The Hipstervangelist

Photo: Todd Selby for New York Magazine

When Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s multi-million-dollar Praise the Lord empire went bust, their only son, Jay, had a splintery cross to bear. With his father in prison, Jay quickly gave up on Jesus and turned to drink. Then, in 1994, he co-founded Revolution, a church “for those who feel rejected by religion.” Last month, the 30-year-old moved from Atlanta to Williamsburg, where he’s holding services at Pete’s Candy Store bar. Fifteen people showed up the first week. He talked to Shana Liebman.

Why did you decide to move here?
My wife, Amanda, and I had visited every few months for the last seven years, and we always really loved it here. And this year, she got into NYU. She’s studying to be a psychiatrist.

Has it been an adjustment?
We actually got scammed by a sublease when we first got here.

Are there lots of Christian hipsters?
Yes, but I don’t really consider myself a hipster.

You look like a hipster.
I don’t feel like I’m a slave to fashion. I don’t want to wear a bandanna around my neck.

Why is Jesus cool?
He seemed to want everybody to hang out with everybody, and it seemed like the only people who got under his skin were religious people.

President Bush said we may be amid a Third Great Awakening.
Oh, God, I don’t know what to think of that. I think at least in my generation that religion is kind of dying out because people are tired of the hypocrisy.

What about the Christian right?
A lot of them are missing the point. The anti-gay stance, all that stuff. I think that’s wrong.

Why do you think your mom has become a gay icon?
She’s been criticized for so much stuff, and she’s never changed. I think the gay community has been so harshly judged in the past that they relate to the pain she’s been through.

You’re still close with your family?
My mom is one of my best friends. She’s been really sick. My dad and I are close, but sometimes we have a hard time communicating.

What was it like for you when the PTL fell apart?
I was 11 years old and my school was at the PTL and all my friends were there, and all that disappeared in just a few days.

What was the PTL’s message?
I always remember my parents were groundbreaking and pretty open to people. They were never political. My dad had to raise a lot of money in order to keep his church going, and I think he got a little sidetracked with that, but …

Why are you doing the Sundance Channel series One Punk, Under God?
Fenton [Bailey] and Randy [Barbato] made The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which I thought was a great picture of my family’s life and of her.

Do you think you’re being treated as a reality-show oddity?
Not yet. Next: The Riverbank State Park Bicycle Saboteur

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The Hipstervangelist