It was the devil that brought him down, he said.
Bakker said that, after he announced plans two years ago to build a 30,000- member Crystal Palace Church at Heritage USA theme park in South Carolina, ''I believe that was the last straw for Satan. I think the devil was mad that something so beautiful was being built . . . I believe the devil said, 'I have to smash Jim and Tammy Bakker.' "
I decided to find out whether that was true, so I called the devil on his new toll-free hotline number, 1-800-HELL.
"Is this the devil?"
"Who wants to know?"
"Oh, how are things going with pride and lust and greed in your life?"
"I struggle against them, as you know, but I'm not calling about me, I'm calling about Jim and Tammy."
"What about them?" said the devil, sounding perturbed.
"Jim said on TV that you were mad at him for trying to build the Crystal Palace and that's why you did him in."
"Are you kidding?" laughed the devil. "Jim and Tammy were the best things I had going."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"That business with Jessica and the money and the rest was all my doing, I'll admit, but I didn't bring down PTL. The Enemy did."
"Yeah, you know, G-O-D."
"Why are you spelling God's name?" I asked.
"Shh-hh," said the devil, getting closer to the phone. "We don't say it out loud. People might start believing that He exists. Once they believe that, they might start believing that I exist; then we're really in trouble. You see, hell is populated with people who didn't believe in me."
"You remember C.S. Lewis?" asked the devil.
"Of course," I replied.
"A difficult case. He had me figured out pretty good. He intercepted a letter I wrote to one of my agents in which I said, 'It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out'."
"And that was really what got to Jim and Tammy?" I asked.
"Of course," he said. "It's all founded on pride and materialism. You just put G-O-D's name on it, instead of in it, to make it look respectable. I've always said that one of my best weapons is contented worldliness, and there was nobody more content with worldly things than Jim and Tammy. Then the Enemy moved in and messed things up."
"So, Jim wasn't right when he said you pulled the plug on PTL?"
"Hell, no," said the devil. "The Enemy apparently figured those two had embarrassed Him long enough."
"Thanks for the information," I said.
"Call any time," said the devil.
After hanging up, I recalled that a number of the devil's letters had come into the possession of Lewis and that I had a copy of them in my library.
One especially seemed to sum up the cheap grace and bogus theology dished out by the Bakkers: "The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."