The Bishop and the Filmmaker: What T.D. Jakes and Tyler Perry Teach Us about the Black Church, Black Elites, and Authentic Spirituality

Recently an internet brouhaha erupted when film maker Tyler Perry, attending Bishop T.D. Jakes’ MegaFest Convention in Dallas, Texas, made a $1 million contribution to a proposed youth center. During the unplanned presentation, Tyler claimed God spoke to him to prompt the gift, spoke in “tongues” himself, and eventually spoke a blessing over Bishop Jakes while laying hands on Jakes.

As might be imagined, opinions came fast and furious, some supportive and others critical. I missed all the initial responses due to travel. That’s just as well because now that the dust has settled a little bit better reflection has a chance to emerge. And that’s precisely what I think we find in this engaging discussion between Marc Lamont Hill (host); Princeton professor of religion and African-American studies, Dr. Eddie S. Glaude; Jakes biographer and associate professor of sociology at the University of Houston, Dr. Shayne Lee; and Washington Post columnist, Rahiel Tesfamariam.

What I enjoyed about their discussion was their ability to critically evaluate and disagree while being civil, clear and incisive. In its loving but critical engagement, this interview represents a rare engagement with the Black Church without resulting to romanticism or caricature. The interview is a valuable examination of some quarters of the Black Church and of the intermingling of religion, commerce, entertainment, and politics. It’s also a window into a long-running dispute about elitism and populism in determining the course of Black culture and life.

Take a look and join us on the front porch with your thoughts and questions.

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

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