Jerry and Becki vs. Jim and Tammy

Over at Religion News Service, University of Missouri historian John Wigger compares two evangelical sex scandals separated by 33 years. Wigger is the author of PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire. Here is a taste of his piece at Religion News Service:

Is there a road back for Jerry and Becki Falwell?

The second acts of Jim and Tammy Bakker suggest that there is. Irrepressible and unfiltered, with big hair and outrageous lashes, Tammy’s focus was never solely on the church, so it was easier for her to branch out. While she never lost her faith, after the collapse of PTL and her divorce from Jim, she ventured beyond the borders of evangelicalism, becoming an icon of the gay community, the Judy Garland of televangelism.

After prison, Jim initially rejected the prosperity gospel that had been so much a part of his success and downfall at PTL. But it was not long before he returned to his roots. He and his second wife, Lori Bakker, have built a new ministry called Morningside on 700 acres near Branson, Missouri. There Bakker has exchanged the prosperity gospel for doomsday apocalypticism, finding a way to turn a profit by selling freeze-dried survival food and gear to preppers. He has also turned to conservative politics, aligning with Donald Trump. It is brilliant, in a way, connecting to current trends and a new base of support.

Whichever path the Falwells choose, they will not be the last of their kind.

Much of American evangelicalism’s success rests on its close connection to American popular culture. But appropriating cultural expectations is risky business. Lines blur and compromises are ignored until scandal erupts.

Read the rest here.

There is nothing new about what happened to conservative evangelicals this week. But how will they respond?

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It was a rough week for conservative evangelicals in the United States. The president of the largest Christian university in the country resigned after a sex scandal. A popular evangelical radio host and author was caught on tape punching an anti-Trump protester. The vice-president of the United States gave a speech in which he replaced the words of the New Testament with references to American nationalism. The president of the United States, in an attempt to appeal to his evangelical base, gave a speech that celebrated Christian participation in Manifest Destiny.

None of this is new. Evangelical leaders have been part of sex-scandals before. Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, and Bill Hybels come immediately to mind. Fundamentalist churches have a history of sexual abuse. In the early 1970s, Billy James Hargis was accused of having sex with male and female students at his American Christian College.

Evangelicals and their fundamentalist heirs have acted violently toward their enemies before. Texas fundamentalist J. Frank Norris was charged with murder when he shot and killed a lumber worker who came to his office to complain about something Norris wrote in his religious newspaper.

Ministers and politicians have been twisting scripture to serve political ends since the American Revolution. I wrote an entire chapter about this in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

Finally, presidential candidates have often blown racist dog-whistles, sometime disguised as history, to rally their white supporters. Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, and Richard Nixon all come to mind.

How will conservative evangelicals, especially those who support Donald Trump, respond to all this? Rather than seeing what happened this week with Jerry Falwell Jr., Eric Metaxas, Mike Pence, and Trump as part of a long history of hypocrisy and moral failure,  I am afraid most conservative evangelicals will ignore these issues, fail to see the continuity between past and present, and reject any claim that these events reflect deeper, more systemic problems within evangelical Christianity.  Instead, they will continue to believe that another four years of Donald Trump, a president who has exacerbated and exposed the darkest parts of American evangelical history, will somehow bring revival to the church and restore America to a golden age that probably never existed in the first place.

Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

COurt Evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since our last update?

Court evangelicals are getting massive checks from the federal government. The money comes from the Payback Protection Program, a program to help small business during the pandemic.  Peter Montgomery reports. Elana Schor is also on the case.

Robert Jeffress is on the Jim Bakker Show today. He is talking about how God “orchestrated every detail” related to the pandemic and the country’s racial unrest so that his book on prayer could come out precisely at this moment.

Each chapter of Jeffress’s book offers an “inspiring story demonstrating the power of faith in the life of our nation, a prayer, and a relevant passage of Scripture to inspire and encourage” people to pray for the United States. This all sounds well and good until Jeffress starts his “America is a Christian nation” rant. In other words, this book is just an extended version of his “America Was Founded as a Christian Nation” sermon–a devotion in Christian nationalism. The interview with Bakker’s wife includes some of Jeffress’s greatest hits, including the one about George Washington kneeling in the snow for a photo-op.

Johnnie Moore, who describes himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” wants to stand for truth.

I am still waiting for Moore to explain how he supports this.

