Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society

by Jay Bakker with Martin Edlund
New York, Faith Words, 2011
205 pages     Spiritual

The question I asked myself when I began reading Fall to Grace by Jay Bakker was: “What can an 68-year-old theological school trained liberal Christian learn about grace from a punked-out thirty something alternative preacher?” The answer is: “A lot!”

Fall to Grace is a study of the Apostle Paul’s book of Galatians. With paraphrased scripture and real-life examples, Jay Bakker makes the case that the message of the New Testament is a message of extravagant grace—grace so overwhelming that it is there for the grasping by anyone. He tells his readers that grace is revolutionary. Instead of an unwinnable game, “Christ presents us with a game we can’t lose.”

After a brief introduction in which Bakker establishes his credibility as the “fallen” son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, themselves fallen televangelists, he weaves a narrative of revolutionary grace: first the revolutionary grace that changed the course of Paul’s life, the revolutionary grace that changed the course of Jay Bakker, the revolution that comes to the self when grace takes over, and then the revolution that comes to society.

One of his key concepts is that of “grace plus.” He believes that many Christians understand in a limited way the concept of grace, but they are unable to accept it for themselves and others around them without adding a plus to it—and that plus is something else that you have to do in order to be fully accepted by the God who is doling out the grace. “Grace Plus argues that we’re truly saved only if ‘little rules’ are tagged onto the end of receiving grace. This works in subtle and dangerous ways. We don’t talk about circumcision or clean foods in the church anymore, but we do make new rules, just as arbitrary that are used to determine our damnation or salvation.” He says that every generation writes their own version of this and make up new rules to be obeyed, new rules to frighten, and new rules by which to judge others.

One of my favorite concepts is what Bakker calls gossiping about God. He says: “We gossip about God in all sorts of ways. When we tell people that they have to wear the right clothes to church, or listen to the right music, or not see certain movies to be a good Christian, we make God petty and small. When we say that he favors one group of people over another, we make God mean and heartless. When we take it upon ourselves to use God’s judgment to intimidate someone else, we abuse God’s good name."
Bakker feels that once a person accepts the radical grace that is extended from God to everyone, nothing is ever the same. The individual looks at him/herself in a totally different light and looks at those who surround him/her with the same glow of God-induced love and acceptance. This is the message of Galatians and Paul’s message to the world. Accepting God’s grace means looking with new eyes at the world and the people in it.

This is not a new message, but with Bakker’s candid, fresh take on the scripture, it becomes profoundly new once again. It is direct, unvarnished, unwavering. And when Bakker says God’s grace is for all, he truly means “for all.”

I was totally taken aback when I was reading other reviews about Fall to Grace and I came upon a review that condemned the book and Bakker because of his acceptance of GLBT persons as equally worthy of God’s grace. I had to say, “Wait a minute!” Did the reviewer even read this book? Did he even read about “Grace Plus?” Did he even read the stories about grace at work in the lives of families of homosexual young people? Did he even read the Biblical references?

I am the mother of a gay man. At the point that I realized my son was gay, I had to tell myself and those around me that this son was no different than my other son; that this son was conceived and born with the same love, baptized in the same church, raised in the same Christian home. Why would my gay son be outside the grace of God? No arbitrary rule, no judgmental someone, or no legalistic doctrine was ever going to separate my son from God’s love and grace. NO ONE!

This is the message of Jay Bakker’s concept of grace. It is powerful and true, and I was blessed to be reminded of it once again.

Here is a lovely review of the Fall to Grace by a fellow blogger:

Jay Bakker’s New York Revolution Church website: Watch the video from Yale Divinity School.

Jay Bakker was the subject of a six-part Sundance Channel documentary called: One Punk Under God. It is available on Netflix. 


Elisabeth Hirsch said...

What a neat sounding book. Very thought-provoking!

Elizabeth said...

I have this book too....I need to get it out of the stack...thanks.

Just stopping by to say hello and to take a look around. Love your picture at the top. :)

I am having a Father's Day giveaway on my blog if you would like to stop by.

Hope you can visit.