메인 Journal of Church and State Jim Bakker: Miscarriage of Justice? By James A. Albert. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court Publishing Co.,...
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BOOK REVIEW 595 the day, books like his that emanate from a particular religious perspective will no longer be published by university presses. BARRY HnNKIr~S Baylor University Waco, Texas Court Publishing Co., 1998. 532 pp. np. Jim Bakker's 1989 conviction on twenty-four counts of broadcast fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy was viewed widely as the death blow to similar evangelical TV empires in the United States, partŸ as Bakker's fellow televangelists Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell were eventually drawn into the controversies surrounding the control and bankruptcy of Bakker's Christian theme park, Heritage USA. A national audience was treated over a period of months to revelations of adultery, hypocrisy, greed, hush money, and internecine maneuvering among these ministers of the gospel almost worthy of Claudian Rome. Surprisingly, Robertson's and Falwell's broadcast ventures were largely undamaged in the long run, and even Swaggart has held on to a greatly truncated television ministry. Bakker, however, lost eve~thing, including, within two years of his conviction, his wife Tammy Faye, who divorced hito. Initially Bakker was sentenced to forty-five years in prison; the sentence was later reduced on appeal to eight years. The charges against hito concerned his TV and mail solicitations for sales of partnerships for lodgings at hotels and other accommodations on the grounds at Heritage USA--sales which were adjudged illegal because there never were enough spaces built to match the number of partnerships sold. James Albert wrote Jim Bakker: Miscarriage of Justice? because he believes that Bakker did not receive a fair trial. His primary arguments are that Bakker's enormously successful Christian talk show program, PTL Club, and his equally popular vacation/resort park Heritage USA were simply successes which got out of hand. Bakker's c¡ in the Charlotte, North Carolina area resented his genius, says Albert, and they h a d a social and religious bias against Pentecostals. Albert cites th; e almost-daily critical pummeling in the Charlotte Observer Bakker underwent and the newspaper's investigation of his ministry, even before he was indicted for fraud. Based on this, the author argues, the request for change of venue by Bakker's attorneys should have been granted. Albert's strongest attack on the fairness of the proceedings, however, is reserved for Judge Robert "Maximum Bob" Potter. He asserts not only that Potter improperly impaneled the jury himself, but that he engaged in, and allowed the prosecution to engage in, prejudicial remarks concerning the religious beliefs of Bakker's followers. Finally, Albert is outraged at the 45-year sentence Potter meted out, a prison term he views as completely inconsistent with the nature and severity of Bakker's crime. (However, other Downloaded from http://jcs.oxfordjournals.org/ at Freie Universitaet Berlin on June 25, 2015 Jim Bakker: Miscarriage ofJustice? By James A. Albert. Chicago, II1.: Open 596 JOURNAL OF CHURCH AND STATE Downloaded from http://jcs.oxfordjournals.org/ at Freie Universitaet Berlin on June 25, 2015 than remanding the case for resentencing, the appeals court did not find error in Potter's conduct). How compelling are Albert's arguments that Bakker was innocent of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud? Not very. He portrays Bakker as a naif, a visionary, aman whose entire adult life had been lived in a genuine belief that God provides on a daily basis whatever is needed when requested in faith, whether it is one's next meal or $3 million to cover a payroll shortfall on checks already written to Heritage employees. Additionally, Albert asserts that Bakker was the star of an important television ministry, head of a multimillion dollar enterprise, and that his sybaritic lifestyle of expensive cars, private jets, and sundry mansions was in keeping with the lives led by other business executives and celebrities. The difference Albert overlooks, of course, is that Oprah does not appeal to the public for donations to keep her business afloat, nor does she enjoy tax exempt status. Albert's study of the Bakker trial does not uncover any new exculpatory evidence. His contention of Bakker's innocence rests solely on the televangelist's routine statements to his audiences, in broadcasts and printed material, that their $1000 partnership contributions for construction of hotels at Heritage would also be used for general purposes of the ministry. In other words, there was no promise that Bakker's followers were purchasing a time share