Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Remembering Tammy Faye
David W. Shelton has posted a moving tribute to the late Tammy Faye Messner, former wife of televangelist Jim Bakker, on his blogsite, Skipping to the Piccolo.
Following is a brief excerpt:
Tammy Faye’s greatest legacy is that she reached out to people when they were most rejected. During the height of the AIDS crisis, she ministered to those stricken with the deadly disease. She loved the GLBT community, and she was loved by us as well.*
That her wish was that “her friend Randy McCain” from Open Door Church in Sherwood, Arkansas provide ministry during the private memorial was a testimony to just how much she loved people, no matter what. McCain had become friends with [Tammy’s son] Jay as well. In fact, Jay saw first-hand what gay Christians were really like when he visited McCain’s church last year.
Tammy’s message was always about strength and grace. Life gave her a lot of lemons, and as she often sang in her PTL days, she made lemonade. She suffered with cancer for eleven years, and her final appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live was a message of love to everyone.
To read David’s tribute in its entirety, click here.
Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the life of Tammy Faye, then I highly recommend Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s 2000 documentary film, The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
Shortly after Tammy’s death on July 20, I viewed this film with my friend Kathleen for the second time. Once again I was struck by Tammy’s genuine loving spirit. Oh, sure, the “prosperity gospel” she and her former husband preached was (and remains) abhorrent, yet one can’t deny that Tammy Faye was a woman who, in many ways, transcended the limits of the evangelical world and sought (and found) God’s loving presence in the lives of all.
Accordingly, I admire her willing and proactive participation in such a searching journey. I also admire how she wasn’t afraid to share the experiences and insights gained as a result of such journeying - experiences and insights related to the acceptance and unconditional love of oneself and others as blessed creations - human becomings - of a loving God.
Amazon.com’s Sean Axmaker describes The Eyes of Tammy Faye as follows:
Tammy Faye Bakker, she of the layers of makeup that made her face into a living Halloween mask, will forever remain a camp icon of ’80s culture for many of us. Directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato aren’t above needling Bakker for her more excessive accouterments, but The Eyes of Tammy Faye is ultimately a loving, sympathetic portrait of “the first lady of televangelism.” The film charts her life from traveling evangelist to the mother of three religious cable networks, and her fall from grace when husband Jim Bakker was forced out of the PTL (Praise the Lord) ministry after a scandalous affair. Always entertaining (sock puppets introduce each section) and at times surprising (did you know that Jim and Tammy were the first television ministers to reach out to the gay community and people with AIDS?), it rarely strays from Tammy Faye’s version of events. Jerry Falwell becomes the story’s sole scapegoat, but even the film’s best arguments don’t quite make Jim Bakker an innocent victim. But then it’s not his film, it’s Tammy Faye’s, and Bailey and Barbato seem to have fallen in love with their charismatic subject. If nothing else, they reveal the woman behind the cultural joke and celebrate a spiritual survival story.
And Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicler observes the following of the film:
The Eyes of Tammy Faye demonstrates, if nothing else, that there’s a genuine person – chastened by mistakes and more compassionate, perhaps, for all she’s suffered – beneath the war paint and the stardust. “We’re all just people made out of the same old dirt,” Tammy declares firmly. “And God didn’t make any junk.”
Amen, sister. And Rest in Peace.
* This love and admiration for Tammy Faye by the GLBT community even extends to those gay men who are seemingly incapable of loving themselves as gay, and who tragically do indeed perceive their God-given sexual orientation as “junk.” This heartfelt commentary by CourageMan, who identifies as “same-sex attracted” rather than “gay,” attests to this.
Recommended Off-site Link (and opening image source):