September 25, 2006

Jay personally requested that I not use the word "bilking"

hipster060918_198.jpg I warned you a while ago that this site wouldn't always be getting my full attention anymore. Last week was proof of that. Sorry. Part of the explanation is that I was working on my first freelance piece worth mentioning since I started the book (not coincidentally on a related theme). Hip for Him is a Talk of the Town item about Jay Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Faye, and a new resident of Williamsburg. Bakker seems like a decent and bright guy. If Jesus is your thing, you could do worse than to check out one of his services. If you can't make it to Brooklyn, you can download them from the Revolution Church web site. (If Jesus isn't your thing, shana tovah, y'all.) Either way, I definitely recommend the documentary series about Bakker that's airing on the Sundance Channel in December. I saw the first two episodes — dealing partly with his decision to affirm that homosexuality is not a sin — and it's compelling stuff. They were still shooting when I went to see him at Pete's and I had to sign a release, but given how much footage they have, I'll be very surprised if you'll see me on the show.

I'm lucky this article even got published, considering that New York sorta scooped it (I was in there first, but it got held up a week with the editors). I guess they're different enough, though. Of course, the Times magazine had a long profile of Bakker last year that's still the definitive word on the subject.

By the way, the anonymous Pete's patron quoted in my piece is in fact Robert Lanham, the Free Williamsburg blogger and author of both The Hipster Handbook and a new ethnographical work, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. Consider this the plug I wasn't able to get into the magazine. The Sinner's Guide is a funny and very mean overview of conservative American Christianity for evangophobes. Though decidedly different in tone and approach from my book, it will probably make a good companion, so pick up a copy now and hold on to it for another year and a half.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


For a few weeks a few months ago I always saw this one guy get on the train in the morning. Typical fratty doofus looking guy but still wearing his golfish play clothes and not the severe robotic peacock outfit of today's serious iBanker. I see some paraphernalia promoting the organization he apparently works for: "Something Something Something, the Casual Church."

These people expect us to believe that they believe that, against all evidence contrariwise, some dude, some dude they haven't even met and who didn't even know their grandfathers, died, horribly, for their sins and thereby secured them eternal (eternal!) life in paradise but they won't wear ties when they worship? God doesn't care about that, they say, he cares about your soul. But he cares who people fuck? You'll deny government services to a sector of the population but you won't bother to whip up a little four-in-hand? Jiminy christmas don't these people understand what a god would be? If they really believed then this country would be lousy with Chartreses. The Musselman at least understands something about what "god" means, bless his heart. God would care about who you fuck and lay off the sauce and wash your goddamned feet and maybe put on some sort of nice jellaba won't you? "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" Rev 3:16.

Just the Franklin Graham of a more garish tribe of grifters. He does belong in Williamsburg. The Williamsburg of the SOUL!

I'd kind of like to respond, but you lost me from "government services" on down. Mind repeating that in English? (That's a polite request, not a dismissive put-down, I promise.)

Sorry, nothing new, just the old complaint of Nietzsche's that people nowadays only want a god that's convenient because they do not understand how serious a proposition something like a god is. If there were a god and he did interact with us in moral and afterlife matters it would require quite a bit of discipline, good works, and abject grovelling on our part. Preachers that strive to make god more amenable to the weak-faithed succeed only in making him less godlike.

In a lot of things the weak-faithed are the allies of secularism but in one key regard they are not. If the only faith were the hard-shelled faith it would rapidly lose any appeal to 95% of people. It is only because of weak religion that religion persists in the mainstream at all.

I thought that's where you were going with this, and all I can say is that while you're entitled to your theology, I don't think it's the only legitimate one. While there's no doubt that much of the church emphasizes the comfortable side of religion for its own ends, I don't think the core protestant doctrine of sola fide can be entirely reduced to a cosmic cop out.

What confused me is how you connect Bakker to the "God cares about who you fuck and how much you drink" crowd. His whole point is that most Christians don't understand that grace frees us (well, not you and me, perhaps) from that kind of legalism. But perhaps I misunderstood you.

Yes, I suppose I did somewhat conflate the right and left wings of the tie-less church movement, but I do fundamentally believe that neither takes god-ness seriously. And I don't think saved-by-grace is itself the cop out. There are far too many Protestant theologies to comprehensively comment on but outside of theology at all there is a civil obligation to show a little gratitude. Motherfucker put himself out! Put on a tie. Manners really. And this tiny lapse in manners indicates a gross lapse in seriousness. I don't think they really care --if they did it would be Munster, 1534 every day around here-- and yet they persist in this charade. Obviously I don't think you need a tie to be saved (I think you'd need a god to be saved, or to first be lost, for that matter) but you could theoretically be saved by grace alone and still wear a tie as a voluntary sign of respect, as millions have proven.

TG-- Can you clarify these fundamental beliefs once more? So it's now "the thicker the tie, the closer to god" (or, the louder the tie; the straighter the tie? what?). Because I've seen enough punk rock videos, from Rancid to Avril Lavigne, to know that these renegade christians could easily rock out for god just as hard with ties on, if that's what they have to do to retain the semblance of piety or whatever that's necessary to save them from being immediately booted out of the god-dome once Tammy Fae dies and her protection falls away.

I liked it better when it was just about big hair.

It's not so difficult, really (I didn't think there was anything peculiar in my criticism). If I actually believed in the punishment and (vicarious!) redemption of sins I'd be pretty goddamned grateful to who or whatever got me the get out of Hell free card; I wouldn't be worried about how my eternal salvation might negatively impact my Look. I guess they just read the "free" pretty literally.

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