The end of the world is coming.
And you’re gonna need food. A lot of food.
That’s where Jim Bakker comes in.
Yes, that Jim Bakker—as in Jim and Tammy Faye and “The PTL Club” television empire.
Yes, the selfsame Jim Bakker who, at the time of his epic fall from grace, seemed to embody all those deeply Christian and quintessentially American values broadcast globally by that fascinating genus of human being we call “the televangelist.”
Their holy trinity—a tax-free entrepreneurial spirit, a convenient confusion of “praying on” with “preying upon” and a devout belief that devout belief is a God-given market opportunity—keeps them rolling in clover until they inevitably get caught rolling in the hay.
But, as self-described “sinners” perpetually washed in the blood of a radical, 2000 year-old rabbi, they’ve always got the ultimate get-out-of-moral-peril-for-free card tucked up their finely-tailored sleeves. For the upwardly mobile Evangelical, forgiveness is always at hand.
So, emulating the classic Christian motif, Jim has done his time and he’s risen again to take to the airwaves. Now re-married to another bubbly-blonde co-host, he’s once-again spreading the word of God.
Well, he’s willing to spread the word of God, if you are willing to spread his “favorite” soy-nut butter.
That’s just one of the hard bargains Jim’s driving in his new incarnation as survivalist food pitchman. In fact, Jim’s got a whole catalog of foodstuffs that he is willing to “give” you as a “thank you” in return for your “love gift” to his “ministry.”
Forget those bland, chintzy wafers the Catholics are handing out. The menu for your “gift” of “love” can be quite tasty. And remunerative.
Jesus turned water into wine for free, but Jim is turning it into carrot juice for $35.00.
Forget loaves and fishes. How about chips and salsa? It only “costs” $65.00 to feed the multitudes (at your next Super Bowl party).
Now, this proposition may seem decidedly outside the generally-accepted practice of “religion” and, more directly, in violation of the highly profitable tax exemption afforded to various practitioners of the “spiritual arts” here in the good ol’ US of A. But fret not, oh ye of little faith—there is a “religious” connection to this de facto supermarket Jim’s running via a website and daily television show. You see, all this food is meant to prepare you for the days of woe foretold in the Book of Revelations.
This is not a simple matter of exchanging your “love” for “thank you” gifts.
No, Jim’s food is designed to prepare you for the End of the World as we know it. But you and your family will feel fine. Or, at the very least, you will face the coming of the Antichrist on a full stomach.
And what better way to prepare for the impending “Time of Trouble” than with buckets of food?
Seriously. Actual buckets of food.
Buckets that don’t have his name on ’em.
Why? Jim says the absence of his name will protect you from the derision and hatred that would most assuredly come if your neighbors saw “Jim Bakker” emblazoned all over the survivalist larder you’re assembling in your basement.
Now, that’s some truth on non-advertising.
Imagine the ridicule—particularly if you tell friends and neighbors that you gave Jim $1,000.00 of your hard-earned “love” for ten buckets of dehydrated black bean burger.
In fact, you can spend up to $3,000 (donation + shipping) on a massive “Time of Trouble” kit that will keep for years and, when the holy water hits the fan, will provide you and yours 7,675 servings of dehydrated food to see you through to the triumphant return of the Lord as he finally invites his faithful flock to join him on his elevator to eternity.
And the elevator is coming, my friends. The signs are manifold. The trick, according to Jim, is to know what it all means. On his blog, Jim writes: “One of the dangers of the End Times is hearing so much and understanding so little.”
Truer words have rarely been written.
So, rather than “understanding” all that science about extreme weather and climate change, Jim wants you to know that the tornadoes in Oklahoma and hurricanes like Katrina are the direct result of American policies toward Israel. In fact, the deadly tornado in Moore came shortly and suspiciously after President Obama appeared with Turkey’s Prime Minister and called for a two-state solution to the plight of the Palestinians.
The persecution of believers is another flashing sign of the Apocalypse. Enter the IRS. They targeted Franklin Graham. Even worse, the IRS went after “God’s People” by targeting pro-Israeli groups—and, says Jim, God doesn’t like it. Expect more climatologically-expressed displeasure from the Almighty.
These are “harbingers,” which also happens to be the title of a book written by Jim’s other favorite rabbi. In it, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn (pronounced “Con”) details the ways America is just like Israel of the Old Testament. Amping up Christian Zionism, Cahn’s perfect pitch deftly exploits many Protestants’ long-standing envy of God’s special preference for Jews as his Chosen People. According to Cahn, not only is Passover a suitable holiday for Christians, but “…if you are Born Again, you are a citizen of Israel.” Even better, says Cahn, if you are Born Again “…you are as Jewish as I am!”
Can’t you just see the mayo on the knishes?
If that’s not a sign of the Apocalypse, what is?
How about Bee Colony Collapse Disorder? Jim weighed in on dying bees, which he (of course) calls “Bee-mageddon.” Talking at length about the massive decline in bee populations, Jim never mentioned pesticides or the EU’s ban on neonicotinoids. Rather, this is all part of the coming lack of food foretold in Matthew 24:7.
Which offers a perfect segue into a pitch for his buckets of food. And it is a perfect diversion from the hard truths and scientific realities of the world as it is rather than how it was for ancient tribesmen living in a magical world of competing gods, supernatural events, severe misogyny and ritual sacrifice. In that ancient world, God sanctioned genocide (more than once), manipulated history, chose sides and appointed mere mortals as his proxies on earth.
Today, those self-appointed and self-aggrandizing proxies are the real harbingers of catastrophe. They keep too many Americans locked in the darkened, candlelit world of Creationism, clinging to anti-scientific tropes and hypnotized by a bizarre affixation of ruthless capitalism to God’s will. They are slow-motion suicide bombers armed with a self-fulfilling prophecy that divorces humanity from the despoiling of the planet and embraces the world’s end as a welcomed event.
Progress on climate, circumspection about two centuries of messianic imperialism and concern for the environmental consequences of human greed—these do not factor into the whiz-bang millenarianism of Christian fundamentalists. In fact, the worse it gets, the more evidence they see of God’s action-packed plan for a big finish to the whole of history.
And until that day comes, my friends, Jim Bakker will be collecting the profits of doom.
JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentary filmmaker (The Warning, 2008). His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, and as newsmagazine producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington. His weekly show, Inside the Headlines w/ The Newsvandal, co-hosted by James Moore, airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa. He blogs under the pseudonym “the Newsvandal“.