Hipster preacher lives his mother’s legacy

June 9th, 2015

The late televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker’s boy has done the unthinkable. Jay Bakker, pastor of Revolution Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has teamed up with lesbian comedians who tell explicit, profane jokes about gay sex.

Bakker is part of the Loosen the Bible Belt: A Tour for Humanity. He and tour co-founder comedian Kristen Becker are joined by comedian Samantha Ruddy and singer SarahRose Marie. Their website says that they want to “spread a message of love, grace and equality” and “create awareness for LGBTQ groups fighting the good fight” in Southern states.

I went to their performance in Huntsville, Alabama. The crowd was a mix of the religious and non-religious. We laughed at the often smart but dirty jokes. We applauded Jay’s sometimes funny, progressive sermon.

And I pondered this partnership between postmodern faith and unapologetically, blasphemous humanity. Does it promote a better understanding of Jesus Christ and his message? Or does it dilute, distort and demean it?

Bakker describes himself as a Christian agnostic, hipster preacher. He takes his Bible on stage and reads from the Pauline epistles. He quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Paul Tillich. He drops the occasional curse word.

He confesses that he believes some of the books of the Bible were poorly written and that everything in it isn’t true. He doesn’t believe in the traditional concept of hell. He thinks it’s what we are living through now.

But Bakker’s answer for this hell comes from conventional Christianity. He believes in the redemptive power of grace.

“Grace is always for someone I don’t want it to cover,” Bakker told the Huntsville crowd. He charged evangelical Christianity with lacking compassion and tolerance, of being in violation of the love edict in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love is the most important thing,” Bakker said. “Love is the trump card when it comes to the Bible.”

The message of the Loosen the Bible Belt tour, at least from Bakker’s standpoint, is that Christians and atheist lesbians can coexist — and should. In fact, regarding the controversial issues of equality and same-sex marriage, the message is that we should be partners in pursuing justice. And the partnership begins with Christians extending ourselves to the LGBT community, not with judgment but with grace.

“I don’t stand in front of you as an apologist, but as one who apologizes for our actions,” Bakker said.

I grew up in the church thinking that the world was neatly divided between belief and non-belief. Life and time have taught me that there is much more overlap than I thought.

We who believe sometimes wrestle to reconcile our beliefs with our painful realities. It’s often the same with people, as we wrestle with how to coexist in a pluralistic society with people who live and think differently than we do.

Bakker is living out this overlap radically, in real-time. He’s injecting his understanding of Jesus into circumstances and conversations in which it wouldn’t otherwise be welcome.

And he’s doing it in defiance of convention, much as his mother did 30 years ago when she interviewed gay Christian minister and AIDS patient Steve Pieters on her show. They talked for over 24 minutes as Tammy Faye probed his life and experiences.

She never once endorsed Pieters’ lifestyle, but she also didn’t condemn it or him. She also didn’t demean his faith. She let him express his truth, and she accepted him while lavishing him with love, at one point even through tears. “Jesus loves us through anything,” Tammy Faye said at one point.

As the old saying says: Like mother, like son.

comments powered by Disqus