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Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2000 20:49:10 EDT
Subject: AANEWS for October 23, 2000
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from: AMERICAN ATHEISTS
subject: AANEWS for October 23, 2000
Weakening the wall: Al Gore grovels for votes with Promise Keeper T.D. Jakes
In AANews, #836
23 October 2000
George W. Bush had his debacle last spring when he appeared at the
pulpit of Bob Jones University.
Now, Vice President Al Gore may have managed a similar gaffe by taking
his campaign to the dedication of a new Pentecostal megachurch in
Dallas, Texas where he denounced "cultural pollution," "toxic
entertainment," and shared the spotlight with "Bishop" T.D. Jakes, a
Promise Keepers spokesman and televangelist.
It was all typical of the saturation of religious rhetoric, themes and
voter-block appeals which have characterized the year 2000 election
contest. Both Gore and his GOP opponent, Texas Gov. George W. Bush,
have laced their respective campaign platforms with religion-friendly
policies, including pledges to involve church groups in "partnership"
arrangements that call for tax funding for faith-based social
outreaches. Sunday's appearance by Gore at the new 26,000-member
Potter's House church was an appropriate venue. Headed by Rev.
Jakes, the church already boasts several programs which under Gore or
Bush plans would qualify for public funding in order to provide
drug-alcohol rehabilitation counseling, job training and other
Gore told the dedication worshippers, though, that he did not accept
the invitation of Bishop Jakes to discuss economic policy. Instead,
he pounded away on themes which compete directly with the Bush-GOP
agenda -- the sanctity of families and the evils of violent, salacious
entertainment. Gore demanded that media companies bow to proposals by
the Federal Trade Commission that would institute tougher rating
standards, and presumably ban the marketing of adult products to
"In too many schools," declared Gore, "discipline is eroding and many
teachers spend their time on crowd control." He provided no
Gore denounced "toxic entertainment that too often passes on the wrong
values," and told the Potter's House audience, "I believe that the
purpose of life is to glorify God." Echoing a statement made last
week by running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman linking religious belief
and environmentalism, the vice president added "We cannot fulfill that
purpose if we are heaping contempt on God's creation."
The New York Times noted that Mr. Gore quoted Scriptures four times
during his 18-minute address, and recited portions of a hymn and
paraphrased two Bible stories. "In both content and tone," added the
Times, "he waded into waters usually reserved for Republican
politicians, a point made explicit by the presence at the same service
of Pat Robertson, the Christian Coalition founder."
A Jakes Cult? Latter-Day Rain and the Promise Keepers.
Pat Robertson, a close friend and supporter of Gov. George W. Bush
was indeed on the platform with Mr. Gore, and the two men shook hands
and smiled after Robertson delivered his homily to the audience. Bush
was unable to attend the dedication due to a scheduling conflict, but
has visited "Bishop" Jakes' church. Proclamations of support from
Bush and President Bill Clinton were read to the congregation by
Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who praised Mr. Gore as "a man who deeply
believes in his God."
The man at the center of the spectacle, though, is "Bishop" T.D.
(Thomas Dexter) Jakes, born June 9, 1957, a Promise Keepers lecturer
and colorful television preacher whose rising star in the world of
evangelicalism and Pentecostal fervor has been compared to that of
Billy Graham. Jakes' role, though, as a member of the controversial
"Latter-Rain" movement -- a cultish and, some say, theologically
suspect branch of contemporary evangelicalism -- and cheerleader for
the Promise Keepers should be a wake-up call about the dangerous
incursion of extremist religious belief into the year 2000 campaign.
Jakes allegedly began his preaching career at age 17 while enrolled as
a psychology major at West Virginia State College. One biographical
account at the Religious Movements Homepage says that "as a young boy,
he [Jakes) became known in his hillside neighborhood for delivering
sermons to imaginary congregations," and earned the moniker "Bible
Boy" for always carrying a copy of the text to school. He opened his
first church, a storefront ministry, in Montgomery, WV in 1979. Three
years later, he relocated his outreach, then known as the Temple of
Faith, to South Charleston, WV. Jakes attracted a multiracial
following, an unusual feat for a black minister. In 1994, he formed
T.D. Jakes Ministries as a nonprofit, tax exempt organization and two
years later headed for Dallas, TX. There, Jakes purchased property
belonging to the estate of former incarcerated faith-healer and
scam-evangelist W.V. Grant for $3.2 million
His three-times-a-week television show "The Potter's House," found
support and an audience thanks to the Trinity Broadcasting Network
headed by televangelist Paul Crouch. Soon, Jakes' programming was
being streamed to eager audiences in Africa and Europe. This was
supplemented by a traveling "crusade" outreach and separate
conferences aimed at men and women which Jakes said were "to extend
healing and restoration on the national level."
His website is an internet paean to Jakes' work as "Pastor, bridge
builder, humanitarian, author and artist, conference speaker,
broadcaster..." His sermons are described as blazing with
"Pentecostal fervor, " and "dense with poetic commentary, startling
insights, and contemporary applications of the Bible's timeless
All of this has found a fertile, and contributing audience in Texas.
