Storm and I were children when television evangelists were at their peak in the late 70's and early 80's. When we turned 12, at our church, we were able to join the youth group. We did many fun things with them outside of church, but our activities were often God-centered. One such combination of God and fun was when our youth group traveled on a bus all the way to North Carolina to visit the PTL television set and campgrounds. Our youth pastor removed all the seats in the bus and placed many mattresses from front to back so that we could sleep and travel at the same time. All of our luggage went into the space underneath the mattresses.
Yes, we actually saw Jim and Tammy Faye Baker in person. We had a special tour of their mansion, which had a pool in it. We weren't allowed to swim in the pool because our church leaders would not let us participate in "mixed bathing." As teenagers, we spontaneously found a way around this. As we were touring around the pool, one kid pushed another fully clothed kid into the water and it snowballed from there. I took my shoes off, climbed onto the diving board and dove in jeans and all. It was hilarious. We actually have it on film.....old fashioned film on a reel. All the adult chaperones got thrown in as well. That and the air conditioned arcade was the best part of the trip. Sitting in the audience watching Jim and Tammy Faye Baker was the worst. I mean, it was interesting to see them in person, but television evangelists always made me feel something was way off. I didn't know what it was at the time because I was just a child, but kids pick up on things that adults miss sometimes. (or they pick up on it, but don't think we kids did?) This was just a few years before the big PTL scandal. It was a major blow to our church. So many of our parents had sent money to PTL and ordered special bible reading materials from there in support for their "ministry." That has become a trigger word for me.
One of the major root causes of my religious trauma is the clashing of the good with the bad. I don't simply mean the ups and the downs. I mean innocence and allegiance rewarded with betrayal. There are many other trigger words in the story above --- church leaders, evangelists, mixed bathing. All the good we thought PTL was doing and it was just a major rip off ...... we trusted our parents to bring good people into our lives and we were taught to revere people like Jimmy Swaggart (who later had his own scandal) and the Bakers ........ thankfully Billy Graham didn't mess up, but boy his son sure is a real peach in the evangelical circles these days. Yeesh. And the evangelicals mostly love him. If you're reading this and it offends you, just stop reading because I'm not sorry. He's a jerk and he does NOT represent his father's views like he claims.
What I learned from the above situation is that I was right that something wasn't settling smoothly in my gut when it came to these evangelists. We had some visit our church, too, and preach to us. Most of them were loud and flashy and obnoxious -- in the name of God. It was super emotional with adults and teens crying at the alter and standing in long lines to be anointed with oil and prayed over. Some of these things clashed like loud thunder to me with what I thought God would want us to behave like instead ....... kind of quiet and humble with a soft reverence for Him and strong love for others. There were people that presented themselves this way like my future husband, but there were enough that didn't......... sometimes the biggest offenders were the ones in the pulpit and on the tv screen.
This is one reason why our 45th president makes me feel like something is really wrong in my gut. My people put this man up on a pedestal, often in the name of God that 45 doesn't even pray to. (Fact.) He is just using Evangelicals to get votes. (My opinion.) The fact that they're being fooled by him is one thing. The fact that they "voted for him enthusiastically" as one person put it explains a lot. I don't care that someone has different ideas on how to run our country and spend our money. Those things should be debatable and deals and compromises have to be made. I understand that most Evangelicals feel they have to vote against legal abortion. I disagree, but we can debate that kind of thing all day. What I cannot tolerate is that they vote for the most disgusting man in order to do so and they're tying him in with Christianity where he absolutely does not claim to belong. It doesn't matter all the lies he tells or the sexually offensive things he has said on live tv as well as making fun of a disabled person at a rally........ this man is a charlatan and they're supporting him, loving him, and empowering him to be even more of an ass than he already is. In the name of God. Much like Jim Baker and others. I won't be part of it.
They look at me and say you're wrong, Windy. You are not seeing what you're seeing. We can't see anything that he does wrong. You're wrong. Your gut is wrong. You're not a good enough Christian because you don't vote for him....... Good thing I know not to believe them, but it is still soul shaking when it happens.
That's a little bit about how religious leaders can be dangerous and how that ties into politics in the evangelical world for me. All of this swirls around my brain nearly every day trying to make sense of it all and I absolutely cannot. Thankfully, supporting the people of Ukraine has been something that most evangelicals in my life feel the same way as Storm and I do. THANK GOD. It is nice to finally agree on something again. When you have that your whole life and then it suddenly goes missing in 2016 because of all the above and more, it's stressful. Of course, now there is the Hillsong Documentary .....big Mega Church Scandal. Storm and I are in the middle of watching it. Yikes!