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Where Are They Now?: Jim Bakker

Jim BakkerThis may bewilder or bother plenty of people, but here goes anyway:

Jim Bakker hosts a religious TV show with his perky wife.

At age seventy-one, he preaches God's love while peddling Jesus pendants and the like from a new Christian retreat in Blue Eye, Missouri, which looks a lot like his old Christian retreat in Fort Mill. More than twenty years after he rose to fame and fell to shame at PTL ("Praise the Lord"), he's doing pretty much the same thing, but without nearly the same following and without overselling lifetime memberships. We'll get to that last one in due course.

It's hard for anyone who moved to Charlotte after, say, 1987 to fathom how big Bakker was way back when. With his loveable wife, Tammy Faye, giggling and crying at his side, he commanded a religious TV empire that mesmerized millions. Clearly a lot of Christians bought what he sold -- that God loves us, and that He also wants us to be prosperous. In 1986, in the heart of the glory days, 6 million visitors flocked to his Disneyland-like retreat near Carowinds to watch the TV show live, browse the Christian shops along Main Street, and gawk at the Christmas lights strung across the vast complex.

It all came crashing down in a cloud of sex and money, the Wikipedia-style version of which is this: he had a fifteen-minute affair with church secretary Jessica Hahn, paid her hush money, then spent nearly five years in federal prison for overselling lifetime memberships to his Heritage Grand Hotel, which has never been finished. He got out of prison in 1994, his ministry in ruins and his wife gone, Tammy Faye having divorced him after thirty years. She married family friend Roe Messner.

So where are they all now?

Bakker and his second wife, Lori, cohost The Jim Bakker Show from the Morningside residential/retail complex twenty miles south of Branson, Missouri. A developer who credits Bakker with saving his marriage years ago bankrolled the development. The show's not available on Charlotte TV nor in most other markets -- though, like nearly everything else these days, you can catch it on the Internet.
Bakker didn't return two calls. He pretty much soured on the serious media after The Charlotte Observer won a Pulitzer for bringing him down. He did, however, show up from time to time on Larry King Live to answer softball tosses about the good old days, even appearing with his first and second wives.

Tammy Faye died of cancer in 2007. She was sixty-five. While her ex went right back to what he figured he knew, she reinvented herself to the point that she became a pop culture icon. There was the short-lived syndicated TV talk show, The Jim J. and Tammy Faye Show; a critically acclaimed documentary, The Eyes of Tammy Faye; and those T-shirts declaring "I ran into Tammy Faye at the shopping mall." She became popular with many in the gay community—maybe it was the heavy mascara, the cancer-can't-defeat-me feistiness, or the way she kept coming back from scandal, ridicule, prescription drug addiction, and whatever else life threw at her. By the time she appeared on, yes, Larry King Live days before her death, looking like a ghost, her place in modern American consciousness seemed cemented.

Jessica Hahn appeared in Playboy before slipping into obscurity.

The Bakkers' daughter, Tammy Sue, did some Christian singing after PTL. Their son, Jamie Charles, goes by Jay. He founded Revolution, a ministry aimed at those who feel scorned by mainstream Christianity. Awash in Jesus tattoos and body piercings, he preaches Sundays at Revolution New York City, which meets in a performing arts space called Pete's Candy Store in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

MorningStar Ministries, little known in mainstream Christian circles, purchased some of the PTL complex and uses it today for conferences and a school. It's trying to market the still-unfinished Heritage Grand Hotel to retirees. The water park's gone. So is the swimming pool in the lobby of the hotel. You can close your eyes and try to recall what it once was in the glory days. But it's hard to imagine.

Aaron To / Itchyart.com

We invite your responses and discussion. Please refrain from personal attacks, profanity, commercial promotion, or non sequiturs.

Reader Comments:
Feb 8, 2011 01:47 pm
 Posted by  Gibby

Did anyone (or everyone notice 90% or more of his current broadcast is devoted to money raising to keep him in his condo-setting and feeding his ego with tv programming? Look at the audience on the show...............elderly folks, which are his primary prey...they ask few questions and retirees have their life savings to donate.

Sounds like PTL to me!

Jan 30, 2012 04:12 pm
 Posted by  pennylea

It seems like the blood of Jesus is not enough from what I just read. I thank God for the blood that covers all sins. Why is it that the Christian army continues to kill its wounded? Shame on anyone that calls themselves Christian, but limits the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for "whosoever will." No wonder people refuse to come to our churches. They see the same vicious attacks inside the walls of the place where mercy should abound. "Let He who is without sin cast the first stone

Aug 16, 2012 04:55 pm
 Posted by  ugogirl61

If Jesus can forgive us of all sins why can't all the ones called by His name forgive as well....everyone I mean everyone sins and needs forgiveness. I believe Jim Bakker has repented and that means to turn away from sin. I listen to him and his warnings about what the Bible says in the last days...I can see it happening and we all need to prepare for famine and economic collapse in the U.S.A. Our economy is not going to get better and recover...jobs are gone overseas and weather patterns are changing to cause a great famine in our land. I've compared Bakkers food prices with other online 25 year shelf life foods and his prices are really pretty good. I think all people need to take heed to these warnings and read Matthew 24.

Jul 27, 2013 10:10 pm
 Posted by  Hunter!996

Christian charity and forgiving is one thing, but this man is a predator. He was then and he is now. He should have been a politician.

Sep 6, 2013 03:30 pm
 Posted by  mtkid69

Someone told me a long time ago, give locally. It is a best fit. Plenty of people around this area and when I am able, I give locally. It is not only the best thing to do, it is the right thing to do.

Jan 2, 2014 11:21 am
 Posted by  Cookie

I seldom listen to any Christian tv program any more. I did run
into his program on tv recently & saw his visions of future.

I think the individual who called Bakker a predator was harsh.
Many Christians listen to Christian radio & TV programs & do not
ever give or seldom give. I do not like the numerous things
he is promoting however & the high costs associated with them. So
to this extent, I take issue with Mr. Bakker.

ALSO, Christians are told to tithe 10% & its argued rather net or
gross & if the tithing is to be limited to a local church or
can include Christian groups/ministries. Many people struggle
just to get by, yet there are also some who make high incomes, if
they only give 10%, I think that is laughable. I think God looks
more at what one has left after they give (recalling when Jesus
said about those who gave a little of their fat). As born again
Christians, we're all accountable to what we do, say & receive.

Apr 14, 2014 11:52 pm
 Posted by  mellowde

Been to a 'mainstream' church lately. Last time I attended one the entire service revolved around the number of churches in the denomination, the amount of money they have, how they want more money, etc. Absolutely no mention of the Lord. And we were told in the service that if we wanted to worship Him we could go down to a little room in the sub-level (2 floors below ground level) to "meditate". "All the glory to Him" but none actually given. I don't see how much worse this man is and I do enjoy the uplifting type format and can easily see how this ministry attracts so many 'oldsters'. Combine a travel venue with a variety show and the chance to see up-close many icons in the religious sect and you can see how Jim Bakker makes his money. I'm not condoning or condemning him, nor am I praising him. In my mind ALL the glory goes to God Almighty. Jim Bakker is somewhat uplifting and that ain't a bad thing. I think that's why so many have stuck by him over the years. Even his preaching gloom and doom is done in a way that makes you feel like your on the inside looking out and not the other way around. And that is what makes folks feel good.

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