January 20, 2009
Two-minute prayer vs. inaugural sermon?
Posted by: Chris
With all the hoopla about the two-minute prayer that Rick Warren will offer during today's inauguration of Barack Obama, I am surprised to have heard nothing about (self-proclaimed) Bishop T.D. Jakes giving the sermon at this morning's inaugural church service.
Back in 2005, black gay activist Keith Boykin included Jakes among a series of black church pastors with anti-gay views who he believes are closet homosexuals:
Jakes is even more conservative than [George W.] Bush. Unlike Bush, who has hired gays and lesbians in the federal government, Jakes has called homosexuality a "brokenness" and said he would not hire a sexually active gay person.
And Jakes has also adopted another part of the presidential philosphy: his lifestyle. Jakes and his congregation refer to his wife Serita as "the first lady," and they live in a $1.7 million mansion on Dallas's scenic White Rock Lake next to a building once owned by oil magnate H.L. Hunt. As Time magazine explained, "He flies on charter planes or in first-class seats, sups with a coterie in a room known as 'the king's table,' sports a large diamond ring and dresses like the multimillionaire he is."
I don't believe that black preachers have a duty to be poor, but I do believe they should not make their millions off the backs of their struggling kin. It's one thing to create your wealth as a preacher. It's another thing to create your wealth with a message of sexism, heterosexism and homophobia directed against some of the hardest hit people in your own community.
Jakes has endorsed the so-called Truth for Youth campaign, which is distributing specially-made anti-gay Bibles to high school students all across the country.
"To date, I have not seen scriptural authority that allows me to stand on behalf of God and say I now pronounce you husband and husband, and wife and wife," Jakes told USA Today. "This is an issue the government is undecided about. The Bible is not," he said. But if Jakes still believes in the separation of church and state, it's not clear from his political activity. In fact, Jakes publicly endorsed the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have been the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution to legalize discrimination against a group of citizens.
As Time magazine put it, "gay Americans would have no reason at all to consider Jakes their preacher."
Ultimately Boykin's proof on Jakes' anti-gay past is much stronger than the rumors that Jakes may be a closet case. (A former male staffer went public with charges that Jakes repeatedly propositioned him for sex.) Regardless, it will be interesting to see whether activists take note of Jakes' high profile role.
My own view, of course, is that Obama is fulfilling his promise to unite the country -- and making a shrewd political move -- by including the likes of Jakes and Warren, along with openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, and pro-gay ministers Joseph Lowery and Sharon Watkins, in inauguration ceremonies.
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