Tyler Perry laying hands on Bishop TD Jakes at the Potter’s House (Photo Credit: @BishopJakes)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past 48 hours, you’ve probably seen the video of Tyler Perry laying hands on T.D. Jakes. During a service at Jakes’ Potter’s House Church, Perry stood before the congregation and announced a $1 million donation to a youth center the church is developing. But, before he took his seat, he gave a sermonette about favor, the blood of Jesus, the necessity of haters in our lives, and moving when God speaks. He even spoke in tongues. But the thing that topped everything off was Perry’s prayer for Bishop Jakes which culminated in him laying hands on the popular pastor.
As usual, in cases of laying hands, many are interested in the authenticity of the act. Comments on social media ranged from, “Wow” to “I would jerk like that too if I had just received a check for $1 million and someone had smacked me on the head.” Indeed it is hard to judge, but we’re not so sure that is what we have to or should judge at this morning. What is most interesting about this video is not the laying on of hands but everything that leads up to it.
1. Perry mentions being at the Woman Thou Art Loosed session with Rev. White— assuming this is Paula White—who asked all who could to give a $113 offering in consideration of Psalm 113. Psalm 113 says,
1 Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
Are you confused as to what this has to do with a $113 offering? Are we supposed to infer that this text is telling us to give a monetary offering when really one of the most obvious things that the text suggests is to give praise to God? David, the author of this Psalm, is encouraging people to praise God for whom God is and how God is present in the world. There is nothing in this text that points to monetary or even burnt offerings—which some like to interchange with monetary offerings for the sake of giving. This isn’t even one of the oft erroneously quoted scriptures about giving.
2. It appears that Bishop Jakes randomly brought Perry up to the stage to announce that he donated $1 million. Perry expresses as much surprise at being brought up to make many believe that this was unplanned, or was it? Was this all in the works once Jakes saw the amount of the check? Would he have brought Perry up if there wasn’t a check? Or, in less cynical pondering, did Bishop Jakes bring Perry up in order to show the masses a live example of how “You Can’t Beat God’s Giving?”
How can you not like the philanthropic Perry donating $1 million to a youth center? If anyone needs a donation in our culture, it’s the youth. With recent stories such as the 1-year-old baby who was shot dead in Brooklyn, NY and the young, black teenager who was just tried and convicted for shooting an infant point-blank in Brunswick, Georgia, this youth center could provide a positive alternative for youth. Alternatives that could result in troubled youth leading productive lives, rather than becoming a part of the system. Yet there is reason to be torn about Jakes and Perry’s display…
While most will attack Jakes and Perry for their lavish lifestyles, we should be more concerned about the perception that some in church culture have created. The idea that blessings are tied to our giving has caused some to distort the intended meaning. We don’t give to be blessed, we give because we are blessed. Sadly, many who watch the clip might think that blessing is somehow attached to how much you give. “If I only had a million to give,” is what some might think. But they should know, it’s ok if you don’t. Really, it is. Perry affirm this when he said, “My mother, she didn’t have much to give me. She didn’t have million of dollars, she didn’t have some legacy, but she had Jesus. And she taught me about that God.” Perry’s message conveyed that Jesus is enough.
All Christians aren’t called to be rich–though most Christians in the Western hemisphere are rich when we consider global poverty. Not all Christians are going to make seven figures—and maybe not even six-figures. The “dollar increment” call that went out during the live service at the Potter’s House (i.e. “Those who want to give $1,000”) started with the call to give $1 million. Imagine how inadequate some folks felt when there was only one (or maybe a few) people who could make such a sizable donation.
3. And what about this issue of Perry announcing how much he donated? Consider the woman from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus looked and saw the rich putting their gifts in the offering box. But he wasn’t moved. It was a poor widow who provided a teaching moment for the rich. Jesus states that the rich folks gave out of their abundance, but she gave all that she had. So it’s not really the amount you give that matters, but the heart behind your giving. Oh yeah, and there’s that whole giving in secret thing Jesus talked about.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:2–4)
4. What about those who would argue from the Psalm, “Touch not my anointed one?”
Some torn Christians weren’t so sure what to make of what happened in the video. One comment characterized this group,
“The Bible tells us not to touch God’s anointed but it also says to try the spirit by the spirit. What gives?”
