O Brother

This article was taken word for word from the December 1986 edition of Spin Magazine (pgs 59-66).  It was authored by Michelle Mayron.

Jimmy Lee Swaggart, possessed and mesmerizing prophet of the airwaves, attacks sin everywhere but at home. Our expose shows why people in glass churches shouldn’t throw Stones.

I have had reporter unto reporter ask me, “What are you Christians trying to do? Are you trying to take over the government and make this a Christian nation?” Well yes, I’ve been trying to make this a Christian world. I’m trying to convert everybody to the Lord Jesus ChristJimmy Swaggart

He was born in Louisiana in 1935.  Seventeen years later his mother dreamed that he died. “What a dream I had,” said happy Minnie Bell Swaggart to her one and only son Jimmie Lee. “I had a dream you died, and now I know: you did die- to the things of this world.”

 

Minnie Bell obviously didn’t include money in the things of this world, because when you watch Jimmie Swaggart in action, on his crusades, or in his daily life, the first thing you realize is that there is a lot of money in Jesus.

You also realize that there is no room for other religion next to Jimmy’s: and there is no mercy for you if you don’t surrender and give your heart and soul to your savior, Lord Jesus Christ.  Or at least surrender some money to his evangelistic prophet.

He is a preacher and a performer.

He hasn’t gone completely Hollywood, but he does give autographs on Bibles.  He can say “E_LLI_P_SO_ID” and move you to tears.  He is a very convincing actor who onstage is the ringmaster of hellfire preaching, gospel music, and saving your soul.

Swaggart is living prove that there are profits to be reaped from doing the Lord’s work. His diligence has made him big.

As the leading evangelist in the world, and the most watched in the U.S., he has millions of followers who respond to him emotionally and financially.  According to Arbitron, he has a nationwide TV audience of 8 million- 500 million worldwide, according to Swaggart’s publicity.  He is on television in 145 countries.  He has 564 missionaries, 1400 employees, 2000 stations, 2000 cable outlets, and a Bible college with 500 students.  Every crusade costs him $200,000 and he gets 50,000 letters a week from people who found Jesus through his preaching. He is being published not only in his monumental magazine, The Evangelist, but he has a syndicated newspaper column.  His ministry includes 11 buildings and takes in $12 million a month.  According to his son Donnie, vice-president of the Ministries, last year’s earnings were $140 million although Jimmy says $150 million.

Swaggart’s offices in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are not the Spartan surroundings one might expect.  They are luxuriously modern, and upon entering, one is struck by the high security.

Swaggart doesn’t drink. Doesn’t party, doesn’t appreciate fancy restaurants and good food. I asked him, then, how does he spend his time and money?

The man with the red leather boots (given to him by one his followers) and the $5000 Rolex (given to him by a California jeweler) gave me one of his best-loving smiles and said, “Well, I spend the time in working for God, and I spend the money, what little I have, in giving it back to God.”

Swaggart is a big man, about 6 foot two.  His smile has a hypnotic effect: you long for him to hug you, to take you under his wing, to forgive and protect you.

I’m getting closer to him.  He smells of soft tempting cologne, and for a minute I want to dive into the big blue eyes of the man who was eight years old when God called him to preach the gospel.

“Did you really want to become a boxer?” I ask.

“Oh,” he laughs, “that was a long time ago.”

“You don’t want to do that anymore?”

“No, no. When I was a kid my father would put on gloves, but her had mercy on me.  Sometimes he’d take off his belt and whip me, and I needed it.  I was kind of mean….”

He tends to laugh a lot, even when nothing is really that funny. On the other hand he does not smile when he starts talking Jesus.  Salvation.  Donations.

He wants to save you, in the literal sense of the word, and his blue eyes darken when he gets into his hard core preaching.  We are sort of conversing.  I ask questions and he lectures his answers.  He looks good on his leather sofa.  Relaxed and mellow, he will talk about everything-from Andy Warhol to birth control to oral sex.

God called my husband to be an evangelist when he was eight years old, that’s truth.  And he totally dedicated his life to that, and he’s tried in every way to be what God would have him to be.  But without people like you, the calling wouldn’t be possible.  I thank you for your prayers because many many times God has told you to pray you to pray for the Ministries and to pray for my husband and you wouldn’t know it, you wouldn’t know spiritual battle that is going on, and you wouldn’t know the need that we’re facing at the time.  But god would touch you and you would to pray.  Hallelujah.  It’s so sweet and it’s so beautiful that Christians are the same all over the world and Jesus is the same that’s what makes us one big family.Frances Swaggart, Washington, D.C. crusade September 1986

The big happy family includes Jimmy and Frances Swaggart, and Donnie and Debbie Swaggart, with their three children. France’s mother and brother joined the extended family, and they all live and work in Jimmy Swaggart Ministries in Baton Rouge.