Franklin Graham is retweeting the recently-deceased country singer Charlie Daniels:

Eric Metaxas is still hawking his book If You Can Keep It. He writes on Facebook: “It’s my mission to get this book and its message to every American. I felt that way when I wrote it and I feel that way much more urgently right now. Losing the republic cannot be an option. It is too precious. Future generations depend on what we do…” Before you buy a copy of this book, I encourage you to read some reviews. It is a deeply flawed book. Start here.

If you want to know how I differ with Metaxas on a lot of things related to Christianity, history, and American culture, check-out Emily McFarland Miller’s piece about our visits to Chicago in September 2018.

And now for some Liberty University Falkirk Center news:

In other words, slavery is wrong and it was always wrong regardless of whether people who indulged in it were just products of their age.

And here is Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk:

So if Nike is operating in slave labor camps in China, and they stopped, would you, Charlie Kirk, then support their efforts to change the name of Washington’s NFL team? Just checking.

Until next time.

Monday night court evangelical roundup

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What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since our last update?

Greg Laurie is still suggesting that the United States was “born out of a revival.” I addressed the many problems with this view here. In fact, religious attendance and membership was at an all-time low during the Revolution.

Johnnie Moore, who calls himself a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” loves Trump’s idea for a “National Garden of American Heroes.”

I wrote about this proposed garden here.

Moore also believes that “primary sources” exist in a vacuum. Most first-year history majors can debunk this approach to reading:

Ralph Reed, as always, is sticking to the playbook:

David Barton and his son Tim are on the Jim Bakker Show talking about monuments. For years, Barton ignored the parts of American history that did not fit with his Christian nationalism. Now he is talking about how we need to see the “good, the bad, and the ugly” of American history. At one point, David Barton compares himself and his son to the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha. He praises Tim for training young people to go to their campuses and convince their professors to reject “cultural Marxism” and “cancel culture.” I have now said this several times–the small number of people who are tearing down non-Confederate monuments are providing fodder for this kind of stuff.

Any history teacher who watches this video, and hears the Bartons attack the “dumb” and “stupid” ideas being taught in schools, should be offended. I wonder how many times either David or Tim Barton have set foot in a public school history classroom.

This video is a clear example of the Barton’s Christian nationalist mission. And they are well-funded.

The Bartons came back for a second day on the Jim Bakker Show and basically told viewers that if they don’t vote for Trump the United States will become socialist. The fear-mongering continues. In this interview, they double-down on the idea that anyone who does not vote for Trump is not “thinking biblically.” According to Tim Barton, only about 10% of self-professed Christians are actually “thinking biblically.” The rest “love Jesus” but are ignorant.

Eric Metaxas is still playing to the extremes in order to scare his listeners. Most people in the United States are not engaged in the tearing down of monuments. Most local governments are not trying to remove non-Confederate monuments or erase history.  He plays to these extremes because he wants Trump re-elected and he needs to keep his show on the air. This is what cultural warriors do.

Metaxas keeps pushing his seriously-flawed book If You Can Keep It. He says that the American history kids are getting in schools today is making them ignorant. As I said above in relation to David and Tim Barton, this is a sad attack on hard-working history teachers who are teaching students how to read primary sources, weigh evidence, detect bias, think contextually, appreciate complexity, and grasp how things change over time. When was the last time Metaxas talked with a K-12 history teacher or visited a history classroom?

The fear-mongering continues with Metaxas’s guest John Zmirak. Their discussion of the history of the French Revolution takes so many liberties with the facts that I am not sure where to begin with my critique. Perhaps a European historian can listen to this and comment. Zmirak then refers to political scientist Mark David Hall’s book defending a Christian founding. I haven’t read this book, but you can see a discussion of it here.

The Metaxas-Zmirak conversation moves to a full-blown rejection of systemic racism and a defense of Robert E. Lee monuments. The kind of hate that is now propagated on the Eric Metaxas Show–a show on “Christian” radio–looks nothing like the teachings of Jesus Christ. I don’t understand how Metaxas could have read so much Bonhoeffer and still engage in this garbage. I’ll stick with Charles Marsh on Bonhoeffer: here and here. I would also encourage you to read Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and compare his words with what you hear on the Eric Metaxas Show.

In one of the more ironic lines of this episode, court evangelical Metaxas criticizes the Democratic Party for refusing to “stand against the madness.”

That’s all for today. Until next time.

