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.

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