Thinking Out Loud

January 19, 2019

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker Revisited

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:01 am

Although known for some decent investigative journalism, ABC-TV’s 20/20 show went all tabloid last night, retracing the journey of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. I thought I’d quickly share some observations.

The big question for both my wife and I was: Why dredge this up now? There’s no breaking news, and really no new information. Given the fascination Americans had for the Bakkers as their life unravelled, I suppose there are some who are attached to the story, soap opera as it was and is. Tammy Faye is gone and Jessica Hahn is turning 60 this year, quite removed from the public eye.

Having been an avid follower of the program during the short time it was broadcast in my area, I just wanted to relive some memories. Having said that, the clips from the programs didn’t really resonate. I guess I’ve moved on.

I also realized how long it has been since I watched Charismatic television. I still believe in the infinite power of the Holy Spirit and am definitely a continuationist — often calling myself a “post-Charismatic” — but the scenes of people speaking in tongues on my television seemed so foreign to my current experience.

There were only fleeting scenes in one segment tracing Jim’s childhood and even less for Tammy Faye beyond a mention that the home had no indoor plumbing. The program mentioned that the couple got their start doing puppet ministry with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) but neither there nor in a scene where both men were pictured was there verbal mention of Pat Robertson.

There was also no mention at all of the Bakker’s two children, Jay and Tammy Sue. They appeared in a couple of still photographs and nothing else.

While Bakker is credited as having created the Tonight Show-styled talk show format for Christian TV — which still airs today as The 700 Club — viewers were given the impression that this happened first at his own network, PTL. There was also no mention of the role he played in founding the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) on the west coast with Paul Crouch.

Only those deeply imbedded in the story were mentioned by name, John Wesley Fletcher, Jerry Falwell and Tammy’s marriage to Roe Messner. Many times we heard the opening voice-over for various episodes of their flagship show, The PTL Club, but announcer Henry Harrison who played second fiddle — also the title of his book — to Bakker wasn’t mentioned.

Money and power tend to corrupt. That was really the point of this episode of 20/20, if there was any message at all. I think most of us knew that going in. Tammy Faye, at the end of her life seemed to have grown and resorted her priorities. Jim is very much still the same Jim, doing the same dog and pony show.

February 4, 2017

A Tale of Two Divorces

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:50 am

Because they were announced within days of each other, comparisons will be made. When posting both stories on the link list here, I was careful not to mention names. Simply

Despite my concerns, each of those was the most-clicked thing on the lists they appeared on in terms of the first day the list was published. I don’t know what that says about our appetite for such stories and sometimes I really do wrestle with linking to them at all.

Pete Wilson is a four-time Thomas Nelson author and was the founding pastor of Cross Point in Nashville where he served for 14 years. I was following his blog long before I started this one and his wife and three children seemed like family. He chose not to make any comments beyond the one linked above.

Barnabas Piper is employed by LifeWay, is an author and is one of the threesome on the Happy Rant Podcast. He chose to be much more vocal about his marriage. In addition to the article linked above which appeared at The Blazing Center blog, he was interviewed for about a half hour on Episode #248 of The Bad Christian Podcast and was probably much more focused and forthright than with anything I’ve heard on Happy Rant.

But Piper is also the son of a prominent Christian pastor and writer, one who is almost worshiped* among those of a certain tribe. So his announcement was subject to much more scrutiny, as demonstrated at this lengthy article at The Wartburg Watch, which as I’m typing this on Friday night is closing in on 550 comments. (Including one from myself, seizing on another comment about another Piper, Abraham, asking about him and unfortunately learning he is apparently living another life. This in term brought the response, “…what I’d expect from someone who grew up in a Christian bubble. freedom gone a bit berserk now.”)

There was also a more theological consideration of the podcast interview at (his second on this actually, the first one containing the sentence, “Divorce has come to evangelical ‘royalty’“) and it was there I learned that there was a second post at Wartburg, this one in direct response to the podcast interview and attracting another 420 comments. It is here that I was a reminded of this aspect to the podcast:

He believes that Pete Wilson, as a church leader, should have told his church that he was resigning and that he had serious marriage problems since he is accountable to his church. Piper claims that the same rule does not apply to him because he is not a pastor and does not intend to work in a church…

…When one writes books, blogs, speaks at conferences, or does a podcast, one is teaching others in some fashion. I know people love to put things into the context of the local church with roles defined within the church. I take a far broader view of that verse. [reference to James 3:1]

I’ve heard it said that much of the work of The (Capital C) Church is undermined through the temptations and distractions which undermine the marriages of Christian leaders. I certainly believe that to be true. I thought of continuing this exposition into successive paragraphs but decided that others are covering this sufficiently and biblically, and the links are provided if you want to pursue this further.