This is What Slouching Into Relativism Looks Like

Watch this video of Jim Bakker and Robert Jeffress on Bakker’s television program (if you can’t see it, I have included a transcript below.

Bakker: “Donald Trump. You think evil of him because he says something you don’t understand. But you know what, the people who hate Trump swear worse than that in the streets every day all the time.

Jeffress: “Let’s get real, every president, with perhaps the exception of Jimmy Carter, every president we’ve had in recent history, Republican or Democrat, has used salty language.

Jeffress is right, but that is not the most revealing part of this exchange.

In this clip, we see two evangelical preachers excuse Trump’s language. One seems to be defending the president’s potty mouth by claiming that his opponents use worse language.  The other one invokes history–“every president has done it.”

This is what slouching into relativism looks like.

Call me old-fashioned, but it would seem that a minister of the Gospel should ALWAYS speak-out against this unholy language when it arises as a topic of discussion in a public forum of this kind.  Perhaps such a minister might reference Colossians 3:8, Ephesians 4:29, or Ephesians 5:4.  Or maybe such a minister would quote James 1:26: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (Perhaps they did reference these verses or similar ones and Right Wing Watch did not include them in the clip. This is certainly possible).  At the very least, one would think Bakker and Jeffress might shake their heads in disgust when the topic of Trump’s profanity is raised.  Nope–not the court evangelicals.

I am also struck by the fact that Jeffress and Bakker would appear together. These two pastors have many theological differences.  Twenty years ago we probably would not see a dispensationalist (Jeffress) and a prosperity preacher (Bakker) chatting-it-up on the same program.  But Trump-love has a strange way of bringing people together and forming bonds of fellowship within the conservative evangelical church.  Somehow I don’t think this was the source of Christian unity that Jesus had in mind in John 17.

Jim Bakker Connects Eternal Salvation With the Support of Donald Trump

Some of you have seen this:

If you can’t see the video embedded in the tweet, click here.

I watched most of this episode of The Jim Bakker Show.  This short clip is not taken out of context.  It comes in the middle of a segment in which Bakker says that those trying to impeach Trump are doing the work of Satan and his guest delivers a prophetic word claiming that Trump’s is God’s anointed one.

How does one know if she or he is truly saved?  The Bible says that Christians walk in the light (1 John 1:5-7), practice the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-24), visit the orphans and widows (James 1:26-27), keep the commandments (John 14:15), love their brothers and sisters (1 John 2:9-11), care for the least of these (Mt. 25), and support Donald Trump.

 

More Court Evangelical Fear Mongering from Paula White

Bakker White

Donald Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White is at it again.  On a recent appearance on the Jim Bakker Show to promote her new book Something Greater: Finding Triumph Over Trials, White said that those who do not support Trump will one day have to answer to God.

Here is a taste of Leonardo Blair’s piece at The Christian Post:

“It is a dividing line unless you have eyes to see,” White told Bakker while discussing how America was being changed through the lower courts. Trump has been working hard to protect religious freedom in a spiritual war between good and evil that is being waged through the courts and that threatens to outlaw the Bible as hate speech, she claimed.

“It’s [warfare] gonna either make you stand and lets you have to look in the Word and say what does God say and where do I line up. Where do I line up on policy? I might not like the personality, I might not understand him. Get my book and you’ll understand the personality and you’ll understand the person, Ok? Not just the persona,” White said.

“Where do I line up? And you’re gonna have to make a decision that won’t be just held accountable here for how things turn out for you, your children, your grandchildren, but you’re gonna have to stand accountable before God one day. Not based on your opinion, your hurt, your wounding, what you think, what you don’t. Educate yourself. Know the issues, know the word of God, and then if you cannot align with the word of God I don’t see it,” White continued.

She explained earlier how since he assumed office, Trump managed to fill 170 lower court vacancies and two Supreme Court justices.

“We now we’ll have a third one, we just need the time. But it is very potential that we could have a fourth or even a fifth,” White said.

“If we can change the Supreme Court like we are already changing it, these are lifetime appointments. You don’t think all hell is trembling right now?” White asked.

Without President Trump’s re-election, White and Bakker agreed, “we’re going to lose the freedom of America soon.”

Read the entire piece here.

Two quick comments:

  1. I don’t think “hell” really cares about Supreme Court nominations. If anything, hell is rejoicing as its minions watch Paula White put her faith in a political strongman to save her.
  2. Let’s not forget that almost every major court evangelical has endorsed White’s book.

