over to Jerry Falwell during the scandal, saying Falwell was the only person he trusted at the time, only to see Falwell do a hostile takeover and shut the Bakkers out of the ministry. Soon after, Jim Bakker was indicted in 1988 and found guilty on counts of mail and wire fraud related to his sale of memberships in Heritage USA. Bakker condescended to forgive those who helped send him to prison as if they were at fault. Of course Bakker broke the law.
His amusement park, Heritage USA, after failing under Falwell's watch and closing in 1989, was bought by evangelist Morris Cerullo. Cerullo's plans to reopen it were mired in legal disputes with a Malaysian investment group who won control of the park in court. Only the hotel ever reopened though — briefly, as a Radisson hotel — only to close again. Today the former park has been split into several residential developments and a religious retreat. The former PTL Network was relaunched by Cerullo in 1990 as the Inspiration Network.
Return to preaching
Learning a lesson from Jimmy Swaggart, who was widely ridiculed when he went on TV right after his adultery scandal to give a phony display of "LOOOORRRRDDDD, I have sinnnnned against theeeee!" hyperemotionalism and then insisting on returning to the ministry as if nothing had happened, Jim Bakker waited several years to attempt his own comeback. He did it with a much slicker version of Swaggart's comeback, in the form of Bakker's book I Was Wrong, written in a carefully calculated way to redeem Bakker's reputation. Predictably, he then returned to preaching.
I Was Wrong
Jim Bakker was the author of quite a number of books during PTL's heyday, all of them all but forgotten. His best known and regarded book is I Was Wrong, published in 1996, nearly a decade after the scandal. I Was Wrong is in part about Bakker coming to reject the "name it and claim it" or "prosperity" theology he once preached. He seems to give a sanitised version of the sex scandal though, admitting to an affair with the church secretary but denying some of the more lurid allegations made about the scandal. Jerry Falwell, in particular, is portrayed as an untrustworthy backstabber in the book and in general is not shown in a good light. Where the book is most interesting is Bakker's description of his time in prison, including some fascinating insights into two of his cellmates while in prison, controversial fringe politician Lyndon LaRouche and famed skydiver Roger Nelson.
Bakker has now come around to running a generic conspiracy show of the End times, most well known for selling buckets of
slop potato soup at $160 for over 300 servings. Those giant buckets will not alone keep people alive during a crisis. Humans need fresh food to provide vitamins. Anyone eating food from those buckets and nothing else would die of vitamin C deficiency within months.
God was angry about a US presidential eulogy at a funeral of a former Israeli prime minister that Bakker did not fully approve. So God sent a hurricane that killed random people — mostly in Haiti — as punishment.
A suicide bombing in Manchester, England killed 22 and injured 59, some seriously. Bakker claims the victims brought it on themselves because they attended the concert where the bombing happened and the title, "Dangerous Women Tour" somehow mocked God. Victims included children.
Recently, Bakker claimed that, if Donald Trump is impeached from office, Christians will rise up and start a civil war. He has also claimed that the Trump presidency is God testing Christians' faith because it is.
His wife and PTL co-host Tammy Faye Bakker divorced him in 1992 after the scandal, and married megachurch building contractor Roe Messner (who was also the building contractor for Heritage USA) in 1993. Roe Messner was himself convicted of bankruptcy fraud in 1996. Tammy Faye Messner gained a sympathetic reputation and cult following from her book Telling It My Way (1996) and documentary film The Eyes of Tammy Faye (1999). Unlike virtually all other televangelists, Tammy Faye was actually rather accepting towards the LGBT community, HIV/AIDS victims and drug addicts, and around the turn of the millenium she attained a new status as a gay icon. She remained married to Roe Messner, until her death in 2007 following a struggle with cancer.
- Bakker, Jim. I Was Wrong. Thomas Nelson, 1996.
- Messner, Tammy Faye. Tammy: Telling It My Way. Villard, 1996.
- Miles, Austin. Don't Call Me Brother. Prometheus Books, 1989. A rather gossipy insider's look at Bakker, PTL, and the Assemblies of God from a disgruntled former AofG minister. Unfortunately, the intrigue seems to revolve around the author's two ex-wives and the FBI as much as it does Bakker and PTL, and as a result much of the book comes across as either sour grapes or conspiracy theory. Flawed, but still an essential piece of the Bakker puzzle for those interested.
- The Jim Bakker Show, his current whereabouts, where among other things his main activity appears to be doing a brisk business selling emergency food for you to hoard for the coming End Times.
- NPR reviews Bakker's 'Apocalypse Chow' (unsurprisingly, it's terrible).
- A Virtual tour of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's abandoned Jesus Land - Heritage USA
- John 2:16
- Jim Bakker: People Are Trying To Kill Me For Believing The Bible
- Televangelist Jim Bakker: People Are Trying to Kill Me Because I Believe in the Bible
- U.S. v. Bakker, (C.A.4, 1991), 925 F.2d 728, 740, case no. 89-5687
- Religion: Jim Bakker's Crumbling World
- Televangelist Jim Bakker Forgave the People Who Put Him in Jail… Even Though He Was Guilty
- Doomsday prepper Jim Bakker swears you’ll love his $160 potato soup bucket
- Jim Bakker Is So, So Sad Obama Had To Go and Cause Hurricane Matthew
- Televangelist Jim Bakker: Donald Trump’s Critics (Even the Republicans) Look “Demon-Possessed”
- Manchester attack: 22 dead and 59 hurt in suicide bombing
- Jim Bakker: Manchester Victims ‘Literally Invited’ The Attack And ‘Almost Cursed Themselves’ By Attending Ariana Grande Concert
- Televangelist Jim Bakker: Christians will start a civil war if Trump is impeached
- Jim Bakker: God Is Using Trump To Test Your Faith In The Lord
- Camhi, Leslie (August 4, 2000). "At 10 she found God. At 16 she found make-up. And the two have never left her". The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2000/aug/04/culture.features2.