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."