Part two of my conversation with Jay Bakker about his book Faith, Doubt an Other Lines I’ve Crossed: Walking with an Unknown God. Today we discuss love, doubt, homosexuality, his mother‘s influence on his ministry, and how he’s actually a lot like Batman.
JSJ: You start off the book talking about how for thousands of years, people have been appropriating God for their own agenda, whether it’s Conservatives saying that He’s anti-gay or slave owners saying that He’s pro-slavery or Republicans thinking he has a Republican agenda. But YOUR God, the way you seem to relate to Him, seems pretty laissez-faire. He doesn’t care about your politics or your sexuality, which is lovely, and a bit of a relief, but I’m wondering: Aren’t you just sort of ascribing to Him what YOU want Him to be? Aren’t you doing the same thing everybody else has been doing for thousands of years, just in a nicer way?
JAY BAKKER: Well, for me it’s like I don’t see God as a person, or even a gender. I don’t think God’s a man living in the sky. For me, God is beyond my understanding, and greater than my own understanding.
JSJ: But then how can you preach that “This is the way of God” – how can you preach your understanding of Him? And how can you write a book about your understanding of Him?
JAY BAKKER: Right, yeah, well, how do I do it is by studying and reading the books of the Bible and seeing who God is and what God represents and working the idea of that. And it’s true, we usually give our own attributes to God. My idea is, though, that there is a God. And God must be so much more than we can imagine. And He may exist out of actually existence, you know. Sometimes I wonder about atheists, if maybe they figured it out, that God is outside of existence in a way.
JSJ: But if God is – as you say in the title of your book – an unknowable God, then he must also be an un-understanderable God. Is that a word? I’m making it into a word. He’s un-understanderable and how dare ANY of us have the hubris to think that we can break it down, or explain, or preach, about who He is?
JAY BAKKER: Well, we get a glimpse, you know. And I see what you’re saying and I agree with you. I think we’ve taken it and tried to tell everybody else how to live rather than learning it and using it for ourselves. But what did Jesus say when He was asked what’s the most important commandments? “Love your neighbor as yourself and God with all your heart.” And Jesus, before He died, told His disciples, “I want you to love each other ’cause you’ll be known for your love for one another.” So I feel like we got a glimpse of what God is, a glimpse of something supernatural. And that glimpse’s ultimate concern was love and inclusion.
JSJ: And I think you say in the book that maybe God isn’t in the word or the deeds that we do, but in the love that we have.
JAY BAKKER: Yes, love is infinite, God is infinite, and we’re finite, But when we practice love – if you’re a good friend or a good parent or something like that – and you pass down love, there’s something about that that makes you wanna love others. And so there’s something very infinite and beautiful about love. You know, in the book of John it says God is love. There’s an idea in the Bible of a God of grace, of love, of loving thy enemy. I think a prime example would be Martin Luther King Jr. I think he got it. He wasn’t perfect but he got it. And that’s what I want. And that’s what I hope for. And for me, it’s not necessarily, you know, does God exist or not exist? For me, it’s like when you’re in love, when you’re really in love, and it’s hard to see anything bad, you know? When you first get the fuzzies and everything’s just illuminated. But when you’re down and you don’t have that or you lose that, then nothing looks good – ice cream looks disgusting – and that’s doubt. And so, in a way, I feel like following Christ for me is a mode of being, and it lightens, and it shines. It brings the beauty to things around me.
JSJ: You talk a lot in the book about doubting and about how the doubting restored your faith. I’m not sure I quite get that because to me, doubting is a little bullshit detector that’s saying ding-ding-ding. It’s that first sign that something is wrong and maybe we need to investigate further, or try another tack because what we’re doing isn’t working. So I guess I’m wondering what it was in you that, when you started doubting, it brought you back, instead of leading you further away from your faith?