Behind The Mike Warnke Exposé

Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke,by Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott (Cornerstone Press, 475 pp.; $12.95, paper). Reviewed by Ken Sidey, former associate editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, currently managing editor of the Free Press in Greenfield, Iowa.

Ever since the Charlotte Observer “broke” the PTL story, members of the religious press—at least those who consider themselves journalists rather than public relations flacks—have asked, “Why wasn’t the story ours?” The question did not grow out of professional jealousy over a scandalous scoop. It came from a sense of community. Why was the exposure of such unethical behavior left to an “outside” source and not performed by a part of the evangelical body?

The editorial soul-searching that came of the PTL debacle found fertile ground in Cornerstone magazine, published by Jesus People USA in Chicago. Unfettered by the organizational and commercial ties that bind most other Christian publications (thanks to JPUSA’s austere communal lifestyle; see CT, Sept. 14, 1992, p. 20), the magazine has been able to devote extensive time, if only modest resources, to playing out its commitment to absolute truth. That course eventually sent it headfirst not only at Satanist-turned-Christian comedian Mike Warnke, but also at the whole evangelical celebrity/publishing/recording complex that built him.

The article “Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke” (Cornerstone, June 27, 1993) offered overwhelming evidence that exposed much of Warnke’s alleged Satanist background as fraudulent. It also documented that the entertainer was currently in his fourth marriage, and that his ministry, like Jim Bakker’s PTL, was spending huge amounts on luxury homes, ...

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