Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fall to Grace - A Revolution of God, Self, and Society Review

This is a difficult book to review.  Mostly I think because it wasn't written for me.   I'm middle aged and I didn't grow up in a judgmental religious atmosphere that turned me off religion.  Which is probably why people like me need to read this book.  But probably not for the purpose Bakker intends.  He wants to tell Christians who have never really gotten grace about grace.  He's preaching to the choir as far as I'm concerned.  But in this book is a glimpse of the pain and confusion of many many so-called Christians who really don't have a clue what the Gospel is really about.

If you are my age, you will remember his parents Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.  I think I was probably most touched by the few times in the book he reveals a window into what it was like to be a kid in that circus.  Early in the book he says this about them:

My parents weren't fire and brimstone types, not by any means (They signed off every episode of their show with the catchphrase "God loves you.  He really really does.") But they did subscribe to the standard-issue Southern evangelical beliefs of the day.  Heaven and hell were the carrot and the stick of our faith.  Either you followed the rules or you went straight to H-E-double-hockey-sticks

And yet later in the book he tells of his mother gently leading him to love and acceptance when he discovers at 13 his friend his gay.  I was also shocked to learn that there's a segment of the gay community who LOVED Tammy Faye and it wasn't (as Jay and I supposed) because of her eyelashes and make up --they saw grace in her.

I think also the difficulty I had with the book is that he convicted me.  Oh I know all about grace.  I'm not judgmental. I'm all for full inclusion of LGTB people in the church.   But you know, until I read this book, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker were a joke to me.  It never occurred to me that maybe they and Ted Haggard could us a little grace and forgiveness.  He writes very sympathetically of Tedd Haggard:

What he needed was restoration.  What he got was a one-way bus ticket across the state line.  That's right--he was exiled, run out of town.  His church board literally required him to leave the state in exchange for a severance package (what is this, the Wild West ? This town aint big enough for both of us..) Where's the grace in that?

Where indeed?   Of course to show grace to Tedd Haggard, they'd have to preach a whole different gospel, which is of course, the point.

I wished there was more of the personal from him in this book but perhaps that's just voyeurism speaking.  I was a little impatient with his biblical exegesis because, well I've read better scholars on the subject.  But again this book isn't for me, it's for people who don't read the scholars I read.

I think people need to read this book.  Because the truth is, it's become more and more clear to me there are still a LOT of so-called Christians who really don't have a clue what grace is. They don't know how to show it and they don't know how to receive it.  I have a disturbing suspicion that Jay Bakker and his gang with his church in a bar is much more on the front lines of mission work than I am.  But people in the pews in Iowa need to hear the Gospel as well.  So whether it's a tribe in the Amazon, a bar in New York or a country church in Iowa, we all serve where we are called.  We may get excited about the work in the Amazon but we need to hear about what's going on in the bar in New York as well.


  1. I also found the bond between Tammy Faye and the gay community unusual, but heartening. Perhaps the gay community saw grace in her, too.

  2. makes me want to read the book, too. because, grace is what we've got.

  3. I haven't read the book, but am longing to - I got involved in the kind of Christianity that knows nothing of grace, many years ago, and not only did it nearly kill me, but it caused me not to be able to answer my call to preach for nearly 25 years! Thank God, and I mean it, that He is so much greater than Christianity!