Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Random Thoughts Tuesday
Random Thoughts Tuesday
Random thoughts may take an evangelical turn this week-bear with me, please.
You can’t get more random than Jimmy Swaggart. I hesitate to even bring him up, but I had an exchange with Rand about him the other day, and was actually defending Swaggart. I am not continuing that exchange here, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart.
Jimmy Swaggart had it all-a talented musician, with a spirited ministry, beautiful family, acclaim and recognition as one of the foremost Evangelists of our age. His ministry magazine was simply called “The Evangelist“, and it was a good magazine. I have a friend who loved to play his music, and, back before his troubles, Jimmy Swaggart seemed to exemplify what a Christian should aspire to be.
Back in 1981 I was stationed in Milwaukee for my final 3 months of service in the Coast Guard. I was visiting weekly at a church which was teaching the Word, and Jimmy Swaggart came to town, filling a sports arena for four nights of Meetings. I think I was there three of the nights. We would meet at the church, get on a bus and go see Jimmy Swaggart preach. Say what you will about his sins-he could preach, exhort and energize a room of believers. And he preached Salvation through Jesus Christ; in my mind, he was truly being used by God to reach out to the lost.
Moving forward a few years, I was working midnights, cooking until 6 in the morning at a restaurant which no longer exists. Jimmy Swaggart’s daily bible study program would come on just as I was getting home, and I used to enjoy watching it before going to sleep. I noticed a pattern, which may have been good television, but kind of bugged me-his commercials for his ministry books, tapes, upcoming meetings, etc. were taking up more and more of the half hour; I started timing the sections of the broadcast-how much time went to studying the Word, and how much went to selling Jimmy. Eventually, the Word time decreased, and Jimmy time increased. So I decided to switch over to the PTL Club. But that’s another story, with another Jimmy. :)
The next chink in his Christian armor came through the courtesy of “60 Minutes” which did a story on the Swaggarts and their ministry, highlighting how rich they had become, how many houses they owned, how big a salary they drew, possibly millions of dollars.
Now, if God wants to bless someone, I’m all for it-we all survive on His good Grace and Blessings. But if someone is enticed into settling for the riches of this world, let their heads be turned, Satan can hook them, and they do much as the Swaggarts did-build their own little empire, seat themselves on thrones, live like kings and queens, with servants and castles and all tax free, because it all actually belongs to the ministry.
The upshot of the 60 Minutes piece in which Jimmy basically said, “Mind your own bidness.” was that the Swaggarts made a big deal of no longer drawing a salary-though of course they still were on their thrones, in charge of the money.
Then came the crash and burn- the prostitute, the truth revealed, Jimmy Swaggart’s Christian witness destroyed, the name of Christ dragged through the mud due to Jimmy Swaggart. Love and respect for an evangelist turned to hate and disrespect. I was mostly angry at Swaggart not so much for my own feelings of being betrayed by someone I had respected, but for my friend, who had loved and played his music-she is a finer, more sensitive person than I am, and I know that she felt the betrayal more harshly.
Christians being Christian, Swaggart was forgiven when he begged for forgiveness. I believe that he was booted from the denomination which had ordained him, but he was forgiven.
And then it happened again. And Swaggart’s response when caught a second time was, “Mind your own bidness.” That was enough for me to write off Jimmy Swaggart-I thought he was done.
He isn’t. I googled him before writing this, and he is back on the air, early early mornings on Spike TV.
I clicked on the “About us” page at his website, and I disagree with what he says the Bible teaches.
Rand, you may be right.