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

Bakker in jail

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

trump_cyrus_coin_jim_bakker_twitter

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

Cyrus-Trump-Coin-2019-2.png

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

Bakkers

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

Jim-Bakker--1280x720

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.