by Ben Small
Have you ever been addicted to a program you hate? I know, that makes no sense. If one has an injection phobia, does one volunteer to give blood weekly?
I have a hard time explaining to people why I used to be addicted to the PTL Club and why I now record and watch some of the Jim Bakker shows. But the explanation is simple: Bakker is so outrageous, I just cannot turn him off. First with PTL, Jim was selling partnerships in Heritage USA, a huge family oriented ― or so it was claimed ― project, now in ruins. Now it's Morningside, which I predict will be in ruins in a few years.
Heritage was fraudulent, and rubble is often what happens to hopes and dreams that are based upon fraudulent claims.
Morningside? Tune in and you be the judge.
Jim’s good at selling. He lays down a façade of ministry, a cover, when what’s really going on is a sleazy sales pitch. After an eight year stint in federal prison ― it would have been much longer but his appeal resulted in a reduced sentence ― Jim’s back doing what he did before, selling what looks to be cheaply made condos under cover of providing a religious program. It’s called the Jim Bakker Show, and this time, instead of the now deceased Tammy Faye to laugh at, we have Jim’s wife, Lori, a busty blonde with a lurid past, and a brain that might fill a thimble.
This time, Jim’s selling units at Morningside, a five hundred sixty acre development in Branson, MO, owned by his friend Jerry Crawford. Jerry brought Jim and Lori out and put him up and on the air, so Jim could sell his cheap Bibles, tiny swords, Jesus pictures, “partnerships” and CDs at inflated “Love Gift” prices, and so Jim could spend most of his programming hour pushing Morningside units.
My wife and I were in Branson, and we drove by the complex. We laughed out loud. The “village” had a roof, a big one. Long, black I-beams provided a three story structure that stretched for several hundred yards. So what now looks like a strip mall is Jim’s Village of Morningside, which is nothing more than a television set, a few shops selling trinkets and plastic or coated religious stuff at inflated prices, a bakery, a general store, maybe something of a restaurant, and of course condos, apartments, a hotel and building sites. If you want to watch the Jim Bakker Show from the tiny balcony of your postage stamp condo, one or two stories above a fake street, you’d like Morningside.
I’m sorry, but Jim’s show is so outrageous, I just cannot turn it off. So I watch, angry, cussing, seething inside at all the old people ― the group Jim’s always victimized ― who fall for his blather.
And you should see Jim beg. He’s got all the tools. I don’t think a show goes by where Jim doesn’t cry. Or pretend to do so. Jim’s lip will quiver, and he’ll talk about how much money he needs to do one more program, and then he’ll beg. And after the beg, comes the threat, that God won’t like you if you don’t support Jim’s church. And Lori just nods, a hollow look in her eyes, like someone’s just reached in and scooped out her brains.
It’s better to give than receive, you know? So says Jim, as he encourages everyone to feel good about themselves by giving to his ministry.
Oh sure, Jim mentions Jesus once in a while, usually in a loud, practiced stretch-syllable Southern Baptist way, like speaking the name Itself will provide enlightenment and salve all his sins. “Yes,” he’ll say, “Jeeeeeezzz-us loves us,” as if this makes the sales pitch a holy one.
But while the guy can sell, he’s not very smart. Jim’s a preacher, right? I thought it was enlightening, and not particularly bright, when Jim said during one sales pitch that he’d never read the Bible until he was sent to prison.
Huh? Never read the Bible? Then what was PTL all about? You don’t think PTL was just a money grab, do you?
Of course it was. And so is Morningside and the Jim Bakker Show.
Recently, Jim announced that Jerry Crawford, the Morningside developer, had called him in to say development [read sales] was slowing, that Crawford would have to forgo a promised million dollar payment to Bakker. Jim took the high road, at least he appeared to, and instructed folks on the need to be altruistic. Then he asked for special love gifts.
C’mon, you knew that was coming.
And Lori’s a peach, too. Tammy Faye, at least, could sing, and her eye makeup was always entertaining. But Lori just sits there and makes inane comments, comments that are so right field that Jim turns and stares at her, as if he’s a catcher and the pitcher just rolled the ball to home plate.
No, Lori doesn’t have much to say, but that doesn’t stop her from saying it. She’ll say something like, “Oh, Jim, everyone should know that God is always with us.” And Jim will turn, and he’ll stare.
Like me. I’m dumb-struck, too.
But then they’ll talk about Lori. Jim loves bringing up Lori’s sordid past: how she was addicted to any number of drugs; how she slept around, trading sex for drugs; that she had a number of abortions. And Lori will sit and nod and grin.
This is great soap opera.
My wife thinks I’m nuts to watch this stuff, and of course she’s right. But my sister watches Nancy Grace, just because she finds Nancy Grace so irritating. And it’s the same with me. I cannot stand what Jim Bakker does. I think the guy is a crook, and that he’s bilking little old ladies. And he infuriates me so, I have to watch his show a couple time a week. That’s how mad he makes me.
I mean the show is so obvious. How could anybody be fooled? If there’s any mention of the Bible or Jesus at all, it’s usually connected to a pitch for money. The Bible says we must support the church; Jesus wants our support, he needs our support, and Jim needs our money to spread this message.
It should come as no surprise that The Jim Bakker Show has almost no audience. It’s on at various times during the wee morning hours, at about the time teenagers are painting the old water tower. In fact, when I tell people that Jim Bakker is back on the air doing the same old thing, they’re shocked.
But Jim looks good. He’s had so much plastic surgery, he looks about forty-five, although his face has that certain smooth and shiny plastic texture that comes with having skin stretched too tight across facial bones. I can’t tell if Lori’s had plastic surgery. I can’t get past her lipstick. With Tammy Faye, it was the eyes one laughed at. With Lori, it’s the wind blowing through her ears and the spooky high gloss clowny lipstick.
Despite the title of Jim’s book, it’s apparent from comments Jim's made that he doesn’t think he did anything wrong at Heritage USA, and that he was persecuted by those who were jealous of his success. And to prove his point, Jim’s doing many of the same things he did before. Just no Jessica Hahn this time, at least not yet.
I mean, the gall of this guy.
And that, my friends, is why I watch. I just cannot believe the ever-loving gall. The mystery is how Jim Bakker gets away with it, over and over again.