An Apostle to the Hip

I admit that I am not the most up-to-the-minute, in-touch, cutting-edge sort of guy these days. We haven't had cable TV at home for 10 years. We've given away two satellite dishes that came with our houses. And high-speed Internet still hasn't reached my hilltop. For instance, I know that the Sundance Channel for independent film exists, but I've never actually seen it. So when I turned on the car radio in the middle of a World Café interview with someone named "Jay Baker," I searched my brain to find an association with the name.

Whoever he was, this Jay fellow was being interviewed about his version of Christianity and the music that helped inspire it. And he had really good musical taste. At his request, Café host David Dye spun "I Do Believe" by Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash's recording of "Sunday Morning Coming Down," and Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me?" He could have been rifling through my very own vinyl. And this Jay's theology sounded like we even read the same Bible (except maybe for Sirach and Maccabees and all that). Still I couldn't peg the guy. I kept thinking "Jay Baker" and getting some weird combination of The Jayhawks (a roots-rock band) and Lee Baker (a legendary Memphis guitar player, who happens to be dead).

Then, a couple of weeks later, there he was again, in one of my other windows on the world, the celebrity gossip page of that magazine that comes with the Sunday paper. And it all clicked. The guy's name was Bakker—as in disgraced televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye. Now, like the rest of America, I had some rethinking to do about that infamous family.

Turns out Jim and Tammy's little boy grew up to get lots of tattoos and body piercings, lead a "come-as-you-are" storefront church for post-punkers, and become the subject of One Punk Under God, a six-part documentary series on Sundance. The series ran in December and January and made 31-year-old Jay a celebrity in his own right.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2007
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