accommodation, and thus there could have been no overselling of the spaces actually available. Yet Albert has no explanation for the facts that PTL's own attorneys perceived the partnership campaign as overselling, and that they repeatedly warned Bakker of potential legal problems not only from the partnerships but also from jeopardizing his tax exempt status with such high living. The author himself notes that du¡ the trial, "For hours and hours each day the jury saw tapes of Bakker representing facts about the partnerships which the ministry's own records refuted" (p. 217). There was indisputable evidence that while PTL and the Heritage operation in the mid-1980s were seriously overextended financially, Jim and Tammy Bakker continued to receive millions annually in salary and bonuses. Even more damaging to Bakker was the expos› of his adultery with Jessica Hahn in 1980 and the subsequent payment to her of $265,000 from PTL funds. Overall, Albert's book is self-contradictory. Although arguing that Bakker was innocent of the charges against him, the author devotes most effort to demonstrating how, in his opinion, Bakker's attorneys and Bakker himself failed to mount a strong defense--a point irrelevant to actual guilt or innocence. Albert, himself an attorney, claims to have spent three years researching the case and two years "writing and rew¡ the manuscript with the help of several research assistants, but the result is stylistically and logically disappointing. While alleging the Charlotte Observer was extremely biased against Bakker and presumably unrelŸ in reporting about hito, Albert repeatedly cites its articles in his notes as sources of fact. He uses the trial transcript extensively, but oddly relies justas extensively on secondary sources in popular media such as People Magazine. He also tends to take completely at face value any and all statements Bakker and his wife made in their PTL fundraising letters and broadcasts, while he simultaneously presents conflict- BOOK REVIEW 597 SUSAN M. WILLIS North Harris College Houston, Texas Swaggart: The Unauthorized Biography of an American Evangelist. By Ann Rowe Seaman. New York: Continuum, 1999. 432 pp. $27.50. It is hard to write a biography of a living person when the subject will not speak to the writer. Even before his infamous fall from grace in 1988, Jimmy and Frances Swaggart were very wary of media folk. They did not believe that secular writers could understand their faith, nor that those writers could view televangelists in a sympathetic or objective light. Despite this inaccessibility to Swaggart, Ann Rowe Seaman attempts to presenta fair picture of an enigmatic figure and tries valiantly to understand what makes him tick. She never describes what sparked her interest in Swaggart, nor does she profess any religious faith in the book, but she read most, if not all, of Swaggart's writings, and she also was successful in interviewing a surprising number of people who could shed light on this complex evangelist, although most wanted to remain unnamed. There were clearly a large number of people who were deeply hurt and disillusioned when Swaggart was exposed (no pun intended), and they welcomed the opportunity to voice their pain. In her efforts to reach the depths of Swaggart's psyche, Seaman researched his extended family. Of particular interest to many are the numerous references to Swaggart's famous cousin and close childhood friend, singer Jerry Lee Lewis, who appears to be much more troubled than Swaggart. The portrait that emerges in these pages is of a highly gifted person, musically as well as oratorically, who is genuinely religious, but who has some deeply unresolved psychosexual problems. Seaman seems to conclude that a convergence of several strands of influencing factors not only made Swaggart Downloaded from http://jcs.oxfordjournals.org/ at Freie Universitaet Berlin on June 25, 2015 ing evidence from PTL's own records without seeming to recognize the discrepancy. Most irritating of all is Albert's style. He never m e t a clich› or slang phrase he does not like. Bakker's TV program was "simply the best to guest on"; "Heritage USA was no Kool Aid stand"; "On cross examination she got the treatment.'" One of the chapter titles is "'Bakker Snaps and Judge Potter Racks Him." The reader feels that Albert may have watched too many reruns of This Gun for Hire. This book may be useful for those who paid little attention to the Bakker scandal at the time and would like to learn more about it. Certainly anyone studying TV evangelism, fundamentalist Christianity, and related topics may wish to include it as one more source in a bibliography. Otherwise, the book fails in its purpose of demonstrating that the judicial system failed Jim Bakker and serves in some degree, ironically, to support the case against him.