You don’t know much about the Swaggarts.

You know, of course, they know the Lord.

You know they go on crusades, trying to convert America and save its soul.

You know they live pretty well, it was in the papers.

You might not know Swaggart was the largest local employer of unionized construction workers and that Swaggart Ministries created 1,502 new jobs in Baton Rouge. In a city where the unemployment rate is one of the highest in America, employment is power.  In order to cope with Jimmy and Frances Swaggart, employees put up with some highly unusual practices or else become part of the unemployment statistics.

Jimmy and Frances like their employees to be loyal, obedient, and slim.  To ascertain their loyalty, they make them take lie detector tests.  To slim them they make them take the “weight test.” And obviously, if they go through all this they must be quite submissive.

Three years ago John Camp from Channel 2, Baton Rouge, was working on a documentary titled, Give Me That Big Time Religion.  The Swaggart’s suspected some of their employees of revealing inside information.  Dozens of people were interrogated, among them Dr. Marvin Suln, who worked with Swaggart for more than six years.

Dr. Suln was fired on the spot.

Dr. Suln didn’t think the lie detector and other ideas were Jimmy Swaggart’s. “I think it’s mostly his wife that has a bad influence on him,” he said sadly.

Most people who used to work for the Swaggarts don’t stay in Baton Rouge.  But Dr. Suln stayed, “getting reestablished in Baton Rouge has been almost impossible.  I’ve gone through a severe and difficult time. It was tragic, but I have survived.  Or, sort of”

Another executive, who later resigned from the ministries, took the lie detector test and says: “Jimmy and Frances made every [executive] staff member take that test, as well as some of the lower management. Scores of people took it.  I had nothing to hide so of course I passed it.

Luckily, he passed another test too: the weight test.

“Frances got on this kick,” he said, “that everybody was too fat, so she made everybody go on this mandatory weight-loss program.  The incentive was, you got to keep your job- so many people took it very seriously and got very upset.”

He got the message that Frances Swaggart thought it was un-Christian to look fat.  He adds, “Frances had been rubbing elbows with the jet set for such a long time that she felt that everybody needed to shape up.”

“One day we are going to stand before God, we are going to answer for the lifestyle we’ve lived, we’re going to answer for the money, every dollar that’s coming to this ministry.  My husband and I have to stand before God and answer for it.  And what I can tell you right now, and I feel it with all of my heart, that if that were to take place today.  I believe the Lord Jesus Christ would look at us and say, “Well done.” – Frances Swaggart

George Journigan, former director of finance for the Swaggart Ministries, was asked to resign after arguing with Swaggart over the issue of the children’s fund.

“We were collecting the majority of the funds for the children’s fund, and eventually the majority of the funds were not going to the children’s fund. We were collecting the money to feed hungry kids, but we were building buildings and furnishing them.”

One former employee has claimed that Frances Swaggart bought a $11,000 desk under another name so that the extravagance couldn’t be traced back to the Ministries.  Journigan couldn’t assure me that the desk cost that much but said” “It might only have been $9,000 but anyway, her desk was not the most expensive, as I remember. Probably Donnie’s was.  All three, including Jimmy’s were quite expensive.  It really wouldn’t have made any difference if it was expensive furniture or cheap furniture.  If you collect money for a children’s fund, it ought to go to the children’s fund.”

Another former Swaggart employee points out, “They live very extravagantly.  They have two mansions and they got the third one, for Frances brother, almost ready.  They have spent millions over there and yet they claim their income as low as $50,000 to $60,000 a year?  Can you drive three Lincoln Continentals or Lincoln Town Cars and one Mercedes?  And of course the real story is that contributors don’t know that their money is being spent in such a lavish mode.”

Brother Swaggart, you must be aware of the criticism concerning your extravagant lifestyle, the enormously expensive furnishings of the Swaggart suite, and the idea that only the Swaggarts are allowed to deal with the millions of dollars the ministry receives.

