Swaggart Seen Unlikely to Seek Treatment : Mental health: Two psychotherapists believe that the televangelist, who again has been linked to a prostitute, has a sex addiction. They say the condition is treatable but they don’t expect the minister to undergo therapy.
Two psychotherapists who treat people with sexual addictions from a Christian perspective say they don’t expect evangelist Jimmy Swaggart to undergo treatment for his condition even though he has been publicly linked to a prostitute for the second time.
One of the experts, Dr. David M. Moss of Atlanta, compared Swaggart to a man in one of Jesus’ parables who had an “unclean spirit” cast out only to return later with seven other spirits, so that “the last state of the man was worse than the first.”
Moss, an Episcopal priest, is president of the Georgia Assn. for Psychoanalytic Psychology and has counseled people with sexual and other addictions for two decades.
The beleaguered minister’s latest troubles erupted a week ago in Indio when the preacher, driving a 1989 Jaguar, was stopped for traffic offenses while in the company of admitted prostitute Rosemary Garcia, 31. Garcia said Swaggart had picked her up at a truck stop and had pornographic magazines in the car.
Dr. Nancy Badgwell of Dallas, a certified Christian marriage, family and sex therapist, said this second incident was especially sad, because sex addictions are treatable.
The evangelist “definitely” has a sex addiction, she said.
In 1988, Swaggart severed ties with the denomination that ordained him, the Assemblies of God, after reportedly paying a New Orleans prostitute to perform lewd acts while he watched. He confessed to an unspecified sin but refused to abide by denominational discipline that called on him to give up his pulpit ministry for at least a year and undergo rehabilitation for at least two years.
Swaggart made a surprise return to the pulpit Wednesday night--the day after his son Donnie announced that his father was taking a leave of absence--and told the congregation that his recent encounter with the California prostitute is “flat none of your business.”
Swaggart said God had told him, “You don’t quit,” and insisted that he face his congregation. He said God had promised his ministry would meet success.
It was unclear whether the 56-year-old evangelist’s return was an isolated incident or whether it contradicted Tuesday’s statement that he would be undergoing professional counseling while his son serves temporarily as head of the ministry.
From the pulpit at the Family Worship Center, Swaggart said his ministry is “teetering on the edge” financially. He added that he had tried to cancel a recent prayer meeting in San Diego because he was afraid of a low turnout.
God had spoken to him, he said, when he awakened from sleep at about 6 a.m. Wednesday. He had fallen asleep in despair at about 4 a.m. while trying to read the Bible, he said. He told his congregation that, unable to read, “I closed it and whimpered like a hurt little dog, ‘God, if you’re there, if you’re really there, tell me what to do.’ ”
Swaggart said he had awakened at 6 am. with “the Holy Spirit rolling all over me.”
He said God had told him he would be “making television programs” by Thursday, and that his other hopes for his ministry, including a Bible college and seminary, would be fulfilled.
Swaggart’s television ministry has been floundering, because many stations have dropped his program, and construction of a Bible college, scheduled to open in January, has been halted.
Marvin Gorman, a rival evangelist who claimed that Swaggart had harmed his television ministry, won a $10-million award in a lawsuit.
By way of explaining recent events, Swaggart said that on Oct. 11--the day after the 39th anniversary of his marriage to his wife, Frances--he had borrowed a car, driven down a country road in Indio and sat under some palm trees. He said he felt an “oppressive spirit” that was “like hands that gripped me.”
Swaggart said he was so distraught by problems that he considered suicide. “If I hadn’t known I would go to hell, I would have pulled that Jaguar in front of an 18-wheeler,” he said.
The evangelist said nothing about his having picked up Garcia at a truck stop but said he was grateful to the police officer who pulled him over for driving on the wrong side of the road.
However, Swaggart said he planned to seek counseling from two lay persons and two preachers.
At the end of the service Swaggart brought his wife to the pulpit and asked the congregation to get as close as possible and pray. Hundreds of churchgoers then converged on the stage, shouting prayer and stretching out hands.
Donnie Swaggart had said that his parents “have been at a place of total exhaustion” for several months.
On Thursday, a key member of the ministry staff, who asked to remain anonymous, said Jimmy Swaggart’s public appearance had been unexpected. She said staff members are now uncertain about the status of Donnie Swaggart’s statement that his father would relinquish control.
Badgwell, the therapist who is a Southern Baptist, noted that many people who have an addiction think it’s possible to deal with the problem alone. They don’t realize “it’s an illness” that can be treated with therapy, she said.
Moss said Swaggart had neglected several biblical principles when he confessed to an unspecified sin in 1988 and did nothing else about it.
“In the New Testament,” he said, “one of the things that’s a prerequisite for God’s forgiveness is repentance. . . . One of the things that Christianity does is give a call to action. A conversion experience doesn’t just remake a person--it helps a person to remake themselves.”
According to Moss, Swaggart’s theology is based on a concept of God as someone who “fixes our problems.” The therapist described this as “a primitive notion--what might be called lazy theological thought” that doesn’t adequately emphasize individual responsibility.
While describing the evangelist as someone who is “out of control,” Moss added, “I don’t want to imply that he is not responsible. If the doctor tells you that you have early symptoms of lung cancer and you ought to quit smoking--if you know what to do and you don’t do it--then you are guilty of self-destructive behavior, and that’s where his guilt lies.”
Moss predicted that Swaggart would continue to avoid treatment but write a book. The content is likely to be “a superficial collection of self-revelations, based on his experience with God,” Moss said.
In Moss’ comparison of Swaggart’s troubles to the biblical parable, he said, “Jimmy Swaggart cast the demon out of his house temporarily by claiming that he had a conversion experience” when he returned to the pulpit after a brief absence in 1988. “But he left the house unsettled because he did not seek treatment, and seven demons entered therein. In that sense, he’s even worse than he was in 1988.”
The priest said he “would not be at all surprised if Jimmy Swaggart were to suggest that picking up prostitutes had been his way of proselytizing these women” similar to the biblical account of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman who had a questionable past.
A third expert, Dr. Mark R. Laaser, a United Church of Christ minister and clinical psychologist who heads the Sexual Dependency Unit of Golden Valley Health Center in Minnesota, noted that “a sex addict in general has a profound problem with denial and the acceptance of one’s own limitations and problems.”
Laaser declined to predict whether Swaggart will seek therapy this time, but he said that “it’s effectively impossible to be in full-time ministry and in recovery the first year.” Therefore, he said, the “discipline that the Assemblies of God asked for him in 1988 was clearly appropriate.”