Singer/pianist. Grew up with cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley, and future rock'n'roll preacher Jesse Duplantis. Style: the mawkish balladry of Jerry Lee's Nashville exile. Most famous as an Assemblies of God minister, one cursed with Jerry Lee's genes: his ministry was ruined by the discovery of his trysts with a prostitute, only to be re-ruined by a joyride with another. Has also suffered lawsuits, due to dirty tricks against another ministry. He's almost Phoenix-like. Almost.

"I believe Armageddon is coming, Armageddon is coming. It is going to be fought in the valley of Megiddo. It is coming. They can sign all the peace treaties they want. They won’t do any good... It is going to get worse... My Lord! I am happy... I don’t care who it bothers. I don’t care who it troubles. It thrills my soul."
Jimmy Swaggart - September 22, 1985

 

Jimmy Swaggart was born in Ferriday, Louisiana on March 15, 1935. He was raised in the Pentecostal Church, learning about the bible and spiritual songs along with his cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley. In 1945, Swaggart "gets the Holy Ghost" at church. He spoke in tongues for three days, had out of body experiences, and prayed intensely. In his trance, he foretold of a large bomb exploding, just weeks ahead of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Swaggart found his outlet in preaching, and dropped out of high school to travel the south to sing gospel music and lead tent prayer meetings.

Swaggart made the transition from stage to video in 1973, and by the mid 1980's he had turned his love for preaching into a very large ministry. At its height, the Jimmy Swaggart Ministry included the 10,000-seat Family Worship Center, the Jimmy Swaggart Bible College, The Evangelist magazine and employed over 1500 people. His weekly televised service, "The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast" had over 8 million viewers in the United States and in 143 other countries. His ministry was raking in over $150 million in donations and sales. He was the most powerful televangelist in the United States, so he started exercising his power, at first by criticizing the Catholic Church, but then by tearing down his televangelist competition.

In 1986, Swaggart exposed fellow Assemblies of God minister Marvin Gorman, who was having an affair with one of his parishoners. He would do much the same in 1987, by exposing Jim Bakker's indiscretions with a prostitute. Swaggart went so far as to go on the Larry King Show and call Bakker a "cancer in the body of Christ." In retaliation, Gorman hired a detective and sent his out to dig up whatever dirt he could on Swaggart. The detective found Swaggart in a hotel in Lake Charles, Louisiana with a prostitute, Debra Murphree, and took some prized photos. Gorman presented Swaggart with the pictures in an attempt to blackmail him, but Swaggart wouldn’t pay him. So Goran presented the pictures to the Assemblies of God leaders, and let them sort it out. Rather unsurprisingly, Swaggart was suspended from the airwaves for three months.

On February 21, 1988, Swaggart took the pulpit of his Family Worship Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and began his syndicated Jimmy Swaggart Teleministries show. Without divulging any details, Swaggart confessed, saying, "I have sinned against You, My Lord, and I would ask that Your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God's forgiveness." Four days later, Murphee was on a New Orleans morning news show, and said that while Swaggart was a regular customer of hers, they had never engaged in intercourse. Rather, Swaggart preferred to watch her undress. The crisis crossed over to the political realm as well. In an effort to drum up support in the Bible Belt for his campaign for the presidency, Pat Robertson accused then Vice President George Bush of spreading these lies against Swaggart.

Swaggart took a few weeks away from his Sunday broadcast, but eventually made his way back to the television, well before his three-month suspension was up. He said, "If I do not return to the pulpit this weekend, millions of people will go to hell." The Assemblies of God immediately defrocked Swaggart, and his ministry continued to suffer.

On October 11, 1991, he was caught with another prostitute, Rosemary Garcia, in Indio, California. Swaggart had propositioned Garcia on the side of the road, and they were pulled over by the Highway Patrol after driving down the wrong side of the street. When Garcia was asked why she was with Swaggart, she replied, Garcia said: "He asked me for sex. I mean, that's why he stopped me. That's what I do. I'm a prostitute." Instead of begging for forgiveness from his congregation, he instead told them "The Lord told me it's flat none of your business." His son Donnie quickly stepped in, announcing that his father would be temporarily stepping down as head of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries in order to have "a time of healing and counseling."

As of 1995, Swaggart's ministry had been reduced by 85%. Only $12 million a year came in though television and tour programs, but he was still making an annual salary of over $350000. Today, Swaggart Ministries is focused on the Family Worship Center, a short tour schedule, a handful of radio stations, and a website.


shaogo writes: You could make mention of Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" SNL sketch where the Church Lady lashes out at swaggart, screaming "It might have been *your* hands on the wheel of your lime green Lincoln Town Car swerving down the street to pick up that common tart; but I'll tell you who was doin' the steering... SATAN!"

A video of the sketch of this can be found at: http://religiousfreaks.com/2006/01/17/church-lady-and-jimmy-swaggart/


Resources:
http://www.jsm.org/
http://www.rotten.com/library/bio/religion/televangelists/jimmy-swaggart/
http://www.historychannel.com/speeches/archive/speech_360.html
http://www.gurdjieff-legacy.org/40articles/swaggart.htm
http://www.eros.com.au/hypocrites5.php

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