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East Of Eden
Jerry Falwell, Sr. (Image Source)
Ever since Donald Trump's run for president began over three years ago, there has been a whole lot of talk about the "Evangelical Vote," "White Evangelical Christians," or some amalgamation of "silent", "family", "value", "moral", and "voters".
None of this is new, of course. The Religious Right has been a force to be reckoned with since before The Gipper took the oath of office. I remember all too well the cringey time in the late 90s when the Lewinsky Scandal had taken over the news, and every socially conservative Christian televangelist, talking head or megapastor worth his holy oil was castigating Clinton and the country in general, for his, and our, wickedness. Bad times, Folks, bad times.
Jim Bakker in screen captures from his current show, "The Jim Bakker Show". (Google Images)
This has been one long, crazy story. Nearly unbelievable, except, very true. Sadly true. As a Christian, especially as one with roots in Pentecostalism, I felt shame and anger while reading about the exploits of Jim Bakker. Yes, I know I personally have nothing to do with the man or his ministry. But the greed, lies, and corruption is reflected back on the entirety of the Body of Christ. We all look awful to the very world to which we are called to be salt and light.
While reading for this series, I swung by the library and picked up Tammy Faye's 1996 autobiography, Tammy: Telling It My Way. Published in the decade after PTL's fall and about...
James Baldwin, left, and Bobby Kennedy. (Google Images)
By the time Robert F. Kennedy was killed in 1968, he had come to be viewed by many as a politician who cared deeply about Civil Rights, poverty, and oppression.
But it wasn't always that way. In fact, just five years earlier, at a private dinner party he hosted in NYC with some of Black America's most elite, he was decidedly unwoke.
In Lawrence O'Donnell's new book, Playing With Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics, he recounts some of the events of the ill-fated shindig:...
Image and caption from PTL.
When PTL fell apart, I was just 5. I didn't know about the sex scandals, but I do remember my parents discussing the Bakkers' outsized lifestyle. The mansions, the cars, the blingy lifestyle- it came up repeatedly. What stuck in my mind, besides how disappointed my mom was (she was a SAHM of 3 and Pentecostal; of course she watched the Bakkers), had to be the air conditioned dog house. We didn't even have AC in our house. We depended on a series of electric fans for three more years, and that little yellow Cape Cod got very hot during the summer months. Yet, their dog chilled in cool comfort. Yup, decades later, I still remember that.
The lobby of the Heritage Grand Hotel. (Photo Credit: Robin...
Jim and Tammy Faye (Image Source)
It was thirty years ago that the tremendous house of cards that Jim Bakker had constructed out of TV ministry, millions in donations, and a Christian theme park, collapsed. It was a tremendous and precipitous fall, and when the dust settled, the ministry was gone, Jim was behind bars, and Tammy divorced him, ending their more thirty year marriage.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself. With the end of Part 1, the Bakkers and PTL was just beginning to get huge. It was the late '70s, and America was primed for some religiosity. The 1960s, that decade of hippies, an ever-burgeoning American middle class, and the collapse of Jim Crow was simultaneously a decade of assasinations, political...