Photo: Marcus Ingram (Getty Images)
Photo: Marcus Ingram (Getty Images)© Photo: Marcus Ingram (Getty Images)

"Coming up in the Black and largely Protestant City of Detroit, it felt like a revolutionary act to abandon the church and organized religion as I did as a teenager in the mid-1990s. But I had little recourse: As soon as I developed some adult-adjacent sense, I looked around and realized that the milk was sour throughout the institution. 

I watched with disdain as Black pastors and church leaders fomented hatred toward the LGBTQ community while also rolling around in chromed-out Benzes on the precious dimes of their poor congregants. But folks weren’t trying to hear my gripes…the “chosen ones” of Christ wore armor that my opinions could never hope to penetrate. 

But it seems like a tide is shifting of late: Black pastors aren’t receiving the same degree of love and respect that they historically have from the Black community. See Exhibit A: Bishop T.D. Jakes.

The Dallas-based pastor had the Worst Last Week Ever thanks to the one-two punch that saw him on the short list of “powerful” mystery men whom Christian Keyes alleges sexually harassed him and separate allegations that he engaged in sexual relations with men at Diddy’s parties. 

Jakes addressed the Diddy rumors, once in a Dec. 22 comment from his representativesand again during a Christmas Eve sermon, during which he let folks know that they can “log off” if they came to hear him “address a lie.” 

But…then he went on to address it. We didn’t have to log off after all.

Powered by the “amens” and the “yes lawds” of his congregation, Jakes insisted that he “knows who I am” and is not here to “convince nobody.” He even turned on a cracked, teary voice to let his parishioners know just how upset this whole affair has made him and as several Tiktokers pointed out ...used fear tactic language to suggest that he was standing in place to protect all of them from this foolishness.

Part of his response included, “If everything was true, all I got to do is repent sincerely from my heart...but I ain’t got to repent about this.” 

Although I have no idea what is true, but of course, that’s the chestnut that every “true believer” leverages to get away with foul behavior; if we could sell it, the sin-and-repent cycle would have the highest IPO the market has ever seen. (Jakes has yet to respond to a request for comment from The Root.)

This is in part why western religion has been trending downward for some time: the younger generation is less willing to be saddled with oppressive dogma and the utilization of Jesus as a Get Out of Jail Free card. Even Black folks are in on the shift, with more of us eschewing “the rules” for simple spirituality.

The list of white evangelical pastors and far-right politicians who’ve preached against homosexuality only to get caught up in some (often illegal or unethical) homosexual behavior is longer than a CVS receipt. Perhaps the most prominent Black pastor to make that Summer Jam screen is the late Bishop Eddie Long.

A married man with four kids and several grandkids, Long spent a good amount of energy in his Atlanta megachurch denouncing same-sex marriage. His legacy, however, will be forever tainted by a lawsuit involving his alleged coaxing of young Black men into sexual relationships under the guise of being their “spiritual advisor.”

Long would allegedly fly out, wine and dine; and engage in sex acts with the young men using church dough. (He weathered a previous scandal involving the use of charity money to buy a Bentley and expensive crib.) 

Like Diddy in a chimere, Long settled out of court and denied the allegations to the grave. Maybe what bothers Black Folk is just as Jakes did on Christmas Eve, they remember Long responded to the allegations on the pulpit by suggesting he was “under attack” and making biblical references to reference the “fight” ahead. His audience ate it up like cured ham.

CNN: Bishop Eddie Long speaks to church on sex charges

For all the good the Black church has done for us since we were dragged across oceans and forced to adopt Christianity, its condemnation of the LGBTQ community has made it a millstone around the necks of many young Black people who grow up alone, scared and uncertain where to turn because of it. I believe damn near everything wrong in our country traces back to white supremacy, and the Black church’s myopia is no different.

The church’s culture of homophobia runs deeper than just making people feel unwelcome – it creates an environment for children to be abused while ostensibly under the aegis of people expected to protect them. Listen to Prophet Manasseh Jordan (a former mentee of Jakes) speak about grooming:

It’s possible that so many Black people are coming for Jakes’ neck this week because they believe that the 66-year-old represents the church of yesteryear — an anachronism that doesn’t have a place in modern sensibilities, even if Jakes himself has presented a softer stance toward the LGBTQ issue in recent years. 

I have no idea if Jakes is being authentic in his denial of the Diddy party allegations. It shouldn’t really matter if he’s not preaching lies or hypocrisy to his congregation. But all these Christians creating videos attacking or condemning him should probably shine that spotlight on the church itself. And then maybe shine it inward – things are better, but the Black church still has work to do. "