Jim Bakker and David Barton Get Together

David Barton recently visited The Jim Bakker Show to talk about his new book The Founders Bible.  I’ve been watching Barton for a long time, and I sense several new points of emphasis during his visit.

After his publisher Brad Cummings speaks, Barton comes in around the 2:00 minute mark and starts talking about the relationship between sin and history.  He stresses how Paul, David, and Sampson were all used by God despite their sin. Interesting.  Then he starts talking about the flaws of  founding fathers and how God used them to build America.  Let’s consider the immediate context in which Barton makes these statements–the age of Trump.  God uses flawed men to build America.  This is Court Evangelicalism 101.

The old David Barton comes back around the 4:00 mark when as he claims that 27 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence held seminary or Bible school degrees.

Watch:

By the way, Barton’s view that the founders used biblical principles in their writings without citing chapter and verse may contain a kernel of truth.  Check out Daniel Dreisbach’s Reading the Bible With the Founding Fathers.  Barton, of course, takes this view to an extreme. Remember, his goal is to use the past to win the culture war rather than providing his followers with a nuanced view of how the founders engaged the Bible.

Here is another short video from David Barton’s appearance on the Jim Bakker show:

Here Barton is talking about a meeting with Glenn Beck and televangelist Rick Joyner. In this clip Joyner claims that Independent Network Charismatic leader (and King Cyrus coin guy) Lance Wallnau was also present.

I have written a lot about Beck and Wallnau, but some of you may not be familiar with Joyner.  He runs an organization called Morning Star Ministries.  Back in 1998 he tried to get a religious property tax exemption for his private jet, several tracts of land, and his vacation home.  He was also a business partner of Jim Bakker back in the PTL days and, in 2004, bought Bakker’s Heritage USA.  He is part of the Independent Network Charismatic movement, a believer in Seven Mountain Dominionism, and a climate change-denier.  Click here to learn more about him, compliments of Right Wing Watch;

Barton mentions that the meeting with Beck, Joyner, and Wallnau focused on “where the nation is going spiritually.”  I think it fair to read this as a culture-war strategy session.  Barton’s co-author Cummings was also at the meeting and he describes a vision Joyner had about the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War. God told Joyner that these events did not accomplish what they should have accomplished, especially as it relates to race relations.  That sounds about right.  But as Joyner’s dream came to end, he got a vision of a “Second American Revolution and Civil War” that will be “inevitable, just, and successful.”

Barton then affirms Joyner’s vision, and in doing so he says some accurate things about the failure of the founders to deliver on matters of racial equality.  This is a huge step for Barton. It led me to wonder where he was going this.  Where was the culture-war hook?

And then it happened.  At about the 4:50 mark Barton adds an additional layer to his interpretation of Joyner’s dream.  Rather than continuing with his mini-lecture on America’s failure in matters of race, he suggests that Joyner’s vision about a “Second American Revolution and Civil War” was actually about Roe v. Wade.  Barton says that we should expect a Civil War “over the abortion issue.”  If Roe v. Wade is overturned, California and other pro-choice states will secede from the Union and it will end in violence.

Watch the entire Bakker-Barton conversation here and here.

And if you really watch carefully, you will “learn” that:

