It’s not every day that the son or daughter of a once famous, or in this case infamous, pair of Evangelical preachers writes a book about grace. Quite frankly I was very skeptical reading this book at first. I mean, really, what can Jay Bakker, a onetime drunk and drug user, who also happens to be the son of Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker tell me about grace, let alone the Bible, theology, and contemporary Church culture? I was surprised. Apparently, Jay Bakker has been to hell in back and through keep constant connections with friends and loved ones, as well as through the Church, Jay is a survivor. He survived to write this book. He survived to tell his story. His story is about grace.
Perhaps many of Bakker’s younger readers, those in generation Y, may not be that familiar with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. They were very famous television evangelists in the mid-1980’s; most noteworthy perhaps was Jim’s white pasty face which seemed to always glisten with sweat and Tammy Faye whose makeup and poufy hair were the brunt of many a Saturday Night Live skit. The Bakkers eventually established PTL Ministries, a shorthand for Praise the Lord, whose headquarters were located in Fort Mill, SC just a few miles south of Charlotte off of 1-77. From the PTL ministries they also created Heritage USA a Christian focused theme park. A series of major scandals with the Bakkers including fraud and other money issues Heritage was closed as well as their PTL TV ministries. Poor Jay was left holding the bag so to speak. I have read my share of memoirs and autobiography written by children of clergy, most noteworthy Darcey Steinke’s heart wrenching book Easter Everywhere. Living under the limelight, always being the “son of” Pastor X or Y, as well as living among the glitz and glammour must have been extremely damaging to Jay. However, he survived. Not many people do. His new book, Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self, and Society is his testimony that life in Christ is possible, if we just have the guts to reach out and take it.
This book is for anyone who is interested in real-life application of Scripture. It has been my experience in parish ministry that too many people think that the Biblical texts are “nice ideas” or shed some light on “antiquity and the ancient world” but other than that, the Bible has no relevance today. Bakker’s response is “phewy!” Bakker weaves personal narrative as well as a collection of narratives of friends and people who he has met. We meet young adults who are struggling with power and control issues, others who are questioning their sexual identity, and others questioning Jesus and the Church. Being a Christian is not easy and we cannot certainly live out our life alone, we need help. Bakker reminds us that our job as disciples is first and foremost to receive the grace of Jesus, to learn to forgive ourselves and be forgiven, to love ourselves and be loved, to be merciful and to receive mercy. Many Christians are good on the“doing” part but very bad on the “receiving part.” Fall to Grace reminds us that we cannot earn grace, it is a gracious gift given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. As a gift we learn to cherish it, relish it, and share it as we walk the walk of faith with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.