To the Great, Big Makeup Counter in the Sky....I've been a longtime fan of Tammy Faye Messner, ever since she and her then husband, Jim Bakker, ran a darling little morning show called "P.T.L." (Praise the Lord).
Oh, dear. I just picked up on someone in Waco, Texas mentally shrieking, What?! Ms. Lori?! A fan of evangelicals? Of the Christian persuasion? The kind that shout hosannas and beg for money? Preposterous!
Hard to believe, yet, it is true.
I was newly on my own, a weird, sensitive kid trying to get along in this callous, indifferent, conformist world of ours, alone -- very alone -- terrified, confused, still reeling from a recent past full of violence, betrayal, and lessons hard-learned. I was deeply in need of an understanding ear, someone who would not judge me or make me feel less than. I desperately wanted to belong somewhere, be a part of something, feel as if I truly had a purpose, a reason for existing.
One morning, as I readied myself for another crappy day at a crappy, menial job, feeling low as low can be, I flipped on the television, hoping to catch the weather report (I walked the mile and a half to and from work every day), but instead of tuning to my local news, I found myself transfixed by a babydoll-voiced woman whose thick, black mascara was cascading over her heavily rouged cheeks. The woman was weeping -- really weeping -- as she sang a song of praise, her tiny, bejeweled fingers gripping onto a mic that appeared too heavy for her, bulky, out of place.
What the hell?
She was fabulous. Her face beaming though rivulets of mascara, the woman accepted the audience's applause with small nods of appreciation, a few kisses blown to the crowd, then toddled on four-inch heels to her place beside her husband, a frog-faced imp of a man who seemed pleased as punch to be there.
The two of them chit-chatted about this and that, topics ranging from religion to what they had for lunch the day before, their children, their pets...Inane, really, yet...Something about those two got to me, intrigued me, made me feel...Calm?
Yes, calm. Peaceful. The two of them were, in my eyes, endearing, prattling on the way they did. The tension that'd wormed its way into my back only moments before had eased to a quiet pinch, the apprehension of heading out into a world I wanted nothing to do with settled into nonchalance.
How strange. How utterly and unbelievably ironic that I, of all people, should be lulled into a sense of well being by God warriors. It wasn't their evangelistic message, however, that did it for me -- at least, not their intended message. No, I easily filtered out the Jesus talk and the requests for money, focused on the humorous, down-to-earth couple who sometimes playfully threw barbs at one another or looked straight into the camera and spoke of goodwill, kindness, love, all of which I'd experienced precious little. I focused on a husband and wife who seemed to honestly enjoy each other's company, who expressed affection openly, emotions freely, without embarrassment, without shame. Foreign to me, that, yet once I became acquainted, I easily warmed to such alien notions.
They were oddballs, peculiar in their look and mannerisms, and they were familiar in that respect. I understood odd. I got peculiar. And at a time in my life when I felt that being odd and peculiar was a weakness, something to be hidden, either by pretending to be "normal" or literally physically hiding away, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker gave me, crazy as this may sound, some semblance of self-esteem. They flaunted their eccentricities, embraced the flamboyant, always with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, a wink.
I liked the fact that they were passionate about their mission, but without too much self-importance, no delusions of grandeur. You could tell they didn't take themselves 100% seriously. They preached good things, without fire and brimstone, spoke of acceptance for all, without discrimination. Hip in a kooky way, quirky, devoted to their cause, they did good works, contributed to and built many worthwhile organizations, helped untold thousands of those less fortunate, I latched on...They became my daily meditation, a way to start the day with a smile, my surrogate friends.
So, when Jim was convicted of fraud, I scratched my head and thought "Why?"
What fraud did he perpetrate?
How can it be fraud if he used monies given to his ministry for the very purposes he stated? The key word is "given." No one was coerced into donating money, no one was threatened or cheated. Sure, he fudged his books, sure he grabbed a big, honking, illegal piece of pie, but fraud?
It's not like they were popes or anything. Geez.
Oops, off on a tangent there. I apologize.
I'm attempting, in my usual expository way, to express my sadness over the loss of someone who never knew me, whom I'd not personally known. She never knew I existed, but that doesn't matter -- regardless of the fact she never met me, never heard my name, listened to my stories, she was my friend, and I will miss her.
Thank you, Ms. Tammy Faye, for being my company when I had none, a kind voice that filled my empty room, a small but not insignificant light that brightened my day, made dark days bearable, a feisty firecracker of a role model who endured so much heartache, yet persevered.
Make sure you give Jerry Falwell a swift kick in the groin when you see him, won't you? I think God might have a good laugh over that.