Most likely if you agree with Jay Bakker on the full acceptance of gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and trans-gendered persons, then you don’t read the Bible that much. Now, before you get your undies in a bunch, take a long, deep breath. It’s true that evangelicals read the Bible a lot less than they claim to — Robert Wuthnow’s study of small group Bible studies showed that most spend only about 10 minutes actually studying the Bible.
But that’s still more than most liberals spend reading the Bible.
Yes, there will be lots of comments below protesting that liberals take our sacred text more seriously than do conservatives. In theory, yes, I get it. But in practice, a lot of liberals struggle with the Bible in all of its unenlightened, misogynistic, patriarchal, God-of-wrath glory. Count me in this posse.
But don’t count in Jay Bakker. I’ve seen Jay’s Bible close up, and it’s the tattered, dog-eared, highlighted tome of a Bible-thumping evangelical preacher. When I first met him, about five years ago, I wondered if he’d ever read any book other than the Bible.
In Jay’s new book, his love of the Bible is evident. The Bible is Jay’s subject matter in this book, and in every sermon I’ve ever heard him give. And his take-away, at least at this point in his journey, is that the Bible’s main message is one of grace.
“Grace” is one of those funny words in Christianity in that it can seem to take on almost opposite definitions to persons on either end of the theological spectrum. For instance, one of the most judgmental, legalistic churches I know is called Grace Church. Of course, they believe that their version of the gospel which keeps women out of the pulpit and practicing gays out of the church is a message of grace. And I humbly disagree.
What I love most about Jay and his new book is that he recovers the word “grace” for those of us who heartily believe that the church is and should be open to all. He doesn’t do this by tap dancing around the Bible, nor does he do theological gymnastics to avoid the ugliness in our sacred text. Jay goes head first into the Bible, wrestles it with Jacobian tenacity, and comes out with a message about grace that stands as a challenge to both liberal and conservative Christians. It’s my hope that Fall to Grace gets a gains a wide readership and sparks conversation across the landscape of American Protestantism about what the gospel is really all about.
For more resources on Jay Bakker’s new book Fall To Grace, visit the Patheos Book Club.