“Politics have become what side you’re on, rather than what’s important.” An interview with Jay Bakker, head of the Revolution Church, revealing his thoughts concerning homosexuality and the church, the future of Christianity, the situation at the U.S. border, and President Trump…
by: Taylor Burnfield
Jamie Charles “Jay” Bakker is an American pastor, author and speaker. He is the son of televangelists Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner. During his young adult years Bakker became disillusioned with mainstream Christianity, becoming particularly critical of Christian fundamentalism and the Christian right. He has pastored the Revolution Church in Minneapolis since 1994. Revolution is a progressive take on Christianity. Their church description reads: “Revolution strives to provide an all-inclusive space where transparency, honesty, hope, and doubt are welcomed and encouraged.” The majority of Revolution Church members are online, although a physical church exists. The church meets every Sunday within a Minneapolis bowling alley.
I recently interviewed Jay Bakker and during our discussion we conversed about the future of Christianity, the crisis at the U.S. border, and President Trump.
T.B.: Do you think people have misconceptions about what it means to be a Christian?
J.B.: Yeah, on the right and the left…The past recent years Christianity has been represented by Conservatives and by Republican ideals and things like that, of course that’s not the Christianity that I understand…I think it’s even misunderstood by people who leave the faith sometimes, because a lot of times I talk to people who are like, “I’m just done with it because of A, B, C or D” and I’m like, “Well I never believed in that either”.
T.B.: When did you first announce that you were a gay-affirming pastor and what were people’s reactions?
J.B.: That was fifteen or sixteen years ago. We were doing well, we had a staff of about seven or eight people and we had regular donors. I was speaking all over the country and I announced that I was gay-affirming and within 24-48 hours all my speaking engagements were cancelled and within two months I had to let the whole staff go because the support just dropped off. People didn’t seem to be ready for it…I didn’t think gay marriage would happen for twenty years but it did happen.
T.B.: Do you think there will still be a place for Christianity within the next ten years?
J.B.: I think there will be a place for faith, it will always be there, I don’t think it will always be as strong as it was. I think [Christianity] is still relevant, I think people just want a spiritual connection for answers, it will always be there and I think loving your enemy, doing good to those who persecute you, those types of concepts are really beautiful and it might be Christianity void from church or void from the name, but I think it will always have a place.
T.B.: Why do you think the majority of Revolution Church members are online?
J.B.: A lot of people feel uncomfortable in church, it’s an old model…when you get that many people together and you have people saying, “This is how you should think” people don’t want that, people want a place where they can wrestle with their faith. And unfortunately, a lot of churches right now don’t offer that…People see evangelicals supporting Donald Trump and they’re like, “How is this Christianity?”…so they seek out alternatives and a lot of these people don’t have those alternatives in their town so they listen online.
T.B.: Do you worry that Trump could threaten LGBT rights?
J.B.: I don’t think Trump really cares about that to be honest with you. I think maybe what he’s done with transgender folks in the military is pretty crappy. Maybe if he’s in for another four years he’s a threat, but I don’t see him as a threat right now. Right now I see him as more of a threat towards these kids who are in cages.
T.B.: How do think Christians could become more involved with the crisis at the border?
J.B.: Conservative Christians and Liberal Christians should be coming together and working on a way to solve this. I’ve been tweeting about it and talking about it in sermons, and it’s strange because I end up arguing with both sides. Politics have become what side you’re on, rather than what’s important…I like some of the work that Shane Claiborne is doing right now, I really feel like he’s worked hard to reach out to Conservatives.
T.B.: What is your favorite Bible verse if you had to choose just one?
J.B.: Corinthians 13: 4-7…“Love never gives up, never loses faith.” You hear it at weddings all the time. I think it would be really amazing way to live.
T.B: What is the most valuable lesson that you learned from your mother, Tammy Faye Bakker?
J.B.: Always love people no matter what and never give up. She was just always a fighter and never gave up. She passed away from cancer, but she never gave up that fight. Up until the last day of her life she did an interview with Larry King. She never fit in anybody’s category, she just always walked with love.