Oh yes, of course he is aware of it, he says. “Well, you see,” he told me kindly, “most of the criticism is dying because all we do around the world is very obvious and undeniable.” Continues Brother Jimmy, very relaxed:  “I only have the house I built.  That’s it.  I have no stocks, no bonds, no investments.  And the donation money- to be frank with you, I never see the donations.  They’re in another building and we never see it.”

Simple as that?

“Oh, yes, simple as that.  France’s office is right there, on that floor, and Donnie’s is right here too, and the money is in another building, and there are probably 50 to 70 people that handle it, and we never see it, never have seen it.  Sometimes I’ll walk there, taking a visitor on a tour, but I never touch it or see it or anything like it.  And of course we have to account for everything.

“I couldn’t get money over there any more than you can. I can’t do it. Because it’s governed strictly by federal rules and guidelines.  The money that’s taken on the crusades?  I never see that money.  Here’s what happens to it.  They take it back in a room where about 50  people, not our people but from the local churches, count it.  Then it’s put in bags and supervised by a CPA and others.  Then those bags are locked and there’s no one there who’s got a key, and I never see them.  The bags are sent back here and they’re picked up by guards, and the guards don’t have the keys.  And they’re picked up by accounting and in front of a whole lot of people it’s counted, and it’s supposed to tabulate with what they counted in Washington and everyplace.

“Let’s say I took you out to McDonald’s- I really love McDonald’s- and got some hamburgers.  If the Ministries pay for it, I have to write down your name and how much money was spend and what we discussed while we were there.”

Obviously, one needn’t worry about the financial subversion in the Swaggart organization.  Not only is the money kept in a separate building where Jimmy Swaggart can’t see it much less touch it, but the Reverent accounts for even the 99-cent burgers he so humbly lunches on.

To hear him tell it, somehow it all seems to make sense.  What doesn’t make sense is how this simple, humble man of God can live like a jet-set millionaire. It would be interesting to see records of how and where the money is spent.  Even in the faith business, seeing is believing.

The Ministries’ fund-raising letters and television pitches are filled with references to its commitment to feed the hungry children and build Bible schools. In ever crusade, Jimmy Swaggart’s counselors pass big, white buckets to collect donations.

Swaggart claims they are very efficient in their dealings with the funds: “Oh,” he says, using a host of superlatives, “We most definitely feel we do the right thing with the money. I don’t know of anyone in the world getting more for the dollar. We tell people what we do with the money and that’s what we do and I’m proud of that.  Of course we welcome an investigation.”

One of Swaggart’s skills is shifting from Mr. Swaggart the businessman to Brother Swaggart the preacher.  His crusades commence with a few “Jesus is the sweetest name I know” and quite a few “glories to the God.” Whereupon Jimmy says, “We need your help tonight.  The very best that you can do we deeply appreciate.”

In order to endow this ritual with a sense of sanctity, Swaggart tells them “to bow your heads please.  Now I would ask that every person here gives as much as they can give and you will be blessed. We ask it all in Jesus’ name amen and amen.  If you’ve got a check make it out to Jimmy Swaggart Ministries and thank you so very, very much.”  Swaggart asks for money to feed the poor and hungry and to support his television productions.  Sometimes you might find it hard to tell if he is on television to raise money or raising money to go on television.

We don’t feel like dancing is proper, because we feel like it creates between a man and a woman a situation that brings up lustful desires and has probably contributes an awful lot towards licentiousness and adultery, breaking up a lot of homes- Jimmy Swaggart

In 1983 Jimmy Swaggart gathered his executives together for a very special meeting.  He made the announcement that Debbie Swaggart, his son’s wife had been having an affair with one of the musicians in the band for some time.  The man, Dwain Johnson, had been fired.  Donnie and Debbie would be separating said Swaggart.

George Journigan, who attended the meeting with a dozen other executives, remembers Jimmy as being incredibly angry.

“We all believed adultery was a serious sin and Swaggart certainly didn’t feel comfortable with it, but I would say his reaction at that period of time was an expression of anger more than anything else.  Obviously, at that point the plan was for her not to be involved with the Ministries anymore, and some sort of explanation would have to be given to the staff.”

“Oh,” said Dr. Suln, who attended, “I knew about this stuff way, way back.” Dr. Suln and others said they knew of the scandal long before Jimmy confronted it.

One former Swaggart recalls: “I heard they became unglued.  They drove Dwain Johnson out of town, but they tried to hush it up and they kept it hushed up even though everybody knew.  Somehow they kept it out of print.”