Well, the infamous “touch not” passage has been used by ministries for decades to allow leaders to deflect accountability and it challenges us not to question the actions of leaders in the church. But is that what the passage really is talking about? Or has the passage been appropriated by those who want to instill fear in members of the church? The idea is that if you talk about a man or woman of God, then God will get you–supposedly God is waiting to strike down people who talk about pastors and preachers. But you have to wonder if people have really read the passage from Psalms that talks about not touching God’s anointed. David (the author) was actually talking about his experience with Saul (a king and not a pastor or leader in the church). And he was talking about the physical harm he had a chance to inflict on Saul when he had him in a vulnerable position. The idea that we aren’t to speak up against men and women of God who are anointed isn’t scriptural. In fact, Paul “touched God’s anointed” in Peter when he openly rebuked him for hypocritical behavior.
It’s almost too easy to critique the authenticity of a religious experience such as the laying on of hands and because of that we pray the experience at Potter’s House was authentic. Yet there were a few things there that should at least give us the opportunity to, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures and see if what was said and done was true. At the very least, we pray that this has caused us all to consider the unassuming act of that widow in Luke’s Gospel. It reminds us all that prosperity isn’t something to aspire to or something to be grasped. Jesus, truly is enough. You might not ever stand on anyone’s stage and give $1 million. And that’s okay. Sometimes, all it takes is the clink of two coins to get Jesus’ attention.
Every five to 15 years we go through a ritual of focusing on the young black male crisis. In 2008 it was the Jena Six case. Before that, it was the Rodney King beating and the uprising in 1992 after LA police officers were acquitted. This time it’s the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman tragedy.
Watching the Congressional Black Caucus’ recent Emergency Summit on Urban Violence on C-SPAN, I saw something that made me wanna holla. As Trayvon’s father, Tracey Martin, spoke, the camera briefly turned to U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, one of the founders of this group of legislators focused on “positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African-Americans and others of similar experience and situation.” Rangel looked as though he were dozing. This quick camera shot wasn’t as bad as the embarrassing photo of a supine Rangel on the front page of the New York Post asleep on a beach chair at his former Punta Cana Resort property in the Dominican Republic. But seeing Rangel, currently the longest serving black member of the U.S. House of Representatives, apparently dozing off raised my blood pressure.
The Black Caucus was holding this summit at Chicago State University in reaction to the alarming homicides particularly in Chicago. The killings where my wife and I reared our children are often linked to gang battles and turf beefs over drugs, but a key supplier of the misery is actually Capitol Hill.
The government’s so-called War on Drugs, which dates back to 1870, has exacerbated deaths in the ‘hood. This failed modern version that began under the Nixon Administration and heightened under Republican and Democratic presidents, has wreaked havoc. Its mandatory minimum sentences and overall unjust guidelines for crack (used primarily by blacks, Latinos and the poor) compared to powder cocaine (used mostly by whites and the rich) has devastated communities of color. So what does this have to do with Rangel?
The decorated Korean War veteran, who fully understands the high cost of combat, was among the main legislators beating the war drums. A former prosecutor in New York, Rangel built his congressional career riding the “tough on crime” bandwagon of the 1980s. He was so out front that in a 1989 feature article, Ebony, then the organ of black America, titled Rangel “The Front-Line General” of the war. Rangel even accused President Reagan of being soft on drugs and praised Nancy’s “just say no” campaign. Yes, like many people, Rangel was outraged over drugs and increased violence in the community, but he and other legislators knew of the failed Prohibition Era policies of the 1920s that unleashed organized crime and homicides symbolized by – you guessed it – Chicago gangsters. Like the politicians, Christian conservatives were also misguided in the 1920s and again in the 1980s as fear and personal ambition fueled fervor. So, Rangel, a son of Harlem who has been in office since defeating the legendary Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in 1970, led the charge in a so-called moral war that has ravaged his own community. Many of his black colleagues have been sitting along side in a haze as the body count mounts.
