APva 06/20 1544 Fundamentalists Anonymous
Fundamentalists Anonymous Says Bakkers Fall Helped
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- The fall of PTL leaders Jim and
Tammy Bakker has helped clear the path for Americans who were
having trouble rejecting the fundamentalist mindset, the
co-founder of Fundamentalists Anonymous says.
"Our attack is on the rigid, authoritarian mindset," said Jim
Luce. "A mindset that sees the world in a very judgmental train
of thought. Black and white. Good and evil. The kind of
mindset that says, If you don't do things our way, you're going
to hell.' We're helping people overcome that."
Luce said national membership increased from 30,000 to more
than 36,000 since Bakker stepped down in the wake of a sexual
tryst with a church secretary seven years ago. Officials are
expecting an even greater increase within the next few months.
"What we've discovered is that when people leave
fundamentalist organizations, they take about six months to get
up the courage to call us," Luce told the Fayetteville Times. "I
would say the PTL fallout will hit us this fall."
The New York-based organization, which has no membership fees,
does not attack fundamentalist theology, Luce said. Its goal is
to aid people who have experienced negative effects from being
involved with fundamentalist ministries, he said. Officials with
Fundamentalists Anonymous estimate that there are six million
dissatisfied or wavering fundamentalists in the United States.
The group has members in 50 states and operates 44 support groups
in 38 states, Luce said.
Luce said the national organization created a legal task force
in April to handle numerous requests from ex-PTL members seeking
"We're getting about 25 legal complaints a day," Luce said.
"We're having a hard time reviewing them all."
"I think that these charlatans that are posing as TV preachers
have really exposed a lot of the professional-fundamentalism as
what it is -- a multibillion dollar industry," Luce said. "The
top 10 TV evangelists brought in over a billion dollars last
Charles Newton of St. Pauls, coordinator of the 500-member
North Carolina chapter of Fundamentalist Anonymous, also has
reported an increase in calls since the PTL scandal.
"People feel devastated when they find that their hero -- a
religious and moral hero -- has fallen off the wall and broken
into a million pieces like Humpty Dumpty," Newton said.
Newton said the state chapter receives calls from people who
are not only experiencing emotional difficulties because of
fundamentalism, but financial and legal problems as well. He
said he received on telephone call from a North Carolina man who
wanted help in handling a marital crisis. The man said his wife
was attempting to force him to join her fundamentalist
organization, threatening to divorce him if he did not become a
member, Newton said.
Newton said the organization was neither anti-fundamentalist
"People who believe in the fundamentalist theology and its
interpretation of the Bible have no need to be intimidated by
us," Newton said. "This group doesn't address that."
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