Jakes' church operates a homeless ministry (Ravens Refuge), Operation
Rehab which targets prostitutes, and a "Transformation Treatment
Program" for drug and alcohol abusers. Jakes has also hit the road
with the Promise Keepers organization, speaking at that group's
numerous rallies for men. He operates his own version of the PK
ministry labeled "ManPower," which "encourages men to live righteous
lives and to be positive role models." A separate program for
females, "Women, Thou Art Loosed" is based on several books penned by
Jakes which are national Christian bestsellers, and include titles
such as "Daddy Loves His Girls," "Loose That Man And Let Him God,"
"Can You Stand To Be Blessed" and "Lay Aside Weight."
Jakes has been criticized, though, for some peculiar doctrinal views
and his association with the male-oriented Promise Keepers movement
which tells men that they must "take back control" of families,
institutions and government.
The Christian Research Journal recently accused Jakes of promoting an
"unbiblical" view of the Trinity -- a dispute over the Christian God
manifesting himself as a Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This "Oneness
Pentecostalism" is also embraced by the leadership of the Promise
Keepers movement, who are also identified under the term
Money, Connections, Controversy
While Jakes' embrace of the Oneness doctrine is source for controversy
within America's evangelical subculture, closer to home are the
evangelist's ties with political and celebrity figures, and his
wealthy lifestyle. Like the Promise Keepers, Jakes' ministry is
closely linked to high-rolling sports professionals who "found God"
off the court or gridiron. Dallas Cowboy defensive star Deion Sanders
is a regular stage prop at the "ManPower" conferences, along with
fellow Cowboys Emmit Smith and Omar Stourtmire. During a revival
crusade in Birmingham, Jakes told the 18,000 men in the audience that
when he began to counsel Sanders, he told the Cowboys star that
becoming a Christian did not mean changing his outrageous and
"To deny him that would be to deny him who he is as a person," said
Jakes. Sanders agreed, declaring, "If I'm going to be flashy and
flamboyant, I'd like to do it for the Lord."
Indeed, the Lord -- or Bishop Jakes -- received the largesse of
Sander's talent when the Cowboys cornerback donated $1 million to the
Potter's House church in April, 1998.
In return, Jakes has promoting Sander's book, "Power, Money and Sex:
It's a Man Thing."
There is also the issue of Jakes' lavish lifestyle. The December,
1999 issue of Christian Research Journal and February 4, 2000 issue of
Christianity Today took note of the evangelist's $1.7 million home in
Dallas, and a $600,000, 16-room mansion in Charlotte, North Carolina.
(The Dallas Observer valued the Charlotte property at "close to $1
"Additionally, Jakes owns a BMW convertible, a
Mercedes-Benz, and dresses in expensive, flashy clothing. His
ownership of such material items has some people believing that T.D.
Jakes preaches such widely acceptable religious views in order to gain
financial prosperity ... he uses himself as an example to his
parishioners to demonstrate that they too can become wealthy ... also
he justifies his financial success by portraying Jesus -- also a
religious and minstrel (sic) leader -- as a wealthy man."
The Dallas Observer noted that Jakes "says he is not embarrassed by
this, even though his extravagant lifestyle has caused controversy in
his hometown that will likely follow him to Dallas. Both he and wife
Serita are routinely decked out in stunning jewelry. His West
Virginia residence -- two homes side by side -- includes an indoor
swimming pool and a bowling alley. These homes particularly caused
the ire of the local folks. One paper wrote at length about the
purchase and made much of their unusual features. A columnist dubbed
Jakes 'a huckster.' "
Jakes has advanced a number of astounding claims, including the one
that Jesus Christ was a wealthy man in order to support his numerous
disciples and followers. He has also waded into the extreme
charismatic camp, and shared the pulpit with bizarre evangelists like
Robert Liardon, who claims that he was transported to heaven for a
face-to-face encounter with Jesus, and that he visited a celestial
warehouse stocked with unclaimed body parts.
Like the glitzy and now expensive Promise Keepers assemblies, Bishop
Jake's "ManPower" conferences include a hard sell for promotional
items as well as an amalgam of spirited, feel-good, take-charge
religion. USA TODAY recently noted the presence of "a small army of
vendors" pushing Jakes' books, CD's, T-shirts, caps and other
materials at the Washington, D.C. three-day conference. The paper
added, "It's a good bet that Texas Gov. George W. Bush had Jakes in
mind when he said he would 'look first to faith-based organizations'
to help the downtrodden if he wins next year's presidential race."
USA TODAY also revealed that Jakes' conferences reach a wide audience,
and are "often simulcast to scores of prisons nationwide." One
Associated Press story noted that the ManPower conferences, "which
emphasize a military theme to symbolize spiritual warfare, is a
three-day series which is beamed by satellite to 150,000 prison
Funding Religious Cultism?
Both Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush have called for a greater role by
faith-based organizations in the operation of social services. This
includes beefing up the "charitable choice' provisions of the 1996
Welfare Reform Act, and recent legislation being promoted by House
Republicans and the Clinton administration that would establish a
network of "renewal communities" throughout the country using tax
money to fund sectarian groups. Both candidates see an increasingly
diaphanous "wall of separation" between church and state, especially
when it involves funding religion-based social programs.
And "Bishop" T.D. Jakes is ready for the day that happens.
For further information
(Archive of articles on the year 2000 election)
("God's Mighty Men: The Promise Keepers Rise Up...)
("'Godly Men' With a Dominionist Agenda")
("Breaking Down the Wall at Treasury: 'Charitable Choice,' Faith-Based
Partnerships and Public Funding of Religion.")
("Charitable Choice, Faith-Based Partnerships, and the Public Funding
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