Magazine article The New Yorker

HIP FOR HIM; SECOND GENERATION DEPT.; SECOND GENERATION DEPT. Series: 5/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

HIP FOR HIM; SECOND GENERATION DEPT.; SECOND GENERATION DEPT. Series: 5/5

Article excerpt

Pete's Candy Store, the popular Williamsburg bar, opened at 4 P.M., an hour early, for a church service one recent Sunday. Pete's is known for its retro-chic entertainment--bingo, spelling bees, neo-vaudeville--but this was its first sermon, just as it was the first sermon that Pastor Jay Bakker, of the Revolution Church, had given since leaving his congregation, in Atlanta, to start a new branch in Brooklyn. "I enjoy hanging out in bars," Bakker said. "I've been sober for almost eleven years now, but there's just something about a bar."

The thirty-year-old preacher pulled a stool onto a small, theatrically lit stage and opened a Bible to Romans 3:20. "For no one can ever be made right in God's sight by doing what his law commands," he read. "For the more we know God's law, the clearer it becomes that we aren't obeying it." Like many new residents of Williamsburg, Bakker looked as though he belonged nowhere else. The cuffs of his dark-blue Diesel jeans were rolled up precisely three inches. His T-shirt--a cigarette-smoking skull wearing an aviator's helmet, beneath the words "It's only a matter of time"--was both ominous and obscure. Intricate tattoos covered both his arms. His boyish face was framed by chunky black Ray-Bans and topped with a gray Izod cap. His lip appeared to be stapled.

From the stage, he spoke conversationally, with a pleasant Southern accent. "The vision of Revolution has always been to love people and care about people and just be friends with people," he said. He talked a little about visiting his mother, Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, who is dying of cancer in a hospice. "I feel it's really important for me to share my inner life with you. I want to be transparent. Because, growing up in the church, I never saw a lot of transparency." He went on, "I felt guilty all the time. I thought God hated me. And for a while I didn't want anything to do with him. And now I know God loves me. He's crazy about me." As if sensing that he was approaching a dangerous level of earnestness, Bakker reached quickly for a self-mocking, doofus voice: "Jesus is really quite fond of me." And then the voice of Sally Field: "He likes me! He really likes me!"

The twelve young men and women who had come to Pete's to hear Bakker's sermon were evangelicals, Episcopalians, and Catholics, and they came from Williamsburg, Lefferts Gardens, Morningside Heights, and the Bronx. …

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