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Bakker: Falwell Was ’Totalitarian’

1996This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

In an effort to bolster his ministry enterprises, Jerry Falwell has had his share of strange bedfellows, but the strangest alliance of all involved Falwell becoming chair of the ptl board in 1987: a fundamentalist Baptist preacher who would not enroll tongues-speaking students at his university taking over a television network operated by charismatics.

New information about Falwell's brief reign is detailed by Jim Bakker in his book I Was Wrong (Thomas Nelson). Bakker says Falwell turned PTL headquarters into "something like a totalitarian government." In addition, Tammy Faye Messner, in her new book Tammy: Telling It My Way (Villard), accuses Falwell of deliberately plunging PTL into bankruptcy in order to seize control of the satellite network. Both Messner and Bakker cite a March 1987 sermon by Baptist pastor and Falwell friend Bob Gray, who preached that Falwell's sole objective was to get the PTL network for his Old Time Gospel Hour. A major expense for Falwell's show is air-time purchases from individual stations, but PTL owned a satellite-linked cable network. Falwell says he only had altruistic motives.

Messner also says Falwell forced PTL employees to sign loyalty pledges, dug a pit in which to bury her books and recordings, and dumped personal mail to her and her husband after removing checks.

"Tammy Faye, she's a loony," Falwell told Christianity Today. "I don't think there was a time when her elevator went to the top floor."

Falwell today regards his PTL mission as ordained. "God sent me there to bring an abrupt end to the immorality and financial fraud of this 'religious soap opera' that had become an international embarrassment to the Christian gospel," Falwell writes in his own new book. "In hindsight, we all ...

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