The same person went on the say: “I believe Jimmy was called to preach the Gospel.  I really believe that.  But I also believe, like any man, he has feet of clay, and his family has been a bad influence on him. I tried to warn him about the adultery, but I might as well have shot myself in the head because it didn’t do any good.”

“I would think,” said Journigan, “that there was not one in the Ministries who would approach Jimmy and say, ‘Hey….look, you made an announcement, you said she was leaving, but she didn’t, so what’s going on’”

Nobody said preachers and their families have to live the way they preach.

In the Court Parish of East Baton Rouge there was a lawsuit, file number 258525: Jimmy Swaggart Evangelistic Association vs. Janet Lynn Breeland, wife of Dwain Johnson.  Jimmy wanted Dwain and his wife who were living on Ministries property, out.  Off of his land, out of his city.

The Johnsons eventually left town.  Where to, nobody knows.  Nobody would discuss it with me without discomfort.

The affair must have been pretty tough on Jimmy, who preaches so loud and bitterly against adultery. Every junior evangelist knows that after the Lord, the next most important institution is the family.  Maybe the Lord is one of the reasons Debbie and Donnie and Frances and Jimmy stick together and pretend they are the happiest most unified family on the face of this earth, knowing it’s also good for business.

According to the Ministries’ public relations office, they don’t have to pretend.  “They actually have a very happy married life,” I was told Gus Weill, who called me to find out “what’s all this about you asking questions regarding Donnie’s marriage?’ He said that if there were any problems between Debbie and Donnie, they “never came to my attention.” Weill reassures me that he has “done some checking around the Ministries, talked to some people,” and officially, at least, all Swaggart virtue is intact.

So, since all problems have miraculously vanished, brother Swaggart is still preaching against every sin, and he won’t let anyone spoil his preaching.

But adultery is a very common sin, and preaching against it gave Jimmy a lot of power over his followers.  Talking of adultery gave him the chance to use his “I’m pure and clean and you are nothing but filth” technique. This technique is a common means to make believers feel inferior to their preacher.  They would come from all over the state to listen to brother Swaggart, and he starts with “America in the last 20 years has shaken its fist in the face of God. There is no fear of God. You are in sin, America, you’re in nothing but deep deep sin!”

Then he tells them tales from his journeys around the world.  He gives them the “Stalin experience,” goes through the hunger in Ethiopia and end up screaming, “You have to shout: I’m no good, I can’t save myself, I’m rotten, I’m filth.”

The man that’s going to make you finally admit out loud how filthy you are was born 51 years ago.  In order to understand the growth of this evangelist who speaks in tongues when filled with the Holy Spirit, you must look for his spiritual roots.

Born in Ferriday, Louisiana, a small poor town located 90 miles north of Baton Rouge, Jimmy Swaggart’s parents were bootlegging whiskey, trying to survive the winter before their first child came into the world, his father was arrested for cattle rustling.

In 1944, when the world was still at war, nothing much was happening in Ferriday, until that morning when the Swaggarts’ son began prophesying.  He claims to have prophesied Hiroshima.

“The first time the Lord spoke through me prophetically, I didn’t know what was happening.  I felt like I was standing outside my body. Then I began to describe exactly what I saw…. a powerful bomb destroying an entire city…..tall buildings crumbling… people screaming.  A year later, when two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by an atomic blast, nobody though my prophecies were childish.”

It was music that first brought Minnie Bell and her husband to church.  They went to a service for the first time in their lives only after their son was born.

Jimmy says that “Minnie Bell had been to three funerals as a child, but other than that, neither of my parents knew anything about God.” But since they loved the music they went to church.

Jimmy obviously a very grown-up two-year-old, remembers clearly: “night after night as they sat through the services, the spirit of the Lord dealt with them. Daddy was deeply troubled about accepting Jesus Christ as his savior, but felt he had to give up some of his plans for making money. Daddy couldn’t take the conflict and decided to run.”

The family moved to Rio Hondo Texas, where Minnie Bell and Jimmy’s little brother Donnie came down with pneumonia.  Four days later the baby died, and Jimmy recalls his father’s cry: “I know my baby would be alive if I had lived for God.  It’s all my fault.” Minnie Bell and her husband, both high- tempered people, were fighting continuously and screaming at each other in front of the child.

According to Jimmy, everything changed after Jimmy’s father surrendered his life to Christ. The family was happy.  Life became fun, and God spoke to little Jimmy every once in a while.

There is not a beat of humor in Jimmy’s description of his childhood.  He has taken himself very seriously since he was a boy and, according to him, so has everyone else.

