Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tammy Faye--A Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma

Tammy Faye Bakker Messner has died. Many who see this blog are too young to remember the heyday of the PTL Club. For Pentecostals, we thought (at first) that at long last we were coming up in the world. Long before Tammy Faye became a bad joke, before the shocking revelations, and Jim's prison sentence and the Jerry Falwell takeover, and all the rest, we saw Tammy Faye and Jim as innocents made good.

The PTL Club changed over the years. It's beginning was nothing like it's end. The same was true for Jim and Tammy. The pictures of the two of them in earlier years show two naive, smiling church kids. Amazingly, Jim once called Tammy his "little holiness girl" because she wore no makeup at all.

I heard Jim Bakker speak at an Assemblies of God General Council almost 30 years ago. It was one of the most powerful sermons I ever heard, and I still remember parts of it. How many sermons can you say that about? Sad, isn't it? It was before Jim morphed into a vocal proponent of the "prosperity gospel." (Gag.)

Ken and I almost ended up as part of PTL, back when things looked exciting and many reputable and fine people we personally knew were associated with the Bakkers. Thankfully, we landed elsewhere. Nonetheless, I can remember the Jim Bakker who was young and smiling and had a sweetness about him--with his infectious grin and his 70's mop of hair. We met him briefly. There was a humility about him in those days, an open, friendly warmth. We all loved him. As for Tammy Faye--well--it was hard to know quite what to think.

Later the show got more and more strange and glitzy and unsettling and we simply felt ashamed and I wished Tammy Faye would go away and stop being a big embarrassment to Pentecostals-- and that Jim would go with her.

Watch the You Tube Video. Watch people respond, and watch their hearts melt. There is much I vehemently disliked about the woman, and there was more I just could not comprehend (was the woman insane?) but we have some significant things in common. Please, don't mock poor Tammy Faye now. She was one insecure little woman, so very flawed and so very human, and so very loved by her Savior. My heart goes out to her family and her children, especially to her son, Jay, a most remarkable young minister.

If you want to hear Jim's side of the story, I recommend his fascinating book, "I Was Wrong."


Anonymous said...

I saw her on the reality TV Show on VH1 (Surreal Life).
She was still a little wacky, but it was so obvious that she had a heart for the misfortunate and misunderstood.
She didn't slam Jim, she actually made me proud, how she carried herself, drew the line at sin on the show, but loved Ron Jeremy (VERY notable porn star) with a big heart. She even said to Sally Jesse Raphel (who was trying to get a rise out of Tammy)< "I can love Ron without approving of his occupation."
She had quite the ministry with homosexuals in CA.

Sista Cala said...

I like the way you have posted on this subject. So many have mocked and slammed her. I am not a TF lover nor am I a hater. I did not agree w/what they did, but I believe they started out right. Only God knows if she finished right. I pray that she did.

chartreuseova said...

Thanks for posting this tribute. I vaguely remember my grandmother watching PTL Club but I missed those earliest years. So refreshing to see glimpses of her true beauty, the beauty she was just too afraid & insecure to share. Sad.

I'm always sad when I see ministries crumble (and sometimes angry too) because I'm thinking about the missed opportunity and loss of potential to bring glory to God, healing and love to God's creation, hope to a fallen world.

Anonymous said...

I work with a guy who was asked to a Sadie Hawkins Dance by Tammy Faye. He also clearly remembers the no makeup Tammy.


Truth said...

A very well-written post. I remember her back-in-the-day. Oh, and you are a *star* on my blog today:

Mary Beth said...

Beautiful. Thanks.

Theresa Coleman said...

I watched the movie "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" a couple of years ago. I found her a very chatty person -- but one with a really radical reading of the hospitality of Christ. They may have done a lot wrong, but they did do things right too.
Jim's book is fascinating, as is their son Jay. They give us at the least a lot of food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Tammy was a good soul just trying to make it like the rest of us.