‘Fall to Grace’ Is an Evangelical Appeal for Full Inclusion
Jay Bakker was an 11-year-old kid when his parents’ media empire exploded. At that time, his mother Tammy Faye Bakker overdosed on “enough over-the-counter drugs to tranquilize a gorilla.” His father’s many failings, both sexual and financial, were exposed. Old friends in televangelism were quick to burn them at the stake—a foreshadowing of televangelist scandals yet to be exposed. In one chapter of his new book, Jay notes wryly, “I gained an early familiarity with the word disgraced.”
A quarter of a century later, Jay has survived his own addictions, his own strangely skewed education and the death of his mother in 2007. Despite his family’s Shakespearean tragedy, he keeps preaching the grace of God and the acceptance of all people. Following on Tammy Faye’s daring openness, Jay Bakker insists that God’s grace and Christian community should include gays and lesbians.
With all of his tattoos, piercings, toothy grin and spectacularly flawed history, it’s easy to throw rocks at Jay Bakker. In fact, when you meet him in our Wednesday interview, he talks about what it feels like to be berated regularly via social media. But, as Editor of ReadTheSpirit and a religion writer for newspapers for many years before that, I’ve covered the Bakkers and Jay’s career as well. I can tell you: He’s genuine.
You may think he’s in it for the money. After all, his new publisher, Hachette, is one of the world’s biggest publishing houses—opening doors for him that other young evangelists can only dream of reaching. But, Jay Bakker leads a surprisingly modest life. His dream of a new denomination called the Revolution church for outcasts like himself is now in eclipse. He once had three churches across the U.S. Now he preaches weekly from the back room of a bar in Brooklyn (we’ll give you the address and service time on Wednesday, if you want to visit). It’s crystal clear, to a journalist who has followed Jay’s life for years: This guy means what he preaches. And he bravely keeps preaching his message of radical acceptance because he believes it in his bones.
TODAY, we’re going to share with you a few words from “Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self & Society ” to give you a feel for this book that we are highly recommending.
A FEW WORDS FROM ‘FALL TO GRACE’
BY JAY BAKKER
Preaching unconditional acceptance didn’t make me popular with a lot of the Christians I encountered. Weirdly, the stiffest opposition came from people at the Christian alternative music festivals I attended over a number of years. On the surface, we looked the same: tattoos, obscure punk band patches, combat boots. But the Mohawks and Misfits T-shirts couldn’t hide the fact that many of these kids were deeply invested in religious law: the rules they thought determined our salvation or damnation.
I was shocked by their militancy. (…) Although they had invited me to speak, when I ambled up onstage and started talking about grace, their interest turned to bafflement and finally outrage. What do you mean God loves everybody!?! They hurled epithets at me: “heretic,” “people pleaser,” and various other unprintable names. One guy even tried to fight me. Needless to say, I wasn’t invited back.
I got a similar reaction, albeit less openly violent, from some of the buttoned-up Christian congregations I visited. In church we learn that we should “hate the sin but love the sinner.” I was seeing Christians who were using sin as an excuse to judge and reject the people they associated with sin. Loving concern blurred too easily with scary intimidation tactics. People seemed all too eager—gleeful, even—to assign their friends and neighbors to the pit fires of hell. And they didn’t care much for a young tattooed kid, let alone a son of Jim Bakker, coming to talk to them about God’s unwavering acceptance. I know of at least two youth pastors who were fired for inviting me to come speak at their churches.
But as my speaking gigs took me to more places around the country, I also witnessed the positive power of grace to transform people’s lives. I watched as kids who felt damned and rejected by churches they grew up in were renewed in their faith. (…)
Preaching grace opened my eyes to other kinds of suffering as well. It’s what started me thinking about how Christians have mistreated the gay community, for one. I encountered numerous gay men and women who felt rejected and judged by their churches. This rejection often cost gay Christians their faith. Occasionally, it cost them their families. In some tragic instances, it even cost them their lives as intimidation—performed in the name of God—drove them to suicide. I was appalled by our behavior. Christian behavior. If grace was real, then there was no excuse for acting that way toward any of God’s children.
But grace is bigger than any one hot-button issue. This book is about examining every aspect of our lives through the clarifying lens of grace. … A deep, confident understanding of grace creates a sturdy foundation on which to build our faith, our lives, and our world.
REMEMBER: You can order “Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self & Society ” from Amazon at a discount.
DON’T MISS our interview with Jay Bakker later this week at ReadTheSpirit.
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(Originally published at readthespirit.com)