Modern marriage is a hot button topic in the United States as the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to hand down its latest ruling concerning the legality of same-sex marriage any day now. The redefinition of modern marriage in American society to allow for same-sex couples is a contentious issue, notably for conservative Christians who are steadfast in their belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman who go on to have a family. Browsing through our library collection I came across this gem, published in 1987 by Doubleday & Company. The 1980s was the heyday for the Evangelists, Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Rex Humbard, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller and Jimmy Swaggart, each of whom had thriving television ministries. The wives of these Evangelists, Tammy Fae Bakker, Macel Falwell, Ruth Graham, Maude Aimee Humbard, Evelyn Roberts, Arvella Schuller and Frances Swaggart, discuss their childhoods, how they met their respective husbands and their role in supporting their husbands in their careers as Evangelists. Their testimonies are offered as an example for Christian women to follow. Ruth Graham commented on the place of women in modern marriage for the Christian women observing:
I am a strong believer in women’s lib, to this extent: I think women should be liberated from civic responsibility, from having to work for a living, and unless it’s absolutely necessary, from all extracurricular affairs. They need to be liberated from them so they can devote themselves to their homes. (Christian Wives, p. 63)
The tone of each chapter is like that you find in any celebrity gossip magazine. You get a sugar coated view of the married life of these Christian wives who were celebrities in their own right at the time. This comes as no surprise as the authors, James Schaffer and Colleen Todd, came from the same religious background. James Schaffer is a graduate of Oral Roberts University and Colleen Todd worked as a copy editor and writer on prime time television specials for Oral Roberts. Unfortunately for the authors, however, the same time their book was published, the marriage of Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker was rocked by scandal when it was revealed in 1987 that $279,000 was paid to Jessica Hahn, a church secretary with whom Jim Bakker had an affair. This led to the dismissal of Jim Bakker as a minister from the Assemblies of God and the dissolution of their marriage. Similarly, scandal struck in the marriage of Jimmy and Frances Swaggart when in 1988 and in 1991, Jimmy was caught in the company of prostitutes. Jimmy Swaggart was dismissed from the Assemblies of God, but he and Frances remain husband and wife.
I like this book as it offers a view into the cult of celebrity in American culture as it was in the 1980s from a different and interesting point of view.
Posted by Geoffrey