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THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2008Printer-Friendly
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Jim Bakker Rebuilds His Empire
AUDIO BROADCAST: Jim Baker Rebuilds His Empire
Let the Bible Speak Radio
Dr. Alan Cairns

Jim Bakker is famous, or perhaps infamous. Here's his resume.

1961 - Marries Tammy Faye LaValley. Both had attended North Central Bible College in Minnesota.
1964 - Begins working on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.
1974 - Starts broadcasting "The PTL Club" with Tammy Faye from Charlotte, N.C.
1978 - Bakkers open Heritage USA, a resort and theme park in Fort Mill, S.C.
1987 - Details emerge about Bakker's 1980 affair with church secretary Jessica Hahn. Baker had been paying her hush money. He resigns as PTL president. Within months, PTL files for bankruptcy.
1989 - Heritage USA shuts down. Bakker is convicted of 24 counts of mail and wire fraud and sent to prison.
1992 - Tammy Faye Bakker files for divorce. She remarries the next year.
1994 - Bakker is released after serving almost five years in prison.
1998 - Bakker marries Lori Graham.
2007 - Tammy Faye dies.

With such a resume a preacher would appear to have no chance of a productive ministry. Indeed, I don't think that a preacher with this background should ever again impose himself on the public. Having brought disgrace to the name of Christ, he should be satisfied with taking a humble position and function in a well supervised capacity in a local church in which he may begin to undo some of the harm he has done. Obviously Jim Bakker entertains no such thoughts.

In 2003 he commenced a new television ministry, "The Jim Bakker Show," which he broadcast from Branson, Missouri. He ran the show from a bare bones studio that once served as a restaurant but he had visions of a return to the grandeur that was once Heritage USA. Now he has it. A supporter is in the process of building a community that is modeled on Bakker's Fort Mill empire. Bakker is quick to point out that he owns "none of this." He still owes the IRS over six million dollars. His church and TV show are not registered in his name but in the name of his mother-in-law. Soon he is to move into a $250,000 condo-modest by Bakker's former standards-that he is buying from his developer friend.

The developer has sunk $25m into the project already and has provided the ex-head of PTL with a 40,000 square foot space for his TV show. Already people are flocking in and already many, even some who lost a lot of money in his fraudulent Heritage USA scheme, are giving substantial amounts of money. Bakker's new wife is modeled after the late, flamboyant Tammy Faye-appearing at the first show on the new premises in a leopard-print blazer, black pants and blouse with a strand of pearls dangling. Well, that was one of her outfits that day. In pictures, she looked and seemed to act as a Tammy Faye clone. But none of this did much to dampen the enthusiasm of the Bakker faithful. Jim Bakker is back, or at least he is making one huge effort to regain the empire he lost through lust and greed. That he has the chance to launch a replica of his first discredited career is a telling commentary not only on human gullibility but on the state of America's "Christian" pop culture, which has little culture and is more pop than Christian.

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