This month in the Patheos Book Club, we're discussing Jay Bakker's new book, Fall to Grace.  Read an excerpt from the book here, then check out the Discussion Questions and join the discussion on "revolutionizing grace" at the  Take & Read Book Club  blog here.

  

Chapter 1

Free-Fallin'

We are punished by our sins, not for them.

-Elbert Hubbard

You know you've reached a new level of fame in Ameri­can culture (or infamy) when there's a casting call to play you in a movie.

In my case, it was a second-rate made-for-TV movie called Fall from Grace, starring Kevin Spacey as my dad and Bernadette Peters-face painted like the side of a barn-as my mom. Somewhere in Hollywood a bunch of chubby white kids lined up, hoping to get their big break playing the part of little Jamie Charles Bakker, son of disgraced tele­vangelists Jim and Tammy Faye.

What those other kids might not have realized was that being the son of the picture-perfect Christian family was a role for me too. Twice a week I would don a child-sized suit, tame my cowlick, and brandish my jack-o'-lantern grin for an audience of millions on my parents' Praise the Lord (PTL) television ministry.

The network's supporters were my extended family. All through grade school, my yearbook picture (no matter how humiliating) was mailed to six hundred thousand PTL faith­ful around the world. They knew of my birth even before my dad did. He was on the air preaching when the pro­ducers flashed the words "It's a boy! It's a boy!" across the bottom of the screen like a severe-weather warning. On De­cember 18, 1975, Hurricane Jay made landfall.

For those readers who don't know my family story, or have assigned those memories to the junk pile of 1980s trivia, let me lay a little groundwork here. It's not that I take pleasure in retreading this territory (believe me, I don't). But I do think it's important that you understand what I've lived through to learn grace.

My family set the standard for televised crack-ups. Be­fore O.J. on the interstate, before Michael Jackson dangled babies over balconies, before Britney went all bald and strange, there was the Jim and Tammy Faye "mascara melt­down." But prior to being pariahs my parents were pop-culture pioneers. They were the first people to bring down-home, family-friendly Christian worship into Amer­ica's living rooms through television. They paved the way for the best-selling mega-church stars of today. For good or ill, it all started with my mom and dad.

And it all started humbly enough. In 1964, my parents made their first appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network, the station of future Christian television mogul Pat Robertson. They debuted with a kids' show featuring handmade puppets: Susie Moppet (a Porky Pig bubble-bath cap refashioned with braids, voiced by my mom) and Allie the Alligator (a leopard-print sock with teeth, voiced by Dad) would sing Christian songs and explain God's Word.