Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jimmy Swaggart's "Message Of The Cross" Examined

In 1998, I wrote a post for an Internet bulletin board which became the most popular article on Spiritwatch Ministries' website entitled "Why Jimmy Swaggart Still Needs To Repent." I voiced my opinion of the sullied ministry of the legendary Pentecostal minister and stated that, in my opinion, for all of the supposed repentance he's exhibited concerning "the error of his ways" Swaggart still has a lot to repent for and a lot to answer for. 

Every month for years, as we check our stats, the article is always the most accessed of all we've written on the Spiritwatch site. There are apparently a lot of people who have questions about Swaggart's influence and want an alternative view of it and the Spiritwatch Ministries article has given one such view to a lot of them. It's always been a bit astonishing as to just how many of them have read this article. I've never quite understood why until, after a relatively recent lull in the ongoing spiritual warfare I've engaged in with the Remnant Fellowship cult for the past decade, I have had time to study Swaggart's never-ending reinvention more closely.

I believed then as I do now that Swaggart's greatest spiritual need is to publicly repent for the social and spiritual offenses that his moral failures, personal rebellion and mockery against Christian church authority has committed against the Christian Church, as well as the arrogantly elitist example his leadership currently exhibits that is undeniably divisive and borders on the cultic.

It was not then - and is not now - my intent to focus upon what he secretly did with prostitutes from Louisiana to California. This point, however, is pathetically, entirely lost upon the authors of the "fan mail" we've received regarding the article for years. They are mostly anonymous, occasionally thoughtful but are all sincere expressions of feral rage over my opinion. To these people, I did nothing but dig up Swaggart's moral failures in an outrageously scandalizing manner and made them the focus of the article. That wasn't the case, but these Swaggart disciples simply wouldn't see it in any other way. So they've spent a lot of bandwidth and time screaming about how unforgiving and ungracious it was to keep bringing up Swaggart's "sin", how ungodly and vicious it is to kick a man whom "God is using."

What these sadly deluded folks utterly failed to realize is that my entire concern in this first article was about a matter far more primal, basic and serious: that Jimmy Swaggart Is STILL in need of repentance for an inner defilement that has become so much more subtle than ever.

Even after his moral failures and downfall, Jimmy kept on keeping on. It's clear that during the past decade, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries (JSM) still struggled mightily just ahead of television station creditors, a critical media that had him pegged as just another cartoon of televangelism worthy only of a cheap laugh, and a church that had largely written him off as an embarrassing, hypocritical and judgmental maverick. The merchandising of his religious wares is as tenaciously pushed as is his continually rehashed campmeeting revivalism in his half empty Family Worship Center in Baton Rouge. Undaunted by his self-imposed isolation from Christendom, Swaggart pressed on to buy blocks of airtime where ever the TV markets offered an opportunity for his telecasts. He sold off tracts of land owned by JSM around its' ministry headquarters to developers and rented properties to keep the bills paid. He sold his gospel music and Bible commentaries at unbelievable prices as "Spirit-inspired Biblical scholarship" to whomever would buy them. Whatever could be done for the sake of "the Work" that could move his own product line of teaching and his Gospel piano plunking was tirelessly pursued.

While my own ministerial labors in grappling with the deceptive cultism of Gwen Shamblin came to completely dominate my time the past decade, Swaggart stayed busy as well rebranding himself as a lonely voice in the wilderness who was one of the only sources of divine truth on the earth - in much the same way Shamblin views herself as an exclusive mouthpiece for God. With that kind of shrill and elitist posturing, most believers, including myself, had come to view him as a head with it's chicken cut off, thrashing about in phantom life just before finally keeling over into the silence of a back alley somewhere. Still sounding every bit like a marginalized loose cannon on the fringes of the church, Swaggart's voice seemed destined to fade into obscurity. No one, including myself, believed he'd ever rise again out of the morass he'd created for himself.

How wrong we all were.

To everyone's surprise (excepting his faithful remnant who stood with him), Swaggart's wobbly rise from the ashes of his self-inflicted funeral pyre has slowly taken an awkward flight. The light bills still get paid, the toll free phones are still manned and "Campmeeting" goes on. He continues to preach, to produce daily religious programs, some headed by his wife Frances, his son Donny and his grandson Gabriel, and to continue to seek allegiances with churches still open to his example. He has swapped out his three piece suits for a more business casual look and filled his soundstages with sets to contain panels of yes-men preachers and post production suites. The shilling of his publications, gospel music CD's and teaching DVD's is a never ending enterprise throughout his daily programming. A preacher with such gifting as he enjoys will never quite fully fade away. Swaggart's suavely polished oratory and pulpiteering is an asset that had gained him an audience and a ministry empire across the Southeast and is now serving him again.

