Jay Bakker has seemingly been on a journey of faith his entire life. In his youth, he watched his father, televangelist Jim Bakker, fall from grace after a national scandal. Now as the co-founder of Revolution Church ministries and host of the “This is Radio Cast” podcast, Bakker is traveling to spread a progressive Christian message of acceptance of the LGBT community.
Bakker will be at Babeville on Thursday as part of the “Loosen the Bible Belt” tour, a variety show that includes comedy from Kristen Becker and music from Sarah Rose Marie and the Heavenly Chillbillies.
“I’m the only pastor and Christian on the bill, I think, so it’s just a plea for equality from a bunch of folks from different backgrounds who believe that LGBT folks should be treated like everybody else,” Bakker said. “Let’s just get us in the same room and realize that we can have a good time and work for a greater good together.”
Teaming up with Becker, a former Buffalo comedian who developed the show, offers Bakker a chance to speak to audiences who may not attend church services or call themselves religious.
“I believe some of the best truth-tellers of our time are comedians,” Bakker said. “Sometimes it’s the only way we can face our demons and uncomfortable situations if we’re able to laugh together and realize we’re not alone. I get to give my little pitch, and it’s great to be around comedians, because I don’t have to be funny. If I am, it’s just a plus.”
While LGBT rights have progressed over recent years, many supporters ostracized Bakker a decade ago when he initially began preaching acceptance of gay individuals. Nowadays, he said the response to his message and the “Loosen the Bible Belt” tour is very positive.
“In a lot of the Christian churches who are digging in their heels, there may not be any changes,” Bakker said. “But there are also some churches that are coming along slowly and changing with the times. If you look at the Bible, Christianity evolved that way. You see inclusion happen over time, and that’s what it was meant to do.”
During the first leg of the tour last fall, Bakker said the number of LGBT people who talked to him about their pain caused by their religious communities surprised him. The shows have introduced Bakker to new audiences, and to many in the audience, they are introduced to a unique spiritual message.
“People have always said, ‘Oh, you speak to people most Christians would never speak to,’ and I never necessarily believe that was true until I did this tour,” he said. “Now I’m definitely in a different place and outnumbered, but everybody’s friendly, so that’s the good part.”
After watching his family endure major scandals and embarrassment in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Bakker learned from those experiences as he watches people today use social media, many times in a not good way.
“There’s just so much shaming going on online,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons why I sometimes want to quit social media. We’ve got to learn to be kinder. If I’ve learned anything, that’s it.”