Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Jimmy Swaggart - Yes, THE Jimmy Swaggart

Prof. Volokh, the author of my most recently purchased book “Academic Legal Writing”, has a couple of entries related to the former uber-evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and his recent yammerings. See here and here for Prof. Volokh’s thoughts.

BTW - if you are a legal academic, or wish to write academic articles in a legal context, do yourself a favor and purchase "Academic Legal Writing". This book uncovers the mystery of writing a thorough and enjoyable legal article with thoughtful analysis. I'm hoping that with the help of Prof. Volokh's book, my master thesis (to fulfill my LLM in Intellectual Property requirements) will be a solid examination of an intellectual property issue(s) that is published.

For those that do not know, or have forgotten, and if my recollection is incorrect on any point, please let me know, Jimmy Swaggart was arguably the largest figure in the evangelical Christian movement of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Swaggart was a minster / member of the Assemblies of God (AoG), which along with its sister organization the Church of God (CoG), are among the most evangelical / pentacostal denominations within Christianity. Swaggart’s “crusades” were filled to capacity at every stop, with marathon services of singing and sermon, healings and alter calls. I was raised in the Church of God, and up to his “fall”, Swaggart was generally well-received among the membership. I actually witnessed one of the “crusades” in about ’82. It was impressive, in a theatrical sense.

When Swaggart was exposed as a hypocrite, the AoG and CoG were obviously shocked and hurt by the revelations, as the Swaggart affair damaged the work of many faithful and earnest members of both denominations (as well as Christianity, in general). The AoG revoked Swaggart’s license and membership when he refused the AoG's "restoration" program, and the CoG seemed to simply ignore Swaggart and hoped he would disappear into irrelevance. Swaggart’s fall was almost as meteoric as his ascension to the evangelical hierarchy, and resulted in his ministry (JSM – Jimmy Swaggart Ministries) suffering a precipitous decline in membership and financial support. Swaggart descended into obscurity and has yet to reclaim the evangelical televangelist territory that he once claimed dominance over.

Recently, Swaggart reportedly said:

I'm trying to find the correct name for it . . . this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. . . . I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died.

When I first read the statement, my initial response was to cringe. Christianity, especially so-called “fundamentalism”, is already demagogued by liberalism as a philosophy of intolerant bigots. Swaggert’s statements certainly will not diminish that misplaced perception. Prof. Volokh noted that several readers have insisted that “if one ever looks at me like that, I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died” is a colloquialism of the region in which Swaggart was raised (Louisiana). Be that as it may, Swaggart has gone the non-denomenational route, and he still has a congregation that listens to his words within the confines of a church and over the television broadcasts. Swaggart has a responsibility to accurately teach from the Bible, which condemns homosexuality but also teaches redemption for all sin, including Swaggart's and that of the homosexual. If one espouses Christianity and the inerrant word of God (the Bible) as the model for Christian-living, then one must acknowledge that while the homosexual is identified as a sinner, that sinner (or any sinner) can still be redeemed up to the last breath is exhaled from his/her lungs. Using hyperbole (or colloquialisms) to preach to the choir is not doing justice to the pulpit and the role of a minister. Christians are supposed to “hate the sin, not the sinner”, yet Swaggart’s words are interpreted as “hating the sinner”.

I doubt that Swaggart would murder a homosexual, but his hyperbole was wrong and should be condemned. Christians are rightfully critical of the silent majority within Islam that seems reticent to voice criticisms over the violent sects of Islam. Christians must be willing to condemn these statements of Swaggart, not simply because it is politically correct and/or expedient, but b/c statements like Swaggart’s do not further the Christian cause. How can you possibly convince someone that the message you are delivering is rooted in love, compassion and redemption when there is the lingering echoes of “I’m gonna kill him [the homosexual man]”?

As powerful and influential as Swaggart once was, Christianity might be better served if Swaggart receded into the background and became a member instead of a leader within Christianity.

In a similar vein, Paul Crouch (of the Trinity Broadcasting Network) has troubles of his own, it seems, via Hugh Hewitt and the LA Times. An alleged homosexual trist tryst with a former employee. Maybe Swaggart will threaten Crouch, or call for his dismissal (as Swaggart lead the crusade against former PTL kook Jim Bakker, and was successful in having Bakker booted from his PTL perch). I'm just mean.


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