The carnage has been well documented by the NAACP:
- From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people. Blacks and Latinos represent about 1.3 million
- About two thirds of the blacks and Latinos in prison are non-violent drug offenders
- Blacks are 14% of drug users, but represent 37% of drug arrests
- Five times as many Whites are using drugs as Blacks, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
- Americans are only five percent of the world’s population, but represent 25% of the world’s prisoners
Many of these prisoners are first time offenders who were locked up for possessing or using small amounts of drugs. Many parents are snatched from their homes for making terrible choices, or for being in the wrong place at the right time. Their children have paid too, left behind to be raised by the mentality of the streets. Many are low-level drug dealers lured by a culture that glorifies kingpins. Young black males often kill each other as a consequence of the street justice that comes with the drug trade. Without consistent parental guidance, particularly absent fathers to show them an honest work ethic, they are motivated to “get rich or die trying.” Others are motivated to put food on the table or to buy diapers for their babies. The failed policy has further pitted cops against a community they are supposed to serve, fracturing an already tense, tenuous relationship. Rewarded financially for high arrest statistics, police have become more like occupying soldiers raiding homes in search of (and often planting) drugs, treating U.S. citizens as if they are foreign combatants.
Two documentaries, The House We Live In and How to Make Money Selling Drugs are must see films to understand the drug war’s misery. Rangel and his colleagues should schedule another summit to view these films together.
Rangel has skillfully mounted his career on this so-called war. He has played both the “tough on crime” and “speak truth to power” roles. He backed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which established the mandatory minimum sentences that hiked the incarceration rate. This is the act whose damage U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced he would attempt to mitigate. Holder’s changes include directing U.S. attorneys across the country to establish local guidelines to determine when federal charges should and shouldn’t be filed. Meanwhile, realizing the destruction and high costs of mandatory minimums for non violent offenders, several states have already adjusted their laws.
Rangel has also shifted some with the political winds. He supported The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 which reduced crack and powder cocaine disparities from 100-1 to 18-1. He even supported the proposed Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 to end federal criminal penalties tied to the drug. But Rangel’s strategic pivot happened well after establishing his personal career and financial security, including his congressional pension. Meanwhile the damage to his people in Harlem and across the nation has been done and continues.
More than $1 trillion has been spent the past 40-plus years in the so-called War on Drugs. As the Black Caucus holds these “talks” for solutions to urban violence, it should start with itself. Some other veteran members – among them U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters of California – have been outspoken against this attack on the black community. However, the Black Caucus ought to admit, that in terms of the drug war, they have failed tragically to fulfill their goal of “positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African-Americans…” If the Civil Rights Movement is the second Civil War and Affirmative Action is the second Reconstruction, the War on Drugs has triggered what author Michelle Alexander has termed “The New Jim Crow,”–a must read book on America’s mass incarceration of people of color. This so-called war – Rangel’s War – has set the community back in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Will this be the Black Caucus’ legacy?
From poverty to terror, the phrase “the war on” is basically a sign that Congress is engaged in another reactionary, poorly thought out and expensive doomed policy with tragic consequences. The Black Caucus should lead the correction of this failure by publicly repenting on behalf of the U.S. Congress for its sin against black America. The Black Caucus should call for an immediate end to the War on Drugs and replace it with an urban Marshall Plan to infuse training and jobs through infrastructure rehabilitation projects. The plan should include addiction counseling funds, support and the automatic expungement of the criminal records of non-violent drug offenders. Give these folks a shot at getting good jobs and becoming productive taxpaying citizens – people who could restore their families and urban communities.
A good place and time for the Black Caucus to do this is during its foundation’s upcoming 43rd Annual Legislative Conference, Sept. 18-21 in Washington. There will be plenty of ministers willing to help them repent and C-SPAN can capture the moment for the entire world to see. And leading this prayer of atonement (and to save his legacy) should be U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my claims? If you agree, will you bring the issue before your congregation? Post your thoughts and let’s start a conversation.