Smile Pretty and Say Jesus
The Last Great Days of PTL

Hunter James
Foreword by Charles Reagan Wilson

Reviews

"Author James was along for the ride as the tales of greed and sin began to unfold, and with this book he takes us along, too. . . . A highly readable, entertaining piece of personal journalism."
Anniston Star

"Smile Pretty and Say Jesus (that's what PTL audiences were urged to do) captures the sideshow atmosphere surrounding the final months of Jim's and Tammy's tenure, and it provides some solid, detailed information on the various warring fundamentalist sects. There are other, more straightforward accounts of the PTL; this one is more fun to read."
The State (Columbia, SC)


"A well-crafted, well-thought-out piece of literature. Anyone who picks up this book merely for a look at the PTL Ministry will be pleasantly surprised; anyone who picks up this book for a look at life will not be disappointed."
The Pilot (Southern Pines, NC)

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Description
In March 1987, the Reverend Jerry Falwell and the national news media found themselves in rare agreement: Jim Bakker, the charismatic, cash-hungry televangelist, was an accomplished sinner but a rather unconvincing penitent. The story had just broken that Bakker had fornicated with Jessica Hahn, a New York church secretary, and then tried to pay her off with $256,000. Once exposed, Bakker weepily begged Falwell to help him steer his ministry through the scandal. Falwell assented—but then demanded Bakker's resignation when he learned that the Hahn affair only hinted at Bakker's profligacy. The fight was on, and those stale jokes were born again: PTL, the acronym of Bakker's $172 million enterprise, stood not for "Praise the Lord" or "People That Love" but for "Pass the Loot" or "Pay the Lady."

Veteran journalist Hunter James covered the story for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from the first report of Bakker's double life until eight chaotic months later when the unwelcome Falwell left the bankrupt ministry in South Carolina and went home for good to his own church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Smile Pretty and Say Jesus is James's wry, personal account of the struggle for control of the PTL enterprise, which included a satellite network and a 2,300-acre theme park, Heritage USA.

James's book is valuable for the important distinctions it makes between Pentecostals and Baptist fundamentalists and for its explanation of the "prosperity gospel" Bakker and his wife, Tammy Faye, professed. Combining straightforward reportage with human interest sketches and profiles, the book is also the most insightful to date on the attitudes and motives of the principal figures involved in the debacle.

Page count: 224 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9

 



Paper
List price: $24.95
978-0-8203-3191-1
9/1/2008

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Hunter James, a native and resident of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has been a newspaper journalist covering the South for more than thirty years. He spent much of that time as a correspondent for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and as an editorial writer for that paper and other east-coast dailies. He is the author of nine books, including They Didn't Put That on the Huntley-Brinkley! A Vagabond Reporter Encounters the New South (Georgia).