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Son of a Preacher Man: My Search for Grace in the Shadows
Jay Bakker with Linden Gross
HarperSanFrancisco, 224 pages, $23

How could Jay Bakker, the chubby-faced cherub on his parents' PTL television show, become the tattoo-bedecked man on the cover of Son of a Preacher Man? And how could this young man have survived the national humiliation of a religious scandal that he did not cause?

The story Bakker tells is a sobering warning about the deep wounds Christians can inflict by shunning our fellow believers who fall into sin.

Bakker was a mere 12 years old when scandal sent his father's PTL empire into a meltdown. Both his parents, already the subjects of widespread mockery, became pop-culture icons of the supposedly universal hypocrisy among TV evangelists.

What does a 12-year-old boy do in such soul-crushing circumstances? In Bakker's case, the boy becomes an addict for several years, eventually embraces Christianity as his own, develops a street ministry to other shell-shocked young people, and still walks with emotional and spiritual wounds that do not appear thoroughly healed.

More than once, young Bakker sits in congregations anonymously and hears Christian leaders make cheap jokes about his parents. "Don't worry," Bakker quotes one smiling youth pastor telling his charges. "I'm not going to pull a Jim and Tammy Bakker on you and try to steal all your money." Bakker confronts the pastor afterward, only to be hurt more: "He never even apologized, which only reinforced my feeling that the church had completely rejected my family and turned its back on us."

Bakker describes his fury on learning that his imprisoned father planned to meet with Jerry Falwell in an effort at reconciliation. "This was the man who destroyed my father, ...

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In the Magazine

January 8, 2001

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