Guest / Limited Access /

The 1980s downfall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker shook evangelicalism and Pentecostalism and made televangelism a national mockery. But scholars doubt that her mascara-colored mark will be a lasting one in the history of the conservative Protestant movements.

"American Christianity isn't really that different for her having been there. Erase Jim and Tammy and PTL from the record and I don't think anything really changes," said Michael Hamilton, chair of the history department at Seattle Pacific University. "I suppose if you're a preacher you can get a lot of good sermons out of the whole PTL thing."

Quentin Schultze, professor of communication at Calvin College, agreed. "Younger evangelicals such as my college students already have no idea who she was."

But as an icon and symbol, they said, Messner provides a spectacular representation of religious trends in the late 20th century.

Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker "helped mediate Pentecostal worship forms, Pentecostal ideas, and Pentecostal spirituality to broader groups of Christians," Hamilton said. "That's what we now call the charismatic movement, this mediation of Pentecostal spirituality to other Christians. They were clearly at the forefront of that."

But Tammy Faye, who divorced Bakker while he was serving prison time and married Roe Messner, was a new kind of charismatic, said Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College.

"She embodied the new style of charismatic female personages, being such a change from the old traditional stay at home Pentecostal image," he said. "It was reflective of the larger changes going on in the Pentecostal charismatic world—sort of jettisoning this whole ascetic mindset that they'd ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedThe Case Against 'Radical' Christianity
Subscriber Access Only The Case Against 'Radical' Christianity
Michael Horton's message to restless believers: Stay put, and build the church.
TrendingMark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
Mark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
"I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission."
Editor's PickBless This Tackle? Not a Prayer
Bless This Tackle? Not a Prayer
Christians’ misguided fight for football devotions isn’t working.
Comments
Christianity Today
Will Tomorrow's Evangelicals Remember Tammy Faye?
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

July 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.