APva 06/20 1544 Fundamentalists Anonymous Fundamentalists Anonymous Says Bakkers

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APva 06/20 1544 Fundamentalists Anonymous Fundamentalists Anonymous Says Bakkers Fall Helped Organization. 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 financial recourse. "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 year." 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 nor anti-Christian. "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." Last page !

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