Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The New Christianity Meets the Liberal Media

Jay Bakker, whose name I shall follow with the obligatory "son of Jim and Tammy Faye," gets an excellent profile in this week's New York Magazine.
Image: Kenneth Cole via Killing the Buddha
 I've mentioned Jay before on God Spam -- he's the founder and New York City pastor of Revolution, a church that seeks to embrace individuals (mainly the young, liberal, counter-cultural variety) who feel rejected by traditional Christianity. Here's how writer Alex Morris sums up Bakker's unexpected ministry:

But as I’m sitting there, close to the back and beer in hand [note: Revolution NYC meets at a bar], it occurs to me that maybe the opposite of faith isn’t doubt. Maybe the opposite of faith is certainty, a comforting belief in your own rightness. To a greater degree than most Evangelicals may care to admit, Jay Bakker’s open-armed ministry is an extension of what his parents created. Jim and Tammy Faye were much more tolerant than other televangelists; in 1986, Tammy Faye famously interviewed a gay minister who had been diagnosed with AIDS. But theirs was a theology of aspiration—believing is easy, and believing leads to success—and it didn’t encourage its followers to doubt their faith or themselves. This, it seems to me, is what Jay is offering: a Christianity that allows for, and is even sustained by, failure.

I'm going to repeat that last line, because I love it: "A Christianity that allows for, and is even sustained by, failure."
Promotional image from Revolution NYC

An interesting detail: Morris refers to Bakker as part of the Emergent movement. I'm not surprised that he says Bakker won't use the term himself; among Evangelicals (of whom Jay, however liberal, is one), "emergent" is considered a sort of half-boast, half-pejorative, like "hipster."* Be that as it may, this is the first time I've seen the emerging church given attention in a major New York City-based publication. I've been wondering when the Emergent movement would start making its way over to the East Coast, and this could be the first harbinger.

* I don't know why this is, exactly, although there's a certain teen-like brattiness that can come with the rejection of the mainstream church. For example, Emergent Church icon Tony Jones once told me in so many words that my lovely Brooklyn church is doomed, because we follow the Presbyterian bylaws and meet in a historic church building. 

**  And yes, if were wondering, "liberal media" in the headline is indeed supposed to be tongue-in-cheek; I have two (non-religion-related) articles in the same issue of the magazine.


The Preacher's Kid said...

This is so interesting.

As a former Christian I've met many people still in the church who talk about accepting people where they're at and loving them for who they are. At first.

One is expected to conform to the norms of mainstream Christianity more and more over time, though.

I really hope Jay's approach becomes more popular over time. I'd still be agnostic, but his interpretation of the Judeo-Christian God is someone I would be interested in hearing more about.

Paolo said...

Thanks for linking this up. Please stay in touch!

- Paolo
Revolution NYC

tony said...

Did I say "doomed"? I'm sure I meant to be nicer about it...

Gwynne Watkins said...

Hi Tony Jones!
You said what you meant, so I give you due respect for that. This was at Cornerstone a couple years ago; I was asking you about the future of mainstream denominations, and I was just hoping to hear something less, um, apocalyptic. But that aside, I really did get a lot out of your seminars on the Emerging Church. Hopefully we'll get a chance to discuss the topic again sometime. You know, so you can predict my church's demise in more detail. ;-)

Gwynne Watkins said...

Thanks for reading, Paolo! I swear I'll actually stop by Revolution NYC sometime.