On P.T.L. and Oppression

By John David Clark, Sr. - November, 1989

The first BROADCASTER we published, in June of 1987, dealt with oppression, and in the letter to you, our friends, I pointed out that in the Bible, oppression concerns placing unjust demands upon others for the sake of monetary gain. For example, we are told that the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, forcing them to build treasure cities. The treasure, of course, was kept by the Egyptians, while the Israelites’ impoverished state worsened. Wicked rulers oppress their subjects with unduly heavy taxes. And when those in authority use their authority to take the goods of others away from them, the people who are thus robbed are terribly, doubly frustrated, for not only are they robbed but they also cannot hope for help from their governors. Solomon said that such oppression, from which there is no earthly escape, could even drive a wise man insane (Eccl. 7:7). Solomon saw that, in truth, oppression is not the exception in this earth, but is typically the way in which men rule over other men.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter. And on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Eccl. 4:1-2

The root cause of all evil, according to the Apostle Paul, is the love of money (1Tim.6:10). That evil disease distorts right judgment in high places of government (Pro.29:4 et al.), and there is hardly a man anywhere who would not succumb to this illness, were he given the opportunity to sit in high places. For this reason, it is necessary that the Church obey the commandment of the Lord to pray “for all that are in authority.” Their only hope of making decisions that are just is God. And God himself is the Avenger of the poor who are robbed by those who are in authority over them. “Rob not the poor, because he is poor. Neither oppress the afflicted in the gate [where the ancients held court]. For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoil them” (Pro.22:22-23).

Yes, the Lord is the refuge of the poor and the oppressed. But how can the oppressed have confidence in His care for them, if His servants demonstrate the same covetous spirit which oppresses them in the world? Like it or not, both the unconverted and the converted gain lasting impressions of God from the conduct of His servants. If earthly oppression can drive even a wise man to insanity, how much more bitter does life become when God, our only hope, is portrayed as a money-hungry Ruler! Where can one go to escape a covetous Creator?

Allow me to quote from that first edition of the BROADCASTER:

“The Spirit impressed upon me recently as I sought God in prayer, that many in the Church do not know that God is displeased with the money-grabbing tactics which govern some ministries. Specifically, the Spirit impressed upon me how much the Lord wants His dear children to know that it is not He who is gouging them for every dollar that they will give. It is not the gentle voice of Jesus incessantly crying, ‘Give ye’ (Hos.4:18).” –BROADCASTER #1, JUNE 1987

One of the strangest of spiritual conditions described in the Bible concerns this issue. After condemning the professional prophets and the clergy of his time for their love of money and their constant requests for it, Jeremiah lamented that “my people love to have it so” (Jer.5:31). Love the constant oppression in the name of the Lord? Love the threats of divine displeasure if they do not give (Mic.3:5)? Yes, the people loved to have it so. And, incredibly, many still do.

My brother in Christ, Jim Bakker, has recently suffered terribly, being ridiculed widely in public as a man who went wrong. But there is another issue which has been conveniently overlooked by the Church, and it is an issue which, I feel, touches much more nearly on the real heart of the matter. That is, why did the Church give him so much money? Oh, yes, today his error is easily recognized. But now do we heap upon him all our guilt, as if he forced the Church to follow him in his foolishness? Dare we marvel at his arrogance and his blaming others for his own sin, even as we blame him for ours?

Isn’t it painfully obvious that the Church, as a body, is unable to discern a foolish man from a wise one? The Church was deceived - not because Jim Bakker is a “slick operator” - but because the Church as a whole simply does not know God! Isn’t it obvious that the Church does not know the truth, that it is easily beguiled and oppressed? If not, then why didn’t the Church see in the constant giggling and foolishness on the Jim and Tammy Show that they had been lured from the holiness of God? Why did money continue to flow in, even after demonstrations of holy Ghost power and conviction began to be replaced with beautiful people? What excuse can be given for supporting P.T.L., even as it plunged ever more boldly into a giddy, glittering apostasy from Christ? Please believe me, that I do not criticize them with any ill-will whatsoever. The point is that the evidence of sin and shame was starkly evident. Indeed, it was flaunted before us! Then why did the money keep pouring in? “My people love to have it so”, keeps ringing in my ears.

The Church is guilty of putting more money upon Jim and Tammy than they were able to bear, and then, in some quarters, guilty of standing back and, with a slow shake of the head, saying, “How could they have done it?” We cannot say we did not see the obscene extravagance. They boasted of it before the world. We cannot say that we really believed that sister Tammy’s grotesquely painted face fulfilled Peter’s description of a godly woman:

”Whose adorning let it not be that of outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel. But let it be....that of a meek and quiet spirit.”

Not only is Tammy’s behavior and clownish make-up ungodly, it is in extremely poor taste. Ordinary, worldly people, with just a little common sense don’t dress that way. God complained that Israel at one point was “worse than the heathen.” So gaudy and ungodly did Israel become that some of the heathen nations were embarrassed by her (Ezek.16:27). BUT although the conduct of P.T.L.’s leaders has given “great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” His holy name, we miss the most important point, and fail to learn a vital lesson in all this, if we point an accusing finger at them and do not see that they are victims of the Church’s lack of spiritual maturity, every bit as much as the Church was victimized by their greed. Maybe more so. Someone pushed them to those towering heights of pride. No one goes that far wrong without encouragement and financial support. The leaders of P.T.L. must necessarily bear the brunt of public ridicule for their evil doing, but I say to you, my friends, that they were, and are, merely symbols of the whole Church’s miserable, naked, and blind spiritual condition. Had we been a wise and discerning body, as we like to picture ourselves, Jim and Tammy could have requested and promised even more than they did, but would have received nothing but pitying looks and loving reproofs. That would have been for both their good and the Church’s. They used Jesus’s name to oppress a Church willing to be oppressed, in exchange for delusive dreams of earthly ease.

Sure, both Jim and Tammy are spoiled brats in the Kingdom of God. Tragically, the love of money turned their hearts away from Jesus. Any fool can see that. The important question is, “who is it that made them spoiled brats?” God? I think we all know better than that. And while many have justly complained about Jim’s lack of contrition for his evil deeds, I wonder if God is not more dismayed that the Church as a whole has shown little or no contrition for the huge part it played in bringing disgrace upon the sacred name of Jesus.

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