His Mellowed Message: The Lustful Need Love Tv's Robison Now Preaching Live In Phila.

Posted: June 30, 1988

No matter where he goes these days, James Robison knows he has an image problem.

He's a televangelist. Right in the mold of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, two preachers whose sex scandals devastated the television empires that brought them millions in donations each year.

Robison, the man other preachers once called "God's angry young man," sees every day the damage caused by news of Bakker's tryst with a typist and Jimmy Swaggart's hookup with a hooker.

"To say that you are a television evangelist is like saying that you're a child molester or something," said Robison, who opened a five-day stint of preaching last night at the Civic Center.

In person or on his weekly program, televised on the cable Christian Broadcasting Network, Robison, 44, is careful about his words and his appearance.

He wears off-the-rack suits and little jewelry. The television lights never glint off the diamonds. There's no gold. Nothing flashy.

A Dallas reporter who bird-dogged Robison for a month - when preacher scandals were hot news - came up dry.

Don't get the idea that Robison and his James Robison Evangelistic Association are poor.

The minister makes $70,000 a year, and his association, based in Fort Worth, Texas, grossed $15 million last year from real estate holdings and contributions.

Robison drives a Lincoln Continental, travels in a 10-passenger jet and has a $300,000 house outside Dallas.

He's made threats on his shows, just as Oral Roberts did, only Robison never said God would kill him if he didn't raise cash.

He simply said he needed $8 million to finance his ministry or it would go off the air. The money poured in.

The Fort Worth native, who began evangelizing in revival tents 26 years ago, has mellowed in the last six. He is no longer preaching the damnation that flows from so many pulpits.

"I'm spreading the message of repentance and restoration," he says.

Robison, who like former President Jimmy Carter admits to "lust in his heart," won't pass judgment on his friends, Swaggart and Bakker.

"I am heartbroken," said Robison. "I think that what happened was terrible, just horrible, but we must extend love to them now."

He's realistic, though. Now that Swaggart and Bakker have lost much of their following, Robison is trying to pick up some of their audience by increasing his television exposure.

Robison said both the public and the media looked at the Swaggart-Bakker scandal too critically.

"I ministered to Jim and Tammy Bakker and to Jimmy Swaggart, and they all respected me," he said. "I asked the Assemblies of God (Bakker's and Swaggart's denomination) not to be critical of Jimmy (Swaggart)."

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