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Thursday, January 11, 2007

One punk under God

I highly recommend checking out the six-episode Sundance Channel documentary One Punk Under God that began airing in December. It recounts the recent adventures of Jay Bakker, son of maligned 70s and 80s televangelists Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner, and his wife Amanda.

After rebelling and partying for a few years (as most preacher's kids do), Bakker settled down, grew up and started a church of his own, one that's a little different from the average steeple on the corner and a far cry from his parents' scandal-ridden PTL days. Not surprisingly given his childhood, Jay is focused on avoiding the kind of hypocrisy and self-righteousness that left him with a bad taste of Christianity in his mouth. He has concentrated instead on humility and grace and being authentic and loving to other people in seeking a relationship with God. Here's a quote from Bakker spoken on Larry King Live in 2001 that resonated with me:

"I think we get caught in this idea of pleasing God rather than trusting God. And I think once you learn to trust God, it's a lot easier to please God."
If you're God, do you really want people bringing you grapes? I think Bakker this is absolutely on to something with those words. In my opinion, one reason Christians and dedicated people of many other religions generate a backlash is that they are awfully quick to speak for God instead of letting God speak. Now I'm not really sure whether God uses words or performs miracles to get his points across, but I do think he acts within our hearts and minds. I think it is better to act with respect and love than with hostility and judgment. Bakker appears to agree with me here, too, based on the stickers he likes to place on parking meters and road signs to promote his church:

"As Christians, we're sorry for being self-righteous judgmental bastards."

Lately I'm tending to err heavily on the side of grace when it comes to God because I sincerely think that, if God as an all-powerful supreme being is real, why wouldn't he demonstrate his power with compassion and grace? Is there a better way to say "Hi, I'm God?" What would sending millions of people to Hell really do to prove that he is mighty?

Many media outlets have reported on Jay and Amanda's story, including the New York Times Magazine and The Seattle Times. Both are good reads if you are looking to learn more about this generation of Bakkers, and Jay's church has its own shop on the Web. Sundance has plenty of repeats of all the episodes running.

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