Tammy Faye and the Gays: an Unknown Story 

Few religious practitioners have aroused antagonism, ridicule, and revulsion among opinion makers to the same degree as Tammy Faye Messner -- from the time of her hucksterish TV ministry with then husband Jim Bakker to her spectral last appearance on the Larry King Show this month. Memphis gay leader (and atheist) Jim Maynard knew and respected another Tammy -- an open-minded, open-hearted follower of the gospel.

Here is Maynard's recollection:

While I am an atheist, I am also a former/ex-Christian who knows a little about the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I don't have much respect for most TV evangelists, and Tammy Faye and Jim Baker certainly "sinned" back when they enriched themselves on the "donations" of their followers, I really believe Tammy was sincere in her religious beliefs, even if she latched on to the mistaken belief that god rewards his followers with material wealth.

Well she lost all of that and I think learned the true meaning of "Christianity." It is not accurate to lump PTL and Tammy Faye with the "Christian Right." The CR is a political movement aligned with the Republican Party and has fought against social justice and equality for gays and lesbians among others. Tammy and Jim Baker were not part of that political movement. In fact, they embraced people with AIDS and gay people in their ministry.

Tammy Faye was one of the first "evangelical" Christians to embrace people with AIDS in the 1980s when Falwell, Reagan, etc. were demonizing gays and people with AIDS. In her later years, Tammy found support among many in the gay community and even traveled to gay pride events to share her gospel of love. It was shocking to see her on Larry King a few days ago, little more than a skeleton. She reiterated her faith and love for her "fans" and thanked the gay community for their support.

I may not agree with her religious beliefs, and she was not a "saint," but if anyone showed the true meaning of "Christianity" I think Tammy did. She made big mistakes in her life, and suffered greatly. But if you actually read the Bible it is filled with flawed people who made BIG mistakes ("sins"), but found forgiveness ("salvation") through their belief in a god of love. Jesus himself embraced people rejected by society and spent most of his time preaching against self-righteous religious fanatics ("scribes and Pharisees").

Tammy did that too, and her son formed a church in New York that reaches out to those who do not measure up to many "mainstream" churches: poor, punks, homeless, gays, etc. I doubt he will become rich or get his own TV network, but maybe he learned the true meaning of "Christianity" from his mother. RIP Tammy Faye, I hope you found peace. The way you lived in the end almost persuaded me there might be a god, or I hope you found something like that in the end.

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