Bakker says one TV show enough for now


DALLAS - The latest member of the Bakker clan to have a television show says it's a one-off miniseries and that he has no interest in following in the footsteps of his televangelist parents, Jim and Tammy Faye.

"No, I don't want to be a TV preacher. I have had enough of television for now," Jay Bakker, a preacher with a distinctly unorthodox style, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The first episode of a six-part documentary that follows Bakker around aired on Wednesday on the Sundance Channel.

"One Punk Under God: The Prodigal Son of Jim and Tammy Faye" traces Bakker's everyday life from preaching in bars and gay churches to discussing theology over fast food with his wife.

"The folks (at the production company) said they really liked my message and wanted to see it get out there. ... They liked this more liberal Christianity," said Bakker, who turns 31 on Monday.

"I'm trying to get around from all the hoopla and the dos and the don'ts. ... Our church here in Brooklyn, New York, meets in a bar," said Bakker, who added that he did not view drinking as a sin but had not touched alcohol in more than a decade himself because of its effect on him.

Heavily tattooed and sporting a lip ring, Bakker looks the part of a punk even though he said he is far more fond of country musicians such as the late Johnny Cash.

Bakker comes without the political agenda that many U.S. evangelists have pursued, usually in support of the Republican Party and conservative social policies.

"I try to keep those things (politics) personal. I don't have a political agenda. It is just to get out there to show people a different side of Christianity and the love and grace of Christ," he said.

Bakker's parents were household names in America with a television evangelical empire that brought in close to an estimated $130 million annually at its height in the 1980s and reached 13 million homes daily.

But it all came crashing down amid sex and financial scandals that landed his father, Jim, in prison for five years.

He was convicted in 1989 of defrauding followers of his PTL (Praise The Lord) ministry of $158 million to build an elaborate Christian entertainment park in Fort Mill, South Carolina, south of Charlotte, where he broadcast his daily television show.

Jay Bakker's mother's face was one of the most recognized on American television, the mascara running riot as she tearfully beseeched viewers to open their hearts to Jesus -- and their wallets to the Bakkers' causes.

His parents divorced after the scandals and Tammy Faye -- who now goes by the surname Bakker Messner -- is gravely ill.

"She is in stage 4 cancer, which is the last stage. My sister is living there full time. It is the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life," Bakker said.

"But I know faith is a comfort for my Mom and a comfort for me too."