The Tammy Faye Effect

It is somewhat disturbing to learn that many of our Millennial brothers & sisters have never heard of Tammy Faye Bakker, the Televangelist superstar from the 80s.  It’s disturbing because it means I’m growing old and outdated. But what goes around comes around, and it is a useful history lesson.

Tammy Faye was the colorful foil for her husband Jim Baker, who was busted for tax evasion and scandalized by sexual exploits with various men. It led to the downfall of their multi-million-dollar PTL (“Praise the Lord”) empire. It also ended their marriage, so Tammy Faye’s last name became Messner.

Tammy Faye immediately popped into mind when I saw this so-called “Outlaw” and “Whiskey Preacher” dude named Phil Shepherd I described in The Emerging Emergents. Consider the visual similarities:

Certainly both carry shocking visual theatrics, even if the details differ by 30 years. (Phil is the one without makeup.)

Now, far be it from me to jeer at anyone’s appearance, because we all know I am no male model!

Which guy is Keith? It's hard to tell, at times.

I would also like to point out that both Tammy Faye and Phil take better care of their appearance than I do. My garb is largely gathered from clearance sales (or Salvation Army trash bins), because I rely heavily on my rugged handsomeness for sex appeal.

But Tammy Faye and Phil also share common ground in their Christian views, because both are firmly rooted in emotional goo. I call it the Tammy Faye Effect. If you saw Tammy Faye on PTL, you were guaranteed a dramatic dose of gushing tears over just about anything, and then she would sing a heart-rending solo to settle down. Everything she touched was gooey with sticky emotions as her mascara ran down her face in rivulets of tears. It made for great theatrics, but her shtick had little to do with biblical Christianity. I was amazed that PTL ever drew such a following. I was equally amazed that I was watching it at 3 a.m. when afflicted with insomnia.

Three decades later, the Emerging Emergents are using the same sticky, gooey emotions to replace sound, biblical teaching:

Jesus took it a step farther and said to love yourself as much as your neighbor…for us to learn to love God and our neighbor, we have to learn to love ourselves.

Obviously he reversed what Jesus actually taught, and the difference is not small. Old Doc Ankenman said you don’t have to teach kids to love themselves—they do that quite well. The hard part of parenting is to teach your kids sacrificial love: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

“We have to learn to love ourselves” has tremendous emotional appeal, and Phil uses the theology of self-love to filter out parts of the Bible that contradict, while retaining whatever supports his view. For example:

If we are truly a creation of the Creator, and if we are made a good creation, why should we have to think we are pieces of shit?

Obviously Genesis 1 says God did create “a good creation,” but he ignores the fact that God also cursed the creation in Genesis 3:

We are made a good creation, and the text [Genesis] never recants that.

Someone trained in a Baptist Seminary like this guy knows the “good creation” in Genesis 1 was, in fact, “recanted” by God in Genesis 3:14-19. (Did he skip class that day, or is he deliberately misleading?) Theologians call it The Curse, but Phil apparently believes the creation is still as good as God made it. Only prosperous Americans could embrace such a theology.

Therefore he rejects the Bible’s teachings about hell, like other Emergent Church leaders, because it does not fit his Theology of Self-Love and “good creation”. He is quite slippery about his denial of hell, however:

I do believe in Satan and a literal hell, I just don’t believe people go there. I think it was created for Satan and fallen angels, or however you want to say it.

Most people don’t like the Bible’s teaching about hell (and neither do I), which is understandable, but most people who reject hell have the decency to admit they aren’t Bible-believing Christians. I can respect someone who I disagree with, but who can respect a religious hypocrite? Can you? When Phil pretends to be a Bible teacher and a Christian Evangelical, the hypocrisy is quite pronounced.

What Phil and the Emergents teach has always been known as Universalism, advocated by the Universalist church. When these clowns retain the “Christian Evangelical” nomenclature, they become obnoxious and disingenuous. Why not simply agree to disagree instead of lying and hiding the disagreement?

A merciful, loving God will not send Adolph Hitler or Stalin or Charles Manson to hell, since “I just don’t believe people go there,” Phil says. Think about that. It means God is responsible for those men’s crimes, if He doesn’t hold them responsible. Does that sound like a merciful, loving God?

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4 thoughts on “The Tammy Faye Effect

  1. J Small Z

    I like your conclusion. If God is unwilling to judge our sins when we decide to stand against his gift of free grace, what would be the point of receiving his grace anyways? How could God be one who stands against evil if he does nothing about it? I think Satan would win this dilemma. It makes God look like the hypocrite!

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