  • Jim Bakker just opened a “Prayer Mountain” in the Ozarks.
  • David Barton is “honored all over the world” and is “brilliant.”
  • Barton’s new book, The Founders Bible, is very heavy.
  • Barton claims that The Founders Bible is his “greatest book,” a “transformational book that will last generations.”
  • The Founders Bible is a “modern day version of the Geneva Bible.”
  • The Founders Bible takes the “wisdom” of the founders and “mixes it with biblical perspectives” and applies to the “issues we face today.” God and Country! There really is little daylight between the teachings of the founders and God.
  • Cummings took 16-hours of “masters-level church history” and never heard some of the stories Barton writes about in the The Founders Bible.  (Cummings attended seminary at Fuller Theological Seminary.  Fuller is a great evangelical seminary.  I thus think there is a reason he never heard Barton’s stories at Fuller).
  • Barton serves as a consultant for state social standards.
  • If young people just read primary documents they would come around to Barton’s views and come to believe that America is a Christian nation.  For Barton, these documents are frozen in time.  He is opposed to the kind of historical thinking that takes change over time, context, complexity, contingency, and causation seriously.
  • America is a “Christian nation,” which Barton defines as a nation in which the Bible shapes the culture.  His example is the free-market system.
  • Free market capitalism came from five Bible verses:  1 Timothy 5:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Matthew 25, Luke 19, and Matthew 20.
  • The stock market is doing well because we are using “biblical economics.”
  • David Barton is humble and not a self-promoter.  (Unless you challenge him on his “earned doctorate“)
  • Colin Kaepernick does not know that “Black Americans” during the Civil War tried to save the American flag and received honors for it.
  • All the athletes today who refuse to honor the flag are products of “recent education.”
  • If you live in poverty in America today, you live better than the middle class in Europe.
  • Our schools focus too much on pre-Civil War chattel slavery and not enough on present-day slavery.
  • Slavery is not an issue of racism, it is a matter of economics.
  • The colonies really separated from England because we wanted to end slavery.  It wasn’t because of “no taxation without representation.”
  • At the time of the Civil War, the majority of the American population was “not racist.”
  • History is being rewritten to make the United States look bad.  “They” have made us a global bad guy.
  • David Barton helped Ukraine create a constitution.
  • 2 Timothy 2:15, which says “Study to shew yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” applies to both the Bible and the history of the American founding.
  • The reason college students like socialism so much is because of Internet memes.
  • The American Revolution was a success because the patriots were thinking more biblical than the supporters of the crown.
  • David Barton can predict a person’s view on the capital gains tax and climate change based on what they believe about abortion.
  • Trump has done “more things for righteousness” than all the presidents of David Barton’s lifetime combined.
  • It is “pathetic” that only half of evangelical pastors support Donald Trump.
  • The Founders Bible is the “greatest research tool of all time.”
  • Liberals hate the Bible.
  • People should go to church armed with guns because Christianity is under threat in America.  It is the only way to establish “order” in the country.

The “Real” Reason Televangelist Jim Bakker Went to Jail

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Jim Bakker is hauled off to jail in 1989

Here is an excerpt from University of Missouri historian John Wigger’s book PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire (Oxford University Press, 2017):

…on March 19, 1987, Jim Bakker resigned in disgrace from PTL after his December 1980 sexual encounter with Jessica Hahn in a Florida hotel room became public.  Hahn described Bakker forcing himself on her in an article in Playboy, while he claimed that she was a professional who knew “all the tricks of the trade.”  In the wake of the Hahn revelation, stories appeared about Bakker’s invovlement in gay relationships and visits with prostitutes, sometimes wearing a blond wig as a disguise….

The 1987 scandal was initially about sex, but it soon turned to money after it was discovered that PTL had paid Hahn and her representatives $265,000 in hush money.  When he resigned, Bakker turned the ministry over to fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell.  He and his team quickly discovered that PTL was $65 million in debt and bleeding money at a rate of $2 million a month.  That summer workers boarded up the unfinished Towers Hotel, which never opened.  Falwell and his entire staff left PTL in October 1987, less than seven months after he took charge of the ministry.  When he took over, Falwell praised PTL as “one of the major miracle ministries of this century.  I doubt there’s ever been anything like it in the 2,000-year history of the church.”  When he left he declared that Bakker had turned PTL into a “scab and cancer on the fate of Christianity,” a disaster unparalleled in the last 2,000 years.  By then PTL was already in bankruptcy, headed for liquidation.

Two years later, in 1989, Bakker went on trial for wire and mail fraud, accused of overselling “lifetime partnerships” to Heritage USA and misusing the money donated for its construction.  The trial unfolded in a circus-like atmosphere before US District Judge Robert “Maximum Bob” Potter.  A witness collapsed on the stand and Bakker himself had a psychological breakdown, crawling under his lawyer’s couch as federal marshals  came to get him.  He was convicted and initially sentenced to forty-five years in prison, serving nearly five years before his release.  For millions who watched the scandal unfold in the press and on television, PTL and the Bakkers became a national symbol of the excesses of the 1980s and the greed of televangelists in particular.

As many of you know, Jim Bakker is now out of prison and has his own cable television show.  We have covered him here.  Apparently, Bakker now has a different story about why he was convicted and sent to jail, and it has nothing to do with fraud.  Watch:

 

Why a $45.00 Prayer Coin is Actually a Bargain for Trump Followers

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Here is a taste of my piece today at Religion News Service:

For centuries, Catholics have used rosary beads to aid them in the practice of prayer.  Some American Protestants view their Bibles as a kind of talisman or amulet that transmits supernatural power.