At eight he decided to follow Jesus.  He gave his heart to the Lord and to prove his loyalty he decided never to go to the movies again. “Basically, I was the only young person my age trying to live for the Lord,” he says seriously.

My cousin Jerry Lee Lewis and I are very close.  The last time I saw him was in July, but I love him very, very much and I think he’s got tremendous talent and we pray for him constantly. – Jimmy Swaggart.

Jimmy’s faith was not always as strong as it is now.  In adolescence his path wasn’t always as clear as he might have wished, and God didn’t always seem responsive to Jimmy’s search for oneness with Him.

Ten-year-old Jerry Lee was living a life of sin when Jimmy, six months his senior, joined him to see how deeply in sin he himself could slide.

They began breaking into local stores and stealing.  Their challenge of the eternal powers went on for a while until one night Jimmy didn’t go- naturally Jerry lee got caught, was taken to jail, and his father had to bail him out for several hundred dollars.  In his autobiography, To Cross a River, Jimmy’s patronizing descriptions of his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis present the singer in an unflattering light.

It was Jimmy who talked Jerry Lee’s teacher into challenging Jerry Lee’s grades so that he could pass the fifth grade. Jimmy was the one who had to defend Jerry Lee’s honor in the constant schoolyard fights.

Swaggart looks back on his fairly normal adolescent years as a time of sin.  For someone who at four years of age was prophesying about the future of the world, it must have been a bit difficult and dull to accept such normal stages of rebellion and growth.  But eventually Jimmy found Frances and his way back to the Lord. “Something broke within me and a flow began.  I felt God was moving powerfully within me.  I felt it coming just as it had been when I was a child.  It seemed to flow through my heart and I began speaking in tongues.  It was truly living water.  Finally I leaped to my feet praising God in a language I had not learned.  Everybody was shouting and praising God with me.”

You turn on your television set, Christian television and most Pentecostals today specialize in miracles, and there is very little Bible preaching in the world.  If you’ll buy my tape, you will get a miracle.  Miracles. I believe in miracles, but miracles don’t have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. – Jimmy Swaggart, Washington DC. Crusade.

Frances Anderson Swaggart, who is described as both the real force behind the man and the sharp business brain of the Ministries, was 15 when she married 17-year-old Jimmy Swaggart.

Thirty-four years later, after living happily ever since, Jimmy Swaggart told me he didn’t recommend young marriages. “We were very, very young and it worked for us, but it’s too young.  I don’t recommend it.  You’re just a kid at that age.  She was more mature than I was.  I was 17, but I had the mind of a two-year-old.”

That didn’t prevent the Lord from showing Jimmy Swaggart how much He liked him and wanted him to live healthily and comfortably.  A goal that the Lord achieved by creating a series of convincing miracles.

“When Frances and I first went into evangelistic work, I became sick with pneumonia.  That’s the only time I’ve ever really been sick and to be frank with you, and I was in the hospital for several days.  I then went home and I was still sick and this was probably a week after.  It was on a Wednesday night that I believe the Lord touched me and healed me because I improved immediately.  Before then, I could not hold anything in my stomach, and an immediate improvement I would have to attribute to the Lord, which I did.

“Then there was the second miracle.  My cousin Jerry Lee, he and Presley had just started in the music business and was making an awful lot of money, so I asked the Lord: ‘Lord well, he’s having to take most of it to give to the government for income tax, and if he would buy me a car it would be deductible, and please lay it on his heart to do that.’ And he did it and I was everlastingly thankful fort that.”

“Then something went wrong and valve was burned, I guess, or something like that.  I took it to a garage and they said it would cost something like $50 or $70 to fix it.  I didn’t have any money and I didn’t know what to do.  So I went and parked it under a tree and talked to the Lord. ‘Lord,’ I said.  I don’t know what to do.  I don’t have any money to fix the car.’  So I told the Lord my predicament and asked him to help me with the situation.  All I can tell you is that I got back in the car and it was no longer knocking and I never did have to have it fixed.  It ran smoothly for months until I sold it.”

In the Washington crusade, like in other crusades, Jimmy has his whole family with him.  Here I saw just how forgiving brother Jimmy can be when his cousin Jerry Lee or his daughter-in-law Debbie are at stake.  About 10,000 to 15,000 people attend the meeting and Jimmy gibes them not only the big-time religion but also the bit-time family routine.