What has become clear is that Swaggart has based his ascent from obscurity upon one central conviction. This is what Swaggart calls the "Message of The Cross."  I finally found time to study Swaggart's doctrine on this point and was shocked at what I found and stirred by the Word and Spirit of God to share what I found. You can find two new articles on Swaggart's take on "the Cross" on the Strange Fires page of our site and how he has exploited Christian adoration of the cross of Christ to his own empire-building agenda. It is truly one of the most revolting things I've seen in a long time.

Click here to read them. We'll need to hire more secretarial staff to probably handle the fan mail now. Well, you got to do what you got to do when it comes to standing for truth in an apostate age filled with false brethren and false teachers.


Pure Gospel Truth said...

I would just like to know if in your opinion there is any church or denomination that preaches a perfect gospel as I have found that most of them are either loose cannons, self righteous or corporate structures.

Reverend Rafael said...

There's only ONE Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the only expression of God's power that saves, sanctifies and baptizes with the Spirit. Romans 1:16. There is only one.

It is the failure of churches to proclaim without sectarian bias the essential truths of that same Gospel that Christ proclaimed.

No church is "perfect", but I don't know what is "perfect" to you or what a "perfect gospel" is in your view. As I said, there's only ONE Gospel.

Bishop Douglas Gaffney said...

Swaggart did repent publicly in 1988 on national TV and satellite seen around the world. He has been delivered from those things that had a strong hold on him.
I was Pastoring an A/G church at the Time the 1988 issue happened, and it was as most people had thought.
It was sinful, but NOT sexual intercourse.
I know brother Swaggart and he has confessed and repented for those sins years ago. Therefore as God has forgiven him and has forgotten his sins so we must also.

Reverend Rafael said...

Did you read the article? Swaggart's sin in 1988 isn't what I call on him to repent for. I think you need to read it again. His divisive and unedifying example of arrogancy and rebellion against authority as well as his redefinition of the Gospel as being the equivalent of his interpretation of a "Message of the Cross" is what he needs to repent for now. What he did with prostitutes and in secret for years isn't the issue here.

WD Patriot said...

I was recently brought into touch with the Swaggart ministries through a friend and his wife. They do not attend the church they took me to, but knowing my enjoyment of guitar and the playing thereof, they invited me to attend a church that was in need of a guitar player. Long story short, I joined as I liked the fire and brimstone preaching of old, BUT came to be troubled by the "new revelation of the Cross" as the "NEW" or "Real" truth.
I was invited to play guitar in their praise band, which I welcomed with great joy.
I have since questioned this "revelation of the Cross" to the pastor who I feel is working in the spirit of God, but misled by the cross message.
I started to attend the classes they provide which claims, it will "teach you how to defeat Satan by this cross message," or words to that effect. I quit it after 3 weeks and will not return for The Cross, The CROSS, THE CROSS(!) message disturbs me because it focuses as do the Catholics on an icon instead of on the complete Gospel message. I wonder why they do not hold the nails from Christ's wrists and feet, instead of JUST the cross, but of course I am just showing the error of an icon by so saying. They provided a book, by Jimmy Swaggart, titled THE SEVENTH CHAPTER OF ROMANS, The Cross of Christ Series, which they stated was "given" to us, but would cost us $29.95 to buy from Swaggart if we did not receive it "free" from the class. Having had a past in print shops, I know that the cost of that issue, in quantity pricing would be 6 or 7 dollars at most made me aware that this all about money and public exposure of a narcissistic bent. I even went so far as to ask during Wednesday evening services, why the message of the cross was not the complete message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The answer was a form of dancing around the ideas but no real explanation as to why really.
I have made life-long friends in the church I attend and believe they are truly of God, but also misled by the idea of a "new revelation" of Jimmy Swaggart. Thinking of leaving them, and this gospel preaching, but erroneously approached message, troubles me deeply, But I am thinking I must do so soon.
Having played guitar for over 50 years, starting at 5, I have found the using IT to praise God is MY voice and calling, and I regret giving that up as well, but I have faith the GOD will find me a home for that too!
Cults come in many forms, but Money is the root of all evil seems to apply here. Prayers for those being led astray with the "message of the cross" instead of the complete Gospel of Jesus Christ. May God bless.

Joel said...

Praise this article.