And today some American charismatic Christians pray using a coin emblazoned with a picture of Donald Trump.

On Monday (May 13), a charismatic preacher named Lance Wallnau appeared on the program of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker to hawk a Donald Trump/King Cyrus gold coin.

He claimed that the coin can be used as a “point of contact” between Christians and God as they pray for the re-election of Trump in 2020.

Bakker’s show, which is syndicated daily on his PTL (Praise the Lord) Television Network, is known for selling his viewers products to help them survive the coming apocalypse. With the click of a mouse, a Christian who wants to prepare for the end of the world can buy buckets of freeze-dried food (the “30 Day Fiesta” Bucket appears to be popular), duffel bags that can withstand electromagnetic pulse attacks, flashlights and generators.

Wallnau and Bakker are selling the Trump/Cyrus coin for $45, but charismatic Christian viewers — many of whom identify as evangelical — can also drop $450 on a “13 Trump Cyrus Bundle” that includes 13 sets of the coin, the booklet explaining the connection between Trump and the former Persian king and the DVD of Wallnau conducting a religious service.

Read the rest here.

Evangelical Trump Fans: Don’t Forget to Buy Your King Cyrus-Donald Trump Prayer Coin

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In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, I wrote a several pages on the so-called INC (Independent Network Charismatics) prophets.  Lance Wallnau is one of these “prophets.”  Here is what I wrote about him:

Early in the 2016 campaign, Lance Wallnau received a similar word: “Donald Trump is a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness.”  When Wallnau’s prophecy caught the attention of Trump’s evangelical supporters, he was invited to attend a meeting with the candidate and other evangelical leaders in Trump Tower.  As Wallnau listened to Trump talk about his desire to give evangelicals a more prominent voice in government, he sensed that God was giving him an “assignment”–a “calling related to this guy.”  One day, while he was reading his Facebook page, Wallnau saw a meme predicting that Trump would be the “45 president of the United States.”  God told Wallnau to pick up his Bible and turn to Isaiah 45.  On reading the passage, Wallnau realized that, not only would Trump be a “wrecking ball” to political correctness, but he would be elected president of the United States in the spirit of the ancient Persian king Cyrus.  In the Old Testament, Cyrus  was the secular political leader whom God used to send the exiled kingdom of Judah back to the Promised Land so that they could rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its holy Temple.  Wallnau was shocked by this discovery.  “God was messing with my head,” he told Steven Strang, the editor of Charisma, a magazine that covers INC and other Pentecostal and charismatic movements….From this point forward, Wallnau would become an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump.

Recently Wallnau showed-up on the Jim Bakker television program to hawk his Cyrus-Trump prayer coins.  According to this piece at Esquire magazine, Wallnau said that the coin is the “point of contact” between God and people praying for Trump’s success.  And guess what? This coin can be yours for only $45.00.  Here is Jack Holmes at Esquire:

This truly is the Golden Age of Grifting, and the nation’s Evangelical leaders have not passed up the opportunity. The “White Evangelical Christian” designation has always been a proxy for traditionalists who believe America’s rightful social order is the racial and gender hierarchy of approximately 1956. Donald Trump has merely laid this bare by earning their support despite being the most comically heathen man to ever step foot in the White House. What principles of Jesus Christ does the president embody? The better question might be which of the Seven Deadly Sins—pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth—does he not  represent? It’s all part of the Great Unvarnishing, as the acidity of Trump’s public persona has worn on the top coat of paint many people have applied to themselves, gradually exposing what lies beneath. It’s not about Christian Values, it’s about money and power. Unless it’s about something else.

And for those Trump evangelical supporters with deeper pockets, you can get an entire “Cyrus Trump Bundle.”  It includes the Cyrus-Trump coin, a booklet by Wallnau describing his prophecy, and DVD of Wallnau conducting a religious service.  It’s yours for $450.

As I argued in Believe Me, the Independent Network Charismatics are a very large, growing, and largely overlooked segment of American evangelicalism.  Wallnau is one of their leaders.

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker

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Check out Martyn Wendell Jones‘s piece at The Weekly Standard on the disgraced preachers.   The article is framed around John Wigger‘s recent book, PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire.

