Michael Brown and T. D. Jakes: An Unfortunate Interview and a Failed Rebuke

Michael BrownOprah JakesI believe several things dynamics are at work in the Huffington Post interview with T. D. Jakes. The interview was first posted on the Huff Post website on August 4. The topic of discussion was Jakes’ new book, then turned to the LGBT community and the black church.

After personally transcribing the interview myself, I tend to think that several dynamics were at play in the interview. First of all, I think two conversations were going on. The interviewer, Marc Lamont-Hill, academic, journalist, author, activist, and television personality and Distinguished Professor of African-American Studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, was looking for Jakes to endorse the LGBT community and to admit to an acceptance of homosexuality. Jakes, it seems to me, was trying to be benevolent with his “Jump the Broom” theology (if you don’t know what that means check out this post). The interview spurred what Jakes referred to as “a virulent diatribe in cyber-Christian-land” which demanded a reiteration of his stance on that old diversion, same-sex marriage.

Jakes may think the criticism unfair, but the proof is in the pudding: the Huff Post article accompanying the video. In sum, the article claims that Jakes thinks it is absolutely possible for the black church and the LGBT community to co-exist, that Jakes’ own views on homosexuality have evolved and are still evolving, and that LGBT people should find a church that aligns with their own views on faith.

While Jakes was waxing eloquent on the separation of church and state, the republic, and pluralism, Hill heard him endorsing homosexuality.

Jakes can be irritated at the outcry from cyber-Christian-land, but in reality the force of his interview was simply to placate the LGBT community and give quarter to the concept of gay Christianity.

Michael Brown called Jakes out asking him to clarify his stance on homosexuality. This elicited a “reiteration” of Jakes’ stance on same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, Jakes didn’t answer the question and Brown let him off the hook.

In his article, “Oprah, Osteen, Jakes, and Homophobia,” Brown is somehow encouraged that Oprah still welcomes Osteen and Jakes after they openly claimed homosexuality to be a sin. First of all, there is little to be worried about with inviting Osteen on your show. He is not going to be polarizing. Second of all, T. D. Jakes is a powerful, popular black man with a feel good theology. Oprah would never reject him. Neither of these men have ever stood up to Oprah and called her out for her new age religiosity or her pro-gay stance. Why wouldn’t she welcome them? Brown ends his article with a pointer on how not to be labeled a homophobe. Anyone who unequivocally takes a stand against homosexuality as a lifestyle (which Jakes did not do in his interview) is going to be labelled a homophobe and a hater.

While I have no problem with Jakes “reiteration,” and I do not think he supports homosexuality, he absolutely encouraged gay Christianity. Here is a quote from the interview:

“If you don’t like those convictions and values and you totally disagree with it, don’t try to change my house, move into your own. And establish that sort of thing and find someone that gets what you get about faith.”

The answer for the American culture that rejects truth from the Word of God is not “find a place to go where people agree with you”! My goodness, this only feeds America’s twisted definition of tolerance. The answer is, “Go to a Bible believing church and sit there until God changes you! Immerse yourself in the Presence, the Power, the Word, and the worship of the True God!” Yes the church must be accepting and loving. But sending the LGBT community into inclusive churches where they can be surrounded with people who agree with them (which as a community they are wont to do anyway) is an unfortunate message!

Post Script: Once again the issue has gotten side-tracked by the diversion of same-sex marriage. The issue is gay Christianity!

Perhaps World Vision Should Ask Evangelicals: “Who Did You Think We Were?”

By Scott Fowler

John Mayer, the popular guitar player and singer, has a song called “Who Did You Think I Was?” Part of the lyrics go like this:

Every mornin when the day begins

I make up my mind but change it back again

I’m a shifter of the shape I’m in

Who did you think I was?

This article asks this question of World Vision and its leadership.

In his article, How World Vision Can Regain Trust, Dr. Michael Brown’s perspective is right on. We must accept World Vision’s statement of repentance. I also think his list of questions for President Stearns are essential to answer moving forward. But there is something else we should ask of ourselves: What is World Vision? Does it claim to be evangelical? Who did we think they were before all of this happened? Were we accurate? I am fully aware that there are genuine evangelicals working in the midst of World Vision but are they in the minority? I personally never assumed World Vision was evangelical. Yet we find that evangelicals are holding World Vision to an evangelical standard. Who did we think they were?

I have read World Vision’s statement expressing its core values. It is a laudable expression of Christian faith and compassion. But we have made certain assumptions. We have assumed that we define Christianity the same. We have assumed that we share the same definition of sin. Do we?

While I agree with Dr. Brown that we should accept World Vision’s statement of repentance, I believe it is fair to ask of Wolrd Vision and its leadership, “Are you repenting of causing displeasure to