Tammy Faye was a hope broker. She is a hero and a role model for me. I can only dream that I could help as many people as she has with her (to quote the Charlotte Observer obituary) "can-do Christian cheer."
A lot of Christians made her life miserable and left her when she was down. But she seemed to move right past it. It was interesting to me that when she died her family contacted Larry King. He had an awful lot of respect for her and let her talk freely about anything she wanted to talk about.
I have to admit that at one time I almost became a Tammy Faye detractor myself, until it occurred to me that I WAS Tammy Faye. Male perhaps, but Tammy Faye nevertheless. It also occurred to me that it wouldn't be hard to imagine having someone like Tammy Faye as part of your own family. I'm willing to go out on a limb and say most families have someone like Tammy Faye in their extended circle. Somebody that speaks their mind, but embraces all people. Somebody that is brash but loves everybody and loves them all the same. Somebody that wears outrageous clothes, hairdos and styles. Somebody that loves to laugh and goes to the extremes. Somebody that loves life and lived it!
A few years ago I read an interview with Tammy's son Jamie (who goes by Jay,) who heads up a wild ministry to folks on the extreme edge. Jamie is on the edge himself. At the time his mom was involved in some pretty peculiar work for the former wife of one of television's best known evangelists. She was on the WB reality show "The Surreal Life" with Vanilla Ice and former adult porn star Ron Jeremy. Her son Jamie - who was embarrassed by his mom - told of trying to convince her that people were watching the show and laughing at her. She told him she didn't care, that she loved these people, that they were her friends, and that Jesus loved them and she wanted to be the one to tell them. Jamie Bakker said after listening to his mom explain it all to him she went from being an embarrassment to him to being his hero. That's when she became a hero to me as well.
Around the same time and after the release of the documentary "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" which chronicled her life, she became a sensation in the gay community. That raised my eyebrows, so I started to read about what her role was there. Turns out they were inviting her to preach! But mostly she just loved on them. She preached at AIDS events and became loved by gay men across the nation. I read one of her sermons to these gatherings and it could have just as easily come across Billy Graham's pulpit. She reinforced how much she loved these guys, how much Jesus loved them, how much God despised sin, and how she was pleased to give a kiss and a motherly pull on the cheek to everyone of them. You go girl! I cried after reading the accounts and asked God to help me love everybody as much as Tammy Faye did. Maybe someday I'll love people with the fervency Tammy Faye had for people. Maybe someday. Maybe.
Tammy Faye grew up in northern Michigan in a family of eight kids in a house without running water. Her and Jim were Assembly of God kids that met in Bible College and wanted to share the message of Jesus far and wide. They started out doing puppets, which they eventually did for a budding television program that would become known as the 700 Club. They started out small and grew huge.
It might be fair to say that success became their downfall, except that they didn't stay down. Both Tammy Faye and Jim bounced back with a love for people and a message of hope for the ordinary person.
I had the privilege of meeting Jim Bakker a few years ago right after he got out of jail and wrote a book called, "I Was Wrong." He was broken, sincere, kind, gentle and had all the time in the world for me. I was embarrassed, humiliated and felt a degree of self-scorn for not being a person that had the same outflow of love as he had. I wish I would have met Tammy Faye.
Tammy Faye was at one of the local casinos not too long ago making an appearance and signing her book. She did an interview with a local radio station, they loved it and said she was a blast, and the local newspaper made it sound like a not to be missed event. Lots of hugs, people thanking her, lots of tears, lots of encouragement, lots of talk about Jesus. People loved her and she loved people.
Tammy Faye was a hope broker. People with broken lives were drawn to her. Gay men listened as she spoke about sin. Larry King leaned over and listened to her every word over and over. After almost every Tammy Faye interview, he would say, "Amazing!" She was a hero to her son. A broken lady that loved Jesus and moved through every difficulty in her life, while she continued to try and draw people closer to God.
If at the end of your life the Charlotte Observer - which was harsh to the Bakkers at many junctures in their life - says of you that you carried a message of "can-do Christian cheer" than we'll be able to say that was a life well lived. You go sis! I love you and am proud to be your brother!!
P.S. I am so glad I didn't do post number 100 on the midnight release of the new Harry Potter book - which I originally planned to do. This is SO much more important than Harry Potter could ever hope to be!
Cool slide show of her life click here
Watch her on Larry King by clicking here