Jim Bakker of PTL fame is back. Or, rather, he’s been back, you were probably just unaware of it. This time, instead of timeshares on the campus of PTL, a thrilling vacation at his “Christian” theme park, and promises of reaping material rewards for donating to his “ministry,” the disgraced televangelist is hawking survival gear on Christian TV.
A long expose in The Charlotte Observer details Bakker’s current activities. In a nutshell, as the article succinctly states, “Jim Bakker is back on TV with a different, darker message: The Apocalypse is coming and you better get ready.”
For Bakker, getting ready means sending him large amounts of money, called a “donation,” and as a “thank you,” he’ll send you survival gear that he endorses.
Of course, you’ll be forgiven if the specifics sound new and yet the overall theme of Jim Bakker’s message sounds vaguely familiar to you. You can read the details of Bakker’s rise and fall during the ’80s by reading The Charlotte Observer article, but as the article points out, the financial information for his new “ministry” is shrouded in mystery. In other words, like in the ’80s, people are apparently sending Bakker money without any real accountability for where the money goes and how it’s used.
Jim Bakker, however, insists that everything is on the up-and-up. In fact, going all the way back to 1996, his book titled I Was Wrong appeared to state that he had sworn, off the pursuit of money. “He wrote that, in prison, he’d become ‘physically nauseated’ when his deeper study of Jesus’ words about wealth convinced him that he had been “contradicting Christ,” according to The Charlotte Observer.
However, the newspaper, among others, has their doubts. The paper asks the question, “Has Bakker repented and found a genuine calling to help Christians prepare for the end times forecast in the Bible? Or is he stoking 21st-century fears – terrorism, climate change, war – to make money?”
In his new role, Jim Bakker co-hosts with his second wife, Lori Graham, “The Jim Bakker Show” that airs on a variety of Christian networks around the country. The show focuses on finding apocalyptic interpretations for current events. Warning his viewers that the end is nigh, Bakker urges them to invest in supplies that will help them survive the impending chaos. And, as “chance” would have it, Bakker happens to have a studio filled with the needed survival gear.
While neither Bakker nor his wife agreed to speak to The Charlotte Observer, the couple’s right-hand man did.
Mark Graham calls Bakker the real deal, a man of God who has disowned the Prosperity Gospel – the idea that God rewards faith with wealth and other blessings – that he preached and lived at PTL.
“Jim lost everything, and then he came back,” said Graham, Bakker’s brother-in-law and executive vice president for retreat services at Morningside Church, Bakker’s ministry and where he tapes his show. “All he wants to do is get the message of salvation out there. And keep people alive.”
That’s why “The Jim Bakker Show” sells “practical things,” Graham said. Like generators and food for a future in which the power grid collapses and grocery shelves go empty.
Graham may insist that Jim Bakker has “nothing to hide,” but considering the disgraced preacher’s past, people should be very wary about sending money to “The Jim Bakker Show.” As The Charlotte Observer notes of Bakker’s new compound, it’s eerily reminiscence of the old PTL campus.