Here is a taste:

Following Bakker’s conviction, Judge Robert “Maximum Bob” Potter sentenced him to 45 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The sentence was reduced on appeal, and he was released on parole in 1994, having served about five years behind bars. During his sentence, Bakker has said, he spent a great deal of time trying to find his “real” self.

He remarried after he was released and found his way back into television in 2003. Based in Blue Eye, Missouri, his current ministry is called Morningside. Bakker hosts a talk show in an indoor complex that resembles Heritage USA; recently, Trump supporter and charismatic televangelist Paula White was on the show with her husband, Jonathan Cain, the keyboardist from Journey.

Bakker repudiated his prosperity preaching after he got out of prison, where he claims to have read the Bible in full for the first time. In its thornier passages, he has found a new theme for his ministry: the imminent apocalypse. Wigger visited tapings of Bakker’s new show and describes an episode in which the second half of the two-hour broadcast was dedicated to selling giant buckets of freeze-dried survival food. A journalist for the Daily Mail who also visited the ministry reported that a year’s supply of pancake mix with a 30-year shelf life costs $550. As Ronald Knox wrote in 1950, “enthusiasm is not yet dead in countries where they understand salesmanship.”

Read the entire piece here.

 

Jim Bakker Claims That Trump Was Probably Sharing the Gospel with Stormy Daniels

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After all, he is a “baby Christian.”

This comes from the Christian satire website “The Babylon Bee.”  In other words, IT IS NOT TRUE.  It is satire.

Here ‘s a taste:

BLUE EYE, MO—Squashing accusations that President Trump had a sexual encounter with porn star “Stormy Daniels” while he was married to Melania, televangelist Jim Bakker explained to his audience Friday that he had confirmed that Trump was merely scheduling private time with the woman in a hotel suite in order to share with her the good news of Jesus Christ, as he had become acquainted with her and was very concerned that she was not a Christian.

 

“It is preposterous to assert that a virtuous believer like Mr. Trump would cheat on his beautiful wife so callously, and while their child was only months old,” a solemn Bakker said into the camera as colorful balloons provided a backdrop for some reason. “He was so concerned with the eternal state of Miss Daniels’ soul that he scheduled some alone time with just the two of them, so he could share with her how Jesus Christ had changed his life and how He could also save her from her sins.”

Read the rest here.

Court Evangelical: “We Were Sent Here To Take Over”

I don’t even know where to begin with this video:

  1.  I need to figure out the difference between a “Saul anointing” and a “David anointing”
  2. White said that the fact that Trump is not a “polished” politician is a sign that he has been raised-up by God.  I assume that White is drawing here on the longstanding Christian idea that God uses the weak, poor, and uneducated to serve his purposes. But does he use the “unpolished?”
  3. White equates opposition to Trump with opposition to the “hand of God.”
  4. White says, “We were not sent here to be a part, we were sent here to take over.” After White says this, Jim Bakker equates “taking over” with “the church.”
  5. Bakker says that “God has raised [Paula White] up to the White House.
  6. Bakker says “Paula White…can walk into the White House any time she wants to. She has full access to the King…”  Are Trump’s Christian advisers “court evangelicals?” Bakker and White make the case for me.  They are there to serve the King.
  7. Somewhere along the way Jonathan Cain, the guy who wrote “Don’t Stop Believing,” started buying into this brand of Christianity.  He is married to White and is sitting to her left.
  8.  Jim Bakker holds the pen Trump used to sign the meaningless executive order that many court evangelicals believe repealed the Johnson Amendment. (It did not). White says that when Trump signed the order she felt like “the heavens had opened.”

And then there is this:

Why bother with this stuff?  Because these are the people who are apparently advising the President of the United States.

 

Author’s Corner with John Wigger

9780199379712John Wigger is a Professor of History at the University of Missouri. This interview is based on his new book, PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire (Oxford University Press, 2017).

JF: What led you to write PTL?

