Televangelist Jim Bakker, who resurrected his career after serving nearly five years in prison for fraud, ignited Twitter Monday by declaring on his show that support for President Donald Trump is a “test [for] whether you’re even saved.”
“Only saved people can love Trump,” Bakker added during the taped episode of “The Jim Bakker Show.” The comment brought laughs from at least one guest and several members of the audience.
“No,” Bakker responded to the reaction. “You gotta really be saved. You gotta forgive. You forgive when you’re saved ...”
Bakker made the statement during a segment in which guests were promoting their books and viewers were asked to make monthly donations to the “PTL Voice of the Prophets Gold Member Network,” the Charlotte Observer reported.
One of the guests was Robert Henderson, who talked about his book, “Praying for the Prophetic Destiny of the United States and the Presidency of Donald J. Trump from the Courts of Heaven.”
During the show, Bakker also touted Trump’s commitment to Israel.
“He keeps signing things to protect the church, and he’s helped Israel, and recognized Israel,” the evangelist said. “He’s fulfilling (the) Bible, whether you like it or not.”
Bakker’s comments were met with a fair amount of backlash after an 18-second clip from the show was shared to Twitter. Amee Vanderpool, a contributing writer for Playboy and an opinion writer for the BBC, tweeted the clip of Bakker’s comment which has been viewed by more than 1.37 million people.
She captioned the clip, “Here is Jim Bakker saying that Trump is a test to determine whether or not people are ‘saved.’ The comments section below is here for you, twitter-have at it."
Here is Jim Bakker saying that Trump is a test to determine whether or not people are "saved."— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) January 6, 2020
The comments section below is here for you, twitter-have at it. pic.twitter.com/LTlYmA5ZlV
Twitter user T Taylor responded, “I am Christian. I oppose Trump. I am not worried. P.S. - Is this the same Jim Bakker, who along with his wife Tammy, fleeced America using the name of Jesus to cheat people? And to personally profit monetarily via the PTL club? THAT Jim Bakker???”
Author of Reclaiming Hope and former Obama White House staffer Michael Wear, also commented on Bakker’s statement, calling it oppressive and manipulative. He wrote, “I know some think that Jim Bakker comment was bad because it was about Trump, but I want to tell you that it's always bad, morally oppressive & manipulative to suggest anyone's faith is vindicated based on their vote alone—regardless of who is the subject of the sentiment.”
I know some think that Jim Bakker comment was bad because it was about Trump, but I want to tell you that it's always bad, morally oppressive & manipulative to suggest anyone's faith is vindicated based on their vote alone--regardless of who is the subject of the sentiment.— Michael Wear (@MichaelRWear) January 7, 2020
Many of the other Twitter comments harkened back to the early days of Bakker’s ministry. During the 70s and 80s, Bakker and his first wife, Tammy Faye, built a mega empire through The PTL Club and Heritage USA, a Christian-themed park in South Carolina. In the late 80s, the empire began to crumble when revelations surfaced about Bakker’s affair with a church secretary and subsequent payoffs to the woman, forcing the televangelist to resign.
Bakker was later found guilty of 24 counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud relating to luxury hotel memberships he sold related to Heritage USA. An investigation found that the ministry sold far more memberships than the facility could accommodate and that Bakker kept more than $3 million from the proceeds. He served nearly five years. Bakker was paroled in 1994, two years after his divorce from Tammy Faye.
In 2003, Bakker returned to televangelism with Lori, whom he married in 1998.’ Prophecy and the end times are common themes to Bakker’s current show.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.