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CNN Exchange: Commentary

Bakker, Brown: What the hell happened to Christianity?

By Jay Bakker and Marc Brown
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Jay Bakker, son of former Praise The Lord leaders Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner, is minister of Revolution Church and subject of a new documentary series, "One Punk Under God," on Sundance Channel. Marc Brown is a Revolution staff member.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- What the hell happened? Where did we go wrong? How was Christianity co-opted by a political party? Why are Christians supporting laws that force others to live by their standards? The answers to these questions are integral to the survival of Christianity.

While the current state of Christianity might seem normal and business-as-usual to some, most see through the judgment and hypocrisy that has permeated the church for so long. People witness this and say to themselves, "Why would I want to be a part of that?" They are turned off by Christians and eventually, to Christianity altogether. We can't even count the number of times someone has given us a weird stare or completely brushed us off when they discover we work for a church. (Watch how self-proclaimed punk preacher Jay Bakker has found his own niche in the Christian community Video)

So when did the focus of Christianity shift from the unconditional love and acceptance preached by Christ to the hate and condemnation spewed forth by certain groups today? Some say it was during the rise of Conservative Christianity in the early 1980s with political action groups like the Moral Majority. Others say it goes way back to the 300s, when Rome's Christian Emperor Constantine initiated a set of laws limiting the rights of Roman non-Christians. Regardless of the origin, one thing is crystal clear: It's not what Jesus stood for.

His parables and lessons were focused on love and forgiveness, a message of "come as you are, not as you should be." The bulk of his time was spent preaching about helping the poor and those who are unable to help themselves. At the very least, Christians should be counted on to lend a helping hand to the poor and others in need.

This brings us to the big issues of American Christianity: Abortion and gay marriage. These two highly debatable topics will not be going away anytime soon. Obviously, the discussion centers around whether they are right or wrong, but is the screaming really necessary? After years of witnessing the dark side of religion, Marc and I think not.

Christians should be able to look past their differences and agree to disagree. This allows people to discuss issues with respect for one another. Christians are called to love others just as they are, without an agenda. Only then will Christianity see a return to its roots: Loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

The Apostle Paul describes this idea of love beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."

But don't take our word for it; look at what Jesus and his followers stood for in his time and what Christianity stands for today. Then come to your own conclusion.

What is your take on this commentary? E-mail us

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the writer. This is part of an occasional series of commentaries on CNN.com that offers a broad range of perspectives, thoughts and points of view.

Your responses

CNN.com asked readers for their thoughts on this commentary. We received a lot of excellent responses. Below you will find a small selection of those e-mails, some of which have been edited for length and spelling.

Jennifer Miller, Sycamore, Illinois
I am so encouraged to hear someone express what I feel is never stated. Christianity should always have been about love and acceptance, "come as you are," and our family has always felt like we need to meet some criteria to worship, and that has kept us away. Christianity strayed from its true goal as soon as money and power became part of the equation -- what a shame.

Tim Shank, Pemberville, Ohio
I would like to know if the writers of this article ever sat down and read the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke, and the Gospel of John from the first verse of Chapter 1 to the last verse of each book? It is quite clear the writers are erroneous in their understanding of Jesus birth, life, and death, and the purpose for which He came.

Peter Carylyle-Gordge, Winnipeg, Canada
Those frauds and hypocrites who subvert the Christian message for their own agenda are actually damaging to Christ. Remember who Christ hung around with....tax collectors and hookers: The despised in society. Mainline religious attitudes to gay rights and many other issues long ago convinced me to stop attending church. I worship God in my own way. The hypocrites who cloak themselves and their evil prejudices in the clothes of the savior do not have a clue who he is or what he means.

Robert Hvarven, Black, Alabama
Yes, Jesus preached love and acceptance, but he also preached against Sin. We are to love the sinner while despising the sin. The Word of God tells us WE cannot judge the person as only God is the final authority and judge of our lives. But, we are supposed to judge the "fruit" of one's life and admonish those that do not follow the nature of God in the personal life.

Kelly Hahn, Wilmore, Kentucky
I agree with the assessment that Christianity and conservative politics should not be tied at the hip, but I disagree that abortion doesn't warrant screaming. For those convinced that a fetus is a living person, screaming on behalf of that life which is threatened to be snuffed out is a Christian move.

Sam Harris, Lenexa, Kansas
Amen. As an elder in our church, thank you for your outstanding column. Too many times, the message from Jesus has been twisted to suit someone's personal agenda.

Glenda Harris, New Bern, North Carolina
God is a loving God. But He is also a God of judgment. It's all through the Old Testament and the New Testament. God will not stand for flesh exalting itself or doing as it pleases. We reap what we sow in all cases. God is pure and He is Holy. He cannot lie and He chanages not. We rebel against Him and we reap the consequences. But, if we diligently seek after God, He will reward His people. To love God with all your heart is to mortify the deeds of this flesh.

Ramey, Plymouth, Massachusetts
At what point is change required? Being Christian demands change. God loves the one who is sinning, but remember, Jesus came to preach forgiveness of sins and repentance. You mention nothing of repentance -- the mark of a true follower of Christ. If the sinner does not repent, God still loves them and so should we who are Christian, but that does not mean we approve of or accept sinful behaviors. Remember this kingdom axiom -- It is OK to not be OK, it is not OK to stay not OK.

Margot Fernandez, Tucson, Arizona
Homosexuals are today's lepers. They are discriminated against, hated and marginalized. The Republican Party is actually seeking to take rights away from them -- rights that they have both as human beings and as American citizens. And lest we forget: Jesus and his followers ministered to lepers. Sometimes they healed them, yes, but also they simply took care of them. We should remember the words of Jesus: "Go and do thou likewise."

Aaron Hinkley, Houston, Texas
As an Eastern Orthodox Christian and a political moderate, I have never felt comfortable with the American Evangelical Christian Right. However, I do take offense at the contention of this commentary that St. Constantine the Great and his legalization of Christianity within the Roman Empire is somehow responsible for the Christian Right in this country. By legalizing Christianity, Constantine had an enormous impact on western civilization for the better.


Bakker and Brown

Jay Bakker, left, and Marc Brown, right, argue that Christianity needs to avoid political trappings lest its very survival be threatened.

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