JW: I was fascinated by how fast PTL grew and how quickly it fell apart. What I really wanted to know was how PTL’s rise and fall were connected. How does deep religious devotion become so entwined with money, sex, and celebrity on a Hollywood scale? A short synopsis might help:

Jim and Tammy started the PTL network with half a dozen employees in a former furniture store in 1974. By 1986 PTL had annual revenues of $129 million, 2500 employees, a 2300-acre theme park, Heritage USA, and a private satellite network that reached into fourteen million homes in the US. That year, six million people visited Heritage USA. Jim and Tammy lived in luxury, buying vacation homes, expensive cars covered with One Sure Insurance and clothes, and traveling first class with an entourage. Then it all came crashing down. In March 1987 Bakker resigned in disgrace after his 1980 sexual encounter with Jessica Hahn in a Florida hotel room became public. Stories emerged about gay relationships and visits to prostitutes. By the end of the year, PTL was in bankruptcy, headed for liquidation. In 1989 Bakker was convicted of wire and mail fraud and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of PTL?

JW: PTL helps to explain the persistent connections between religion and popular culture in American life, a connection that runs much deeper than politics alone. PTL grew so quickly because of its embrace of consumer and celebrity culture, much of it through the prosperity gospel, but along the way the money and fame undermined the religious convictions of those at the top.

JF: Why do we need to read PTL?

JW: It’s a story full of human drama, sincere faith, innovations both cultural and technical, financial fraud, secret affairs, and the allure of television cameras. But it also says a lot about why faith continues to be vibrant part of American life. Many of the central characters in the story—Jim and Tammy Bakker, Richard Dortch, David Taggart, John Wesley Fletcher, and of course Jessica Hahn—seem almost too improbable for a novel. But together they helped first to build one of the largest ministries in recent American history and then to bring it down.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

JW: History and academia are a second career for me. My undergraduate degree is in Petroleum Engineering. After college I drilled oil and gas wells in California for about six years. Part of that time I lived a few blocks from the beach. One day I woke up and thought, I’m having too much fun and making too much money, what should I do? Grad school seemed the obvious answer. Okay, more seriously, I’ve always been interested in the connections between religion and culture in American life and how those connections have persisted and shifted over time. That’s what led me to switch careers and what this book is about.

JF: What is your next project?

JW: I’m not exactly sure. Hopefully something surprising that will make a good read.

JF: Thanks, John!

Court Evangelical Jim Bakker: If Trump Gets Impeached, Christians Must “Come Out of the Shadows” and Wage a “Civil War”

The hits keep coming.

Add Jim Bakker (of PTL fame) to the list of court evangelicals.

In this video he equates support for Trump with living a Christian life.  He applies the biblical passage “faith without works is dead” (James 2) to the potential of Christians starting a civil war in the wake of a possible Trump impeachment.

 

The Decaying Ruins of PTL

Most of you know the story of PTL (Praise the Lord) ministries, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker‘s television ministry that collapsed under a sex scandal and subsequent revelations of accounting fraud. Jim ended up in jail.  He and Tammy Faye got divorced.  Tammy Faye started making appearances on television reality shows.  Jim remarried and returned to television, albeit briefly. Tammy Faye also remarried.  She passed away in 2007.

I recently learned that University of Missouri historian John Wigger is writing a book about the whole thing.

One of the pieces of the PTL empire was Heritage USA, a Christian theme park in South Carolina. Have you even wondered what happened to this complex?  Emily Johnson has.  Over at Religion & Politics she has a very interesting essay about the “ruins” of PTL.  (Time also did a piece on the ruins back in 2011).

Johnson teaches religion at the University of Tennessee.  Here is a taste of her piece:

To see what remains of the park today, interested explorers can take exit 90 off I-77 in South Carolina. Driving southeast on Carrowinds Boulevard for a mile, you will pass subdivisions and townhouses that have sprouted up on much of Heritage USA’s former 2,300 acres, courtesy of a local real estate developer. Pass by the refurbished golf course and stop a moment to notice the brass-capped pyramid that once held PTL’s main offices as well as the PTL World Outreach Center. It is now the U.S. headquarters of Welsh textile company Laura Ashley, a fully owned subsidiary of the Malaysian MUI Group.

You will eventually come to a crumbling parking lot, with the still-unfinished Heritage Grand Towers ahead of you and the remains of Heritage USA on your left, bordered by a chain-link fence and overgrown with weeds. If you peer through the fence, you can see the lake that sat at the center of the park and you can make out the island on which the Heritage USA waterpark stood. You are unfortunately too late to see the fiberglass “King’s Castle” that had become emblematic of the park’s excesses. Intended by Jim Bakker to be the world’s largest Wendy’s restaurant, it was eventually repurposed as a go-cart track but was demolished last year.