The following is an excerpt from Jay Bakker's new book Son of a Preacher Man: My Search for Grace in the Shadows. Bakker is the son of the scandal-ridden televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
The Keys To the Kingdom
If anyone had an excuse to lose faith in God, it would've been me. I'd been beaten up so often by traditional religion that turning away from God, as so many others my age did, would have been the most natural reaction.
I started life on Christian television. You would think that, based on my family, some of the most influential Christians in the world, I would have led an exemplary life. As it turns out, I wasn't so different from other pastors' kids, who are notoriously rebellious. After all, we have pretty high expectations to rebel against.
The gospel my father preached and my mother stood for is often flattened out by others to one of material riches. I hate that. My parents' real message was always about prosperity of the soul: charity, love, forgiveness, and respect for others. Unlike so many other ministers, they believed that only God had the right to judge. But I lived life in the shadows of that ideal.
Yes, my family did things wrong. And so did 1. It would be a long time before we would get back to the light. In the shadows where we walked, I would see many dark things and meet many dark people. Along with my family, I experienced the dark side of a Christian message that no one should ever have to endure. I lived through the dark side of my parents' marriage, which ultimately did not stand the test of time or hardship. And I dove headlong into the dark side of myself.
Considering how my life began twenty-five years ago, on December 18, 1975, that's a far cry from how things were supposed to play out. The doctors had told my parents that my mother would be in labor with me for at least eighteen hours. So my dad, per my mom's wishes, went ahead as usual with his TV ministry show. But when the doctor was forced to perform a cesarean and cut me right out of my mom's belly, Dad was still on camera. As soon as the program directors got word that I'd been born, they flashed "It's a boy! It's a boy! It's a boy!" across the screen. I think the TV audience knew I'd arrived before my dad did.
Having millions of television viewers share my life would be the norm for me for the next eleven years, for I was basically born into the premier family of a megamedia church. I was required to appear on TV with my parents every Sunday for church services, every holiday, and anywhere from twice a month to five times a week on top of that.
It was an amazing time in Christian America. My father was at the forefront of a group of men and women who forever changed how Christ's message was received. He, like Oral Roberts, Robert Schuller, and Billy Graham, among others, found a way to broadcast sermons to millions from coast to coast. And in the process, people began to look for him for guidance. In short, our lives revolved around my parents' television ministry, called PTL, which stood for, "Praise the Lord."
I guess we were supposed to be the perfect Christian family. But even though my parents openly discussed some of our problems on camera, things weren't really what you'd think.