jim bakker
Reading Time: 4 minutes Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in 1986 before his imprisonment. (Peter K. Levy, Flikr, Public Domain)
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Why Jim Bakker is again mainstream news, I haven’t a clue, other than that far too many Americans are completely clueless.

jim bakker
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in 1986 before his imprisonment. (Peter K. Levy, Flikr, Public Domain)

Yes, it’s that Jim Bakker, husband of Tammy Faye, co-founder with his wife of the Praise the Lord (PTL) pyramid-scheme Christian ministry, and an ex-con who served only five years of an original 45-year sentence for fraud, conspiracy and a host of other sins that were also crimes.

Oh, and he also used church funds to pay $279,000 (an oddly uneven sum) in hush money to a church secretary named Jessica Hahn, who ultimately accused him and another PTL person of drug-assisted rape. This scandal led to his ouster from PTL in 1987 and replacement by Jerry Falwell.

In short, this guy is unadulterated moral scum, and I mean that in the worst way possible.

Yet, here he is again, out of prison early and selling “overpriced,” freeze-dried foodstuffs for End Times to the gullible. And they’re buying. Praise be.

Judge Robert Daniel Potter, who originally sentenced Bakker to 45 years for his crimes against humanity, had that sentence reduced to eight years by an appeals court. The appellate judges felt Potter inappropriately injected his religious beliefs in sentencing Bakker.

Potter, not unfairly, said at the trial that “those of us who do have a religion are sick of being saps for money-grubbing preachers and priests.”

So stop.

Now unincarcerated, Bakker also has a new blonde wife, Lori, and new daily TV show, the Jim Bakker Show, broadcast out of Branson, Missouri. Bakker and his first wife previously produced the wildly popular (and biblically lucrative) The Jim and Tammy Show on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s influential 700 Club program led by uber-evangelical Christian and sometime presidential candidate Pat Robertson.

Bakker’s new show and new schtick has a millennial theme that fear-mongers the purported coming apocalypse as prophesied in the Bible. Thus, the pressing need to stock up on Bakker’s freeze-drive End Times nutrition to prepare. In 2013, Bakker wrote a book titled Time Has Come: How to Prepare Now for Epic Events Ahead, preceded in 1998 by Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse.”

The denuded fraudster is also selling a silver gel he says cures sexually transmitted diseases.

He also preached his questionable “prosperity theology” in his 1980 book Eight Keys to Success, which holds that an individual’s wealth signals God’s favor and His intimation of the rich person’s membership in the predestined saved “elect.” He and Tammy were flamboyant promoters and practitioners of prosperity.

In Eight Keys, Bakker wrote: “God wants you to be happy, God wants you to be rich, God wants you to prosper.”

In an April 23, 1990 New Yorker article, humorist Dave Barry was quoted by writer Frances Fitzgerald as saying the Bakkers “personified the most characteristic excesses of the nineteen-eighties—the greed, the love of glitz, and the shamelessness—which in their case were so pure as to almost amount to a kind of innocence.”

And the staggering immorality.

Even more disturbingly, his cynicism glowed in a 1996 post-jail book simply but disingenuously titled I Was Wrong. Trying to show he was a changed, chastened man, he wrote:

“The more I studied the Bible, however, I had to admit that the prosperity message did not line up with the tenor of Scripture. My heart was crushed to think that I led so many people astray. I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet!”

The exclamation point at the end was a particularly smarmy touch.

It’s clear from the nonsensical hucksterism that Bakker continues to display that he is exactly the same man he was before, just white-bearded now and unable to attract the same high piles of fraudulently solicited cash he did before. But he’s trying.

The question is, why is this ex-con who ruined so many people’s lives and stole their hard-earned savings through subterfuge allowed today to still sell anything to anyone, much less have his own TV show to sell stuff to the unwitting?

And that’s really the problem, which we also see with the roughly 40 percent of the electorate in complete thrall to Donald Trump, who is manifestly even more dishonest, corrupt and deficient in moral integrity than Bakker but has somehow succeeded in avoiding the slammer.

This is he real tragedy of our time in America. Our system only works when its citizens are informed, rational and, at minimum, able to distinguish a simple truth from a con job. But for some unfathomable reason too many just can’t.

Bakker is back in the news because he is proclaiming God told him He made Donald Trump president to help Christians prepare for the imminent End Times. He says:

“They call [Trump] crazy, but he’s making peace treaties, he’s doing all the things to try to solve the world’s problems and God has put him on Earth. God spoke to me the other night, He said, ‘I put Donald Trump on Earth to give you time, the church, to get ready.'”

OK then. Good to know.

In the meantime, our dear leader is sitting on Air Force One congratulating New York Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez on the phone for weaseling out of his recent corruption charges.

Only it wasn’t Sen. Mendendez. The leader of the free world was punked. It was some comedian on the phone who happened — much to his glee — to get patched through to the president.

Yet, Bakker and Trump are still fully believed, even glorified, by endless hordes of intellectually disabled Americans. How did we get to be so clueless?

This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night.

Far more than nuclear war. Global warming. Or even rogue asteroids and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

No that’s not the bogeyman. We have seen the real enemy. And it is us.

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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...