Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Remember Mike Warnke

I was scanning the web for some info on scandals involving religious figures when I came across the blog Unreasonable Faith, specifically the "Pillars Of Faith" series.  The series is a brief overview of 29 (and counting) religious leaders and the scandals that reveal their true colors and motivations.  Decent stuff.  It serves the purpose to catch you up on people like John Hagee and Benny Hinn, who you may otherwise not know about.

While I was scanning the list, I was thrilled to see that Mike Warnke was profiled.  Warnke was at one time the most successful Christian comedian ever, selling millions of recordings and books.  He found success when he wrote "The Satan Seller" about his "history" as a "Satanic high priest," and his conversion to Christianity.  I didn't think of it when I was a kid, but I now find it very interesting how a guy who claimed to have sacrificed babies and raped women didn't peak the interest of legal authorities enough to warrant an investigation. 

I used to have a couple of his cassette tapes when I was in elementary school.  He was on Oprah, he was considered an "expert" on issues involving Satanic ritual, he spoke out against Halloween, and he possessed one of the most righteous fupas you'll ever see on a guy.  He was effectively the spark plug that ignited the "Satanism" scare of the 70s through the 90s.  He fanned the flames of Christian paranoia and evangelical obsession with "Satanism" that peaked with the conviction of the "West Memphis 3" and is still smoldering red-hot today.  more after the jump...
All of this came to an ass-jerking halt in 1992 when Cornerstone Magazine, a Christian quarterly, published an awesome expose that revealed Warnke to be a complete fraud.  The article, Cornerstone's longest ever, was a long overdue biography of Warnke's life, including conversations with Mike's old friends and relatives who knew a different Mike Warnke than was portrayed.  Most of Warnke's crazy claims were shot down, and it was revealed that he had always had a knack for lying, and would say just about anything in order to get his way.  He also grossly misused his ministry's money, and mistreated his employees.

The article is also a fantastic and critical look into the contemporary Christian entertainment world that developed in the late 1970s and peaked (with Warnke's help) in the 1980s.  Many of the people interviewed accept some blame, responsibility, and always shame for their involvement in spreading Warnke's message, at times even regretting their roles in the commercial success of the Christian entertainment industry all together.  Buddy Huey, a top guy in Word Records who had signed Warnke remarked:  "...We ended up compromising lots. When I was with Word, the intent of the company was nothing more than trying to find those people who had a voice or a platform. And then all we could go on was what they told us.” Including Warnke’s satanic story? “It was just accepted,” says Huey. “That’s one of the things you’ll find in the industry. You see something that might be salable, marketable—that’s what you look at. It saddens me that I was a part of setting up things in the industry that I wish I had a chance to undo.”

The article is really an exceptional piece of investigative journalism that puts both Christian fanaticism with Satanism, as well as the contemporary Christian entertainment industry under the microscope.  Ultimately, Mike Warnke was a professional opportunist who saw this perfect storm as an opportunity for himself to thrive, and he took advantage of it with all of his heart.  Sadly, this is all too often the case.  Warnke continues to live the lie today, refusing to admit that he was nothing short of a liar.      

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