I found it pretty interesting that out of all the things Jim Bakker said when he came back to Fort Mill for his Restoration Celebration preaching series, none of it included an apology.
He talked about the greatness of Heritage USA, and his redemption from God. He said all of this after passing by the crumbling ruins of his former theme park. He said all of this after passing by the still-unfinished tower that took down the PTL and that landed him in jail.
He said all of this while looking some of the same people he bilked out of money in the eyes and preaching to them about the greatness of God. And the people cheered. Worst of all, Bakker probably knew they would.
The fundamental knowledge that people are suckers is what drives so many of the fringe ministries that operate in this country — usually by charismatic evangelists. It isn’t so much that people are looking to be fleeced, it is that they want to believe in redemption, in healing and in goodness.
Bakker has made a living off of other people’s money, which was given to him freely, simply because he can speak passionately and eloquently. He uses God as his cash generator.
He also uses references to the end of the world to both scare people into giving up worldly possessions and to get them excited to meet God shortly. He does a lot of things, but in the end, it all boils down to money.
It always does.
As a matter of fact, for only $500 you can join Jim’s Restoration Celebration Club. You get a signed copy of a book he has written, classic DVDs of his old PTL shows and a card that entitles you to 10 days at his RV park.
He has all sorts of goodies available to buy, from jewelry to peanut butter.
For $100 you can get a Black Bean Burger Bucket, which is a bargain compared to the “Jerry Jones Special” for $2,000. That two grand supposedly provides you enough dried food to cook 480 meals.
Jim not only predicts the coming of the end of the world, but he also lets you buy survival materials if you so wish.
My question is, why is a preacher who doubles as a purveyor of survivalist gear pushing that if the world is going to end?
Isn’t the message that nobody will survive?
Charismatic evangelists rely on the fact that you won’t ask such questions, or that if you do, they have nicely worded responses for you, usually referencing the goodness of God and how he who gives will receive in an even more bountiful manner.
In any other class of trade, we’d call them con artists and hucksters — but that’s where the real miracle of their message takes place. Because they hide behind religion, we can’t seem to touch them.
Who wants to be the bad guy who tempts fate by thumbing his nose at one of God’s supposed right-hand men?
Jim Bakker likes to call Rick Joyner of Morningstar Ministries a prophet. But even a look at Morningstar’s sale offerings leads one directly to the homonym — profit. There are a mountain of books, videos, DVD’s and “teaching sets” available.
You can even buy Jim Bakker’s prison testimony on CD for a cool $18.
Ironically, while Joyner doesn’t dabble in selling survival items, he does run the Kingdom Business Association, which for a yearly fee, supposedly offers advice on how Christians can run their own businesses.
I have a feeling that unless I like orange jumpsuits, I shouldn’t go there for advice. Come to think of it, maybe York County is missing out on a hefty profit. They give those out for free!
Reach Scott at costanalysis email@example.com.