Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: John Wigger

From Saviors to Scandal: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker [timeline]

The history of American televangelism is incomplete without the Bakker family, hosts of the popular television show the PTL Club. From their humble beginnings to becoming leaders of a ministry empire that included their own satellite network, a theme park, and millions of adoring fans. Then they saw it all come falling down amidst a federal investigation into financial mishandling, charges of fraud, and a sex scandal with a church worker.

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PTL and the history of American evangelicalism

Over the course of fourteen years, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker built their local TV broadcast into an empire, making them two of the most recognizable televangelists in the United States. But their empire quickly fell when revelations of a sex scandal and massive financial mismanagement came to light. In the following excerpt John Wigger demonstrates the power of religion on American culture by tracing the fall of the PTL.

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