In a town named Blue Eye near Branson, Mo., disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker continues his comeback, prepping souls for a nuclear apocalypse, one bucket of “Staying Alive” freeze-dried food at a time.
On Monday The Daily Mail published a behind-the-scenes look at Bakker’s ministry, which set up in Missouri 14 years ago. (Bakker himself did not speak to The Daily Mail for the story.)
Bakker’s ministry is getting buzz as of late. In May Buzzfeed published its own lengthy recounting of the Jim Bakker saga, detailing his current ministry in Missouri.
The Daily Mail, a British publication, equated Bakker’s Christian community, called Morningside, with a theme park, complete with a movie-set indoor town square guarded by a 15-foot statue of Jesus.
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That’s where Bakker and his wife, Lori, film “The Jim Bakker Show,” a TV ministry with an end-of-days theme that sells “survival buckets.”
A bucket of freeze-dried buttermilk pancakes will set you back $70. (Sorry, it can’t be shipped to Canada.)
“It is astonishing that Bakker – forced out of his last ministry and imprisoned for defrauding his flock of $158 million – has managed to reinvent himself as a doomsday prophet,” the Daily Mail writes.
“Yet the Bible – something he confessed he’d only bothered to fully read during his five-year incarceration – teaches forgiveness. And his followers appear to have forgiven him – not only for his greed but also for the sex scandals that wrecked his holier-than-thou image carefully crafted by Bakker and then wife Tammy Faye via their vast Christian TV empire.”
It’s an alluring comeback story – televangelist brought down by a sex scandal pitches tent in the Ozarks with a younger wife with help from a deep-pocketed Missouri supporter and begins preaching end of the days.
Newsweek told the tale last year.
Bakker and his then-wife, Tammy Faye, known for her outlandishly long fake eyelashes and thick makeup, ran the evangelical Christian PTL Club and Heritage USA Christian theme park in the ’70s and ’80s until Bakker’s sex scandal and fraudulent business ways brought the walls tumbling down.
He went to prison for the fraud. Tammy Faye, who divorced Bakker while he was in prison, died in 2007. Her grave is in Kansas.
Bakker has since remarried a woman 18 years his junior named Lori, a blonde who recalls to many minds a younger version of Tammy Faye.
In 2003 a wealthy Missouri man offered to fund Bakker’s return to the TV pulpit because he credited the preacher with saving his marriage, according to most accounts.
That man was Bakker follower Jerry Crawford, a local developer who spent millions on Morningside with plans to sell condos and homes in the Christian-themed community. Today fans can stay at an apartment on site for $95 a night, according to The Daily Mail.
So in 2003 the Bakkers moved to Branson and began broadcasting “The Jim Bakker Show” before moving to its Morningside location in Blue Eye, located on the Missouri/Arkansas border, in 2008.
The TV show is broadcast on DISH, Direct TV and a handful of local stations across the country, according to the show’s website. Viewership numbers are unknown.
One of the most popular items, according to the website, is the $175 “Tasty Pantry Deluxe Plus Bucket,” 283 dehydrated servings of food with a 25-year shelf life.
“All your favorites for breakfast, lunch and dinner in one bucket,” the description reads.
The 6-gallon “Pizza Bucket” costs $250.
“The real business at Morningside ... is end-of-times food,” The Daily Mail writes. “There are buckets of freeze-dried products everywhere.
“On TV, Bakker plugs the need for his survival buckets, claiming the Bible warns about people selling their souls to the Devil in exchange for food during the Apocalypse.”
When Buzzfeed visited, it noted plastic folding tables set up around the “town square.”
The tables displayed camo gear, 36-inch collapsible snow shovels, a folding BBQ, hammers, batteries, iPhone backup chargers and industrial-grade flashlights – all available for sale in the Morningside General Store.
Bakker has most recently warned his followers that the tension between the U.S. and North Korea is but one sign that the Apocalypse has begun.
Thus the need for a bucket o’ freeze-dried mac and cheese.
The Daily Mail never got an answer to its biggest question: Where are survivors of a nuclear war going to find uncontaminated water?