Donnie goes on stage and says, “And here he is, my dad, your evangelist, Jimmy Swaggart!!!”

Then Jimmy comes out and he says, “Frances, come on out here.” She comes out, very well dressed with her green shoes and green jacket matching her green eye makeup.

She mostly praises her husband and says, “Hallelujah. Hallelujah, praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord.”

Thousands applaud and scream with her:  Glory to God, Glory to God.”  Next Jimmy says, “Debbie, would you stand up?” She stands up looking extremely beautiful in her snowy-white dress and her shy smile.

Jimmy says adoringly: “she is the prettiest daughter-in-law in the land and just about the sweetest in the whole world too.”  You can tell the audience loves it. “Praise the Lord,” they cry.  They are happy to see their shepherd surrounded with his devoted and loving family.  He’s a good mentor, they think, with tears in their eyes.

Jimmy knows how to get his crowd emotional.  He repeats his sentences.  His voice breaks.  He puts tears in his own eyes.

He preaches again the everyday lifestyle these people know.  No beer, he yells at them.  Beer is a sin.  Alcohol is a sin.  Dancing is a sin, even going to the movies is a sin, and no music is of any good unless it’s his gospel music.  The only thing that is good for you is Jesus.  Only Jesus.

And if you find Jesus and you try hard to please him, it’s not enough.  Brother Jimmy wants you to stay away from your old friends.

“But you can tell me ‘I can’t do my friends this way. What will they say?  How will I win them to Jesus?’ But listen to this preacher tonight.  You won’t win them to Jesus, they will win you back to the pit

“’You preach emotionalism, Jimmy,’ you tell me ‘I’m not like that, I’m different.’ So get your personality changed! There is no other way.  This is the only way.”

Jimmy makes them feel bad, but good.  He gives them the feeling they are God’s children kidnapped, and now finally they are on their way home.

Klarisa Moyal is home already.  Born in Morocco she lived in Israel, Paris, and Virginia.  This lonely Jewish woman is not lonely anymore.  She found Jesus.  The “Lord came to my living room,” she told me. “And He inspired me to write a ten-page letter to him and that’s my testimony.  The Lord came and saved my life.”

Do you realize that in most churches in America you couldn’t get saved if you wanted to?  Do you realize that in most churches in America, if you came up and told the pastor, “I want you to know me,” he’ll look at you like you have taken leave of your senses?  Do you know that in most churches in America you can drink and adulterate and fornicate and swine and swirl and swirl and swine and still be a member in good standing and watch them baptize in the name of the Holy Ghost?  No wonder Jesus, in the temple of the son of David, and that bunch of hypocritical Pharisees said, “Don’t upset the secorum of our service.  It is very reserved here now and don’t you break the silence.” But Jesus looked at them with anger.  I mean, he was frightening mad.  He wasn’t like some pussy-footing (inaudible: drowned by crowd).  He said, “Stretch all of you in here!” The power of heaven rolled down from the hills!

I don’t go to ball games, but if I did, I’d expect them to play ball.  And if I go to church, I expect you to preach.  (Applause)- Jimmy Swaggart, Washington D.C. crusade

I don’t have as much trouble with the pornographers or the homosexuals or the drug pushers or the beer distributers as I do out of religion.  There are more hard-hearts in religion today than anywhere else. – Jimmy Swaggart

 

Jimmy Swaggart would like you to join him.  He doesn’t care if you are white, black, or yellow; if you are Jewish, Protestant, or Hindu.  As long as you are willing to convert, he will be there to get you.  With his Rolex and his kind, loving smile, he will be there waiting for you to let your soul off guard, even for one precious moment, and he will be there to grab it from you.

If you look into the phenomenon, you see a school dropout, and expert in marketing, a fundamentalist, a man who has the power to move thousands of people with one word.  With one pointed finger.

Swaggart says he reads Time and Newsweek and watches news on television, but his idiomatic world doesn’t seem to be affected.  In his world of notions, Andy Warhol is defined as “the man with the Coca Cola cans.” Contemporary art is not of any importance because you can hang it upside down.  Oral sex is the ultimate sin because apparently, it leads to homosexuality.  Psychotherapy is witchcraft.  AIDS is God’s punishment to a world that accepts gays.

Swaggart is not by any means an unpredictable product of the conservative, religious South.  What is frightening is that so many people are ready and willing to buy this type of instant salvation.  Swaggart just offers one more deal to the people so caught up in the process of shopping that they forget to examine what they’re buying, or even why.

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