The room is dark, illuminated only by the glow of black lights andlava lamps. Posters of skulls and crossbones hang on the front wall.Teenagers and 20-somethings sit in mismatched chairs. Most are dressed in black from head to toe--a collective statement of millennialcounterculture. One wears black lipstick and matching eye shadow. Anothersports a dark brown lightning bolt down the middle of dyed-whitehair. Tattoos adorn knuckles, forearms, ankles, and necks. Some of the body artproclaims a love for Christ; other pieces assert an affinity to Satan orshowcase naked women.
Welcome to Bible study with Jay Bakker.
More than a decade has passed since the demise of Jim and Tammy Bakker'sGospel dynasty. But their tattooed, pierced, 24-year-old son now has his ownministry, appropriately named Revolution.
Christian punk and hard-rock concerts? Skateboarding shows? Goths who looklike your basic Marilyn Manson crowd?
That's Revolution--and it's not for everyone. It's not supposed to be. Theministry is attracting droves of Goths, punks and modern-day hippies who areopen to Jesus but turned off by traditional Christianity.But it's not the eclectic tapestry of counterculture chic that makesBakker's Revolution so revolutionary--it's his ability to touch the hearts ofyouth with Christ's message of hope and love.
At a recent gathering, Bakker stood before more than 30 teens and20-somethings and opened the meeting with prayer. He then pointed to anarticle about the Pokemon craze.
"What do you guys think when you see Christians saying Pokemon is of thedevil?" he asks. He drops the magazine on the table beside him. "When I wasa kid, every toy I had, some Christian thought was of the devil. I rememberburning all my He-Man toys because I was scared to death that demons weregoing to jump out of them and into me."
After a pause, he continues: "Don't Christians have somethingbetter to do than this?"
A torrent of response follows from the crowd. And that's just what Bakker isafter. His brusque question is intended to evoke lively debate.Many of the young participants share their thoughts aboutthe Pokemon phenomenon. One points out that the same people who createdDungeons and Dragons invented the Pokemon cards. Another brings up the factthat the creatures use occult powers to fight their battles.
As the discussion progresses to other topics, it's obvious they havebalanced, thoughtful opinions and are deeply concerned about issuesaffecting the world. Bakker concludes the evening with a brief study fromthe Book of Philippians, freely speaking of his own past hurts as he applies the Gospel message to everyday life.
Bakker was once the pampered son of a living legend. But when his familyfell from favor, he became a high school dropout, a drug addict, and analcoholic.
"Paul talks about having joy that never leaves you--and I remember how hardthat was for me," Bakker said. "I started drinking the night my father wassent to prison. Years later, I was trying to find my way back to Christ. I'd sneak into a church and sit in the back, my heart aching. Then thepreacher would start to take the offering, and he'd make some joke about'not doing a Jim and Tammy.' It was hard to have joy in my life during thattime."
An Outcast for the Lord
Jamie Charles Bakker--later known as Jay--was practically born on Christiantelevision at the beginning of PTL's glory days. Viewers were allowedunfettered access into the Bakkers' personal lives. When Tammy announced shewas pregnant, viewers eagerly tuned in every step of the way.Tammy went into the hospital to have the baby while Jim was broadcasting alive episode of the PTL Club. Jim fully intended to make it to the hospitalin time for the delivery. He didn't.
As the program closed, cameramen held up a poster board announcing, "It's aboy!" It was the perfect illustration of a family thrown off balance by thepressures of ministry.
Although Jim was driven to build more, do more, and reach more, his wife,Tammy, had a love-hate relationship with the ministry, enjoying its perksbut resenting the fact that each new project overshadowed their family life.In the midst of the turmoil was Jay. From the young boy's point of view, hisdad ruled the world--and the world was Heritage USA.
"I started drinking when I was 13," Bakker recalls. "For years I tried toease my pain with drugs and alcohol, but I always knew the Lord was there;He loved me."
Bakker had a serious reading disability and struggled with every aspect ofschool. After the early years of privilege at Heritage USA, the young manwas suddenly facing ridicule from schoolmates. He and Tammy Faye movedfrequently, and he attended schools in North Carolina, Florida, California,and Tennessee.