Until last week I had never paid any attention to Jay Bakker, the son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner. Then someone sent me a link to a CNN article called What the Hell Happened to Christianity? It turns out that Jay is the pastor/founder of a church called the Revolution, with branches in Atlanta, New York and Charlotte. Last Friday night I watched most of his interview with Larry King. You can read the transcript here. It turns that Jay Bakker is in the news in part because he is featured in a six-part documentary called One Punk Under God.
After his father went to prison, Jay's life went into a self-destructive tailspin fueled by alcohol and drugs. Now at the age of 31, he and a friend lead a church that preaches "God's grace to a flock of young, downtrodden and disillusioned parishioners most any other church would turn away." At first glance, that would appear to be a noble effort, but this is not your typical evangelical twentysomething "emerging church." At the Revolution, they have gone a step beyond. They are a "gay-affirming" church. Jay Bakker told Larry King he would allow gay couples to get married in his church if it becomes legal (which he evidently hopes will happen soon). When Larry asked him why most evangelicals oppose homosexuality, Bakker offers this answer:
Well, I mean, I know the arguments. I know the scriptures. And the scriptures are very -- you could argue on them all day. I believe they've been taken out of context, and I don't believe that, you know, we've researched enough of the background on those scriptures.
But there's more to it than simple confusion about what the Bible teaches. According to an article posted on Radar Online, Jay Bakker explains his break with the traditional Christian view of homosexuality this way: "I felt like God spoke to my heart and said '[homosexuality] is not a sin.'"
Okay, now we've moved into new territory. If taken at face value, then any minister can overthrow two thousand years of Christian teaching by saying, "The Lord spoke to my heart." You can imagine many variations:
"The Lord told me that Joseph Smith was right."
"The Lord said not to worry about all that 'no adultery' stuff because he's changed his mind."
"The Lord spoke to me and said that Jesus isn't the only way to heaven.'"
And in the ultimate absurdity:
"The Lord told me there is no God."
You could justify anything or get rid of anything in the Bible you didn't like by simply saying, "The Lord spoke to me." Forget the text. Why bother studying Romans 1? Just let the Lord whisper, "I didn't really mean it" or "I changed my mind." I've always thought that the question about homosexuality had less to do with sexual ethics and much more to do with biblical authority. Are we willing to place ourselves under the written Word of God even when that puts us at odds with an increasingly secular culture?
Which leads me to say, God bless those Episcopal churches in northern Virginia that want to pull out of the Episcopal Church of the USA because of their commitment to remain faithful to biblical teaching while their denomination has capitulated over the issue of homosexuality. I don't know if they will be able to keep their property (I hope so), but whether they do or not, they have taken a courageous stand for the truth.
Meanwhile Jay Bakker will be hailed by certain people for his "courage" in starting a gay-affirming church. And I grant that it takes a certain kind of courage to reject the historic teaching of every major branch of the Christian church. But it is not a courage that comes from the Lord. I am reminded of what the Lord said to Joshua as he took command of Israel after the death of Moses:
"Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go" (Joshua 1:7).
It takes courage to swim upstream with the Lord when the world entices you to go with the flow.
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