Sidebar: Why we removed the Happy Rant Podcast from our blogroll.

This decision was made prior to more recent developments though it took several days to get around to it. My wife and I both felt that there was something about the whole tenor of the program which simply tended to skew negative, mean-spirited and condescending. The hosts seem to have a great sense of self-importance about things which are, for lack of a better comparison, wood, hay and stubble. I’ll continue to monitor it personally and if I see them working a particular topic I might click through and fast forward to that discussion, but I could no longer endorse the podcast by having it listed here.

*The use of the word “almost” was rather charitable on my part. In my early days of

January 1, 2014

Return of the Flight Fantasy

We ran this here a few years ago — more than once — and now that I have more realistic expectations when it comes to getting a huge volume of comments, I want to repeat it anyway, even if you only give it some thought without replying…

? Of the Week:

airline-seatsYou’re on a four-hour flight, up for conversation and you think the person in the next seat is also. You turn and find yourself sitting next to ________________!

What person in the “Christian world” would you most like to find yourself sitting next to for that flight? You can name up to three

  1. .
  2. .
  3. .

or just name one. But let us know some reasons, and if we don’t know this person, explain who they are.

And yes, I know it would be more productive if you were sitting next to a stranger who simply needed to hear about Jesus from you, but we’ll take that as a given, okay?

December 17, 2013

What Christian Publishers Want: It’s Not Great Writing

Christian publisher query form“I can say without reservation that the bigger the platform the less the author has to say…”
~Scot McKnight

At the blog Jesus Creed yesterday, Scot McKnight posted a sample form that one publishing imprint uses to respond to author queries. WARNING: It’s got nothing to do with anything the author may feel led to say in print. It’s not what you know, it’s who knows you. It’s all about trivialities like Facebook friends and Twitter followers. FURTHER WARNING: If you’re already disillusioned with the Christian publishing industry, this story won’t help. 

Scot McKnight is highly respected and widely read, so it’s not surprising some high profile people — some authors themselves — chimed in on this one:  

Skye Jethani: I had a conversation with a publisher recently about these problems. He shamefully admitted that in today’s Christian publishing world a Eugene Peterson would never get published. Another literary agent said it’s much easier to get talented writers published by non-Christian publishing houses–they’re less beholden to celebrity and platform. Arg! I suppose it’s not worth fighting. In a few years we’ll all be serving one master anyway–Amazon.

Karen Zacharias: We are a celebrity-driven culture which is why platforms matter. Not for content, but for economic value. It’s a business. Many of my author friends have quit the business in the past couple of years, as their work and merit has been devalued by the digital era. Not that being an author was ever a money-making venture, but it’s even less so for mid-list authors than ever before. There are days when I think I will quit and go get that job at Dairy Queen after all. 

Dan Kimball (tongue in cheek): When looking at this form, there is a very obvious mis-focused attention to the questions being asked. They should be including ones like: “If you were on a deserted island for a year and had to listen to only one kind of music the entire time, would you listen to rap (with clean lyrics) or contemporary country western?” “How many times have you seen the David Lynch movie Eraserhead?” “Please provide a list of concerts you have seen the past 18 months?” “What hair gel do you use and please provide a short paragraph listing the specific reasons why you choose that hair gel over another?” If they would only ask these questions, then it would show they are critically thinking about what they are publishing. I hope there is change, it can happen. 

Basically, with the release of this form, the Christian publishing establishment has been caught red-handed.

Click to read: Platform and Publishing

March 7, 2012

Wednesday Link List

As Harpo Marx once said, “

  • A mother of four is yanked out of a Georgia church for breastfeeding. Meanwhile, Caryn at ThinkChristian wonders how Jesus handled this situation (if there was one) say, while giving the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Also at ThinkChristian, Karen says we shouldn’t sweat the new TV show, GCB, because it doesn’t have the right mix of ingredients to last.
  • I though we’d send some traffic to Reylo, the latest blog at Alltop Christian, and to get you there, he’s got the official trailer for the Blue Like Jazz movie.
  • “Ring by Spring or Your Money Back” — If you’re at a Christian college and not yet engaged, you just have a few weeks left.  Brittany Johnson guests at SCL.
  • 50 people, representing 10% of the head office staff, have been laid off at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as the organization focuses more on online initiatives.
  • “I can do all things through Christ…” says the opening part of Phil. 4:13. But Bill Mounce points out that for Paul, it wasn’t true. “There are many things Paul could not do. He couldn’t fly. He couldn’t remove the thorn in his flesh. He couldn’t get released from his second Roman imprisonment…”  So in a departure from every other translation, check out what the NIV 2011 does with this text.
  • Kirk Cameron does his best to defend his beliefs as Piers Morgan relentlessly goes after Cameron’s views on gay marriage and homosexuality. Here’s a response to the show’s repsonse from Denny Burk: “Are we really at a place where a Christian who is pressed for his views on a matter can no longer state those views without being tarred and feathered?”
  • Worship Leaders: Carlos Whittaker offers you ten-plus-one ways to improve your worship leading. Of course, his title was a little more blunt.
  • Digging deeper into worship, Internet Monk has an article expressing the limitations modern worship has expressing lament.
  • At the above article, a reader offers this song as an example of worship in the wilderness. (click the mp3 link to play)
  • Catch the irony: A pastor loses his temper while preaching about God’s love. Or did he? The scene is one every church-goer would like to see happen at least once. The blog is A Brick in the Valley.
  • William Hamilton, the Oregon theologian who declared in the 1960s that God is dead, is dead. Another individual for whom, “The image of God as all knowing and all powerful couldn’t be reconciled with human suffering, especially after the Holocaust.”  Story at Oregon Live
  • An new Amish ‘fish out of water’ story, though not sure who is the fish and who is the water. An Amish woman decides to raise money by teaching quilting to a mix of people from the broader community. The new book by Wanda Brunstetter really should be made into a film.
  • In other publishing news, Justin Bieber’s mom, Pattie Mallette releases her own story Nowhere But Up, in September with Revell Books and a foreword by Justin…
  • …Meanwhile, basketball sensation Jeremy Lin has the book Linspired coming in May from Zondervan in both an adult edition and kids edition; though the latter is not even on the corporate website.
  • “You can’t get to heaven in a mini-skirt.” A good devotional post, but with a lead line like that, I just wanna see how many clicks it gets. The blog is called Moment of Selah.
  • Another edition of David Platt’s Secret Church happens on April 6th and you can simulcast the six-hour event where you live. Check the website or read more at Desiring God. In the book Radical, David admits that there’s nothing like seeing thousands of people quietly taking notes in church at 12:30 in the morning!
  • In Ontario, the most populous province in Canada, you can’t shop on holidays, which include New Year’s Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The City of Toronto, the most populous municipality in Ontario is surveying residents to see if they want that to change.
  • The cartoons today are classic Rob Portlock, from Way Off the Church Wall (IVP, 1989)

January 7, 2012

Justin Bieber’s Tattoo of Jesus

Filed under: media, music — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:06 am

Sorry, we don’t cover stories like that here.

January 4, 2011

Pattie Mallette: Behind Every Great Teen Sensation…

Don’t worry if you don’t have a clue who Pattie Malette is, but chances are greater you’ve heard of her son, Justin Bieber. The Biebster is everywhere right now; his name being used to attract readers to all types of text media, and his image being used to do the same for visual media. I almost hesitate to mention him by name here.

But it’s not the first time. On November 24th, J.B. was mentioned twice in this blog’s Wednesday Link List.

  • The blog On The Fence With Jesus, where a skeptical screenwriter and a Christian pastor discuss faith, asks the musical (pop music) question, Is Justin Bieber Really Religious?
  • Bieber also talked about how his faith keeps him grounded in the madness of Hollywood and celebrity. He told the AP[Associated Press], ‘Like, I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins. I believe that I have a relationship and I’m able to talk to him and really, he’s the reason I’m here, so I definitely have to remember that. As soon as I start forgetting, I’ve got to click back and be like, you know, this is why I’m here.’”

Around the same time as Justin’s faith background became more public, the blog Bene Diction Blogs On ran a link to a Huntley Street interview with mom Pattie. The clip was from an interview done prior to the family move to Atlanta, and before Justin’s career had broken wide open, and it was therefore focused on Pattie’s story.

Justin was invited on set about a minute before the interview ended and didn’t get to say anything. If you know anything about the history of Canada’s daily Christian talk show, you know that historically it’s not unusual for them to have a guest and not let the guest get a word in edgewise. But I digress, and the day was about his mom’s personal story. But it means that technically speaking, Justin was on Canada’s faith-based television show, and it’s a video clip that his fan sites can never get enough of. I often wonder how many people have heard Pattie’s testimony as a result. The first of the four main interview clips is now up to over 46,000 views.

Then there was a Toronto Star cover story — Saturday issue, no less; in Canada the ‘big’ newspaper day is Saturday, not Sunday — prior to Justin’s Air Canada Centre concert and appearance on CBC Television with The Canadian Tenors where a reporter went to great lengths to tell the world what a polite, well-mannered and caring guy J.B. is. Character does count, and when a stagehand suffered a minor injury and Justin stopped what he was doing to make sure the worker was okay, the reporter noticed.

One my personal fears is that Justin might not be able to handle the fame and go the way of Miley Cyrus or Avril Lavigne, both of whom were raised by Christian parents, but both now living a life that obscures that background. Sure enough, mid-October, there was a story that said Pattie had hired a lawyer after only learning through the media that a book was in the works with HarperCollins.   And on the last day of the year, CTV News had an extended piece speculating as to how Justin would manage his career and personal life now that he is turning 17; a piece asking the questions many are thinking but afraid to ask out loud.

When Christmas rolled around, I couldn’t help but wonder if I dared repeat my usual blog post on the subject of the endless list of Cliff Richard‘s Christmas songs. I then connected the dots and realized that if I ever had the chance to speak to Pattie Mallette (or Justin himself) I would say this:  Get your hands on a copy of a biography of the early career of 1960s UK pop sensation Cliff Richard;  an example of someone who enjoyed amazing music industry success — even though he’s not as known on this side of the Atlantic — and maintained a strong Christian identity at the same time as his chart-topping hits.

Or better yet, a more recent example, consider Adam Young, who records as Owl City, and had hit with “10,000 Fireflies.” On his blog he writes:

As I’m so often reminded what a priceless gift my life is, I ache with everything in me to make it count, so that when I finally cross the finish line, I’ll hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

To me, there is no greater reward.

Of course, all of this weighs heavily on the spiritual scale, so allow me to be completely honest and say none of it is intended to be “crammed down the throat,” if you will. That is not my intention. This is what I wholeheartedly believe, and to that belief, I remain steadfast until He returns or calls me home.

One thing is certain:

When He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me… because my banner will be clear.

Young wrote that at the same time he recorded an off-album version of “In Christ Alone.”  But there is actually a worship song on his hit album too. In Meteor Shower he sings, “I am not my own; I have been made new…”

It can be done.

As I write this, I’ve clicked back to Pattie’s 100 Huntley interview. Hers was a life of stress, abuse and tragedy.  She has come so far, and learned so much. I think her potential influence in Justin’s life at this critical time can be so crucial to where his story goes. I can only end this the way the Huntley Street interview ended, encouraging you to pray for this family. Maybe some day I’ll learn why I was led to post this at this particular time.

February 1, 2010

The Dream Flight Is Back

? Of the Week:

airline-seatsYou’re on a four-hour flight, up for conversation and you think the person in the next seat is also. You turn and find yourself sitting next to ________________!

What person in the “Christian world” would you most like to find yourself sitting next to for that flight? You can name up to three

  1. .
  2. .
  3. .

or just name one. But let us know some reasons, and if we don’t know this person, explain who they are.

And yes, I know it would be more productive if you were sitting next to a stranger who simply needed to hear about Jesus from you, but we’ll take that as a given, okay?

Two weeks ago in the link list we mentioned Erwin McManus’ stage production, Casket.   This week, a 30-second commercial by him in the Doritos “Crash the Superbowl” contest — also called Casket — is one of six finalists.   You can watch all six this week only at this link.   Having watched all six, I’d say it has a really good chance of airing.

January 28, 2010

What to Say to a Christian Celebrity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:52 pm

I was in the restroom washing my hands at MissionFest Toronto last year when Shane Claiborne walked by.   Actually he wasn’t directly in my line of vision, but there was no mistaking the hair.

“You must be Shane Claiborne;” I said, stating the obvious.   I mentioned that we’d heard him in another city a few months previously, but he was quite intent on the purpose that had led him to that restroom and I wasn’t about to literally stand in the way of progress.    This is probably the reason your church doesn’t suggest that particular facility as the place to meet and greet.

Had he just spoken to a group on a topic that engage my thought processes, there would be something he said to respond to eloquently; but he was arriving early for a later seminar and we were leaving, and having been at various seminars where he has spoken, I’m sure our paths might cross again, and this time I’ll be ready to discuss homelessness in Philadelphia or New Jersey or wherever it is that Simple Way operates.

But what do you when you really have absolutely nothing to say, but yet you really want speak to that Christian author, pastor or musician?   You haven’t heard him or her speak somewhere else, haven’t bought the book or CD, and haven’t been to their church or mission?

Fortunately for you, I have the answer:

Hi!  My name is ___________ and we’ve never met or talked before, but I’m basically a rather shallow person whose self-worth is enhanced by being able to say I spoke to someone like you, so if you’ll just say something polite back to me for about seven seconds, then I’ll leave and you can go on to the next person.

Yeah.  That should do it.  Or maybe we should all go back to collecting autographs in Bibles:

Meanwhile… In Today’s News
Acting on a complaint from a parent, a California school district banned the Miriam Webster Dictionary from classrooms, but then, almost as quickly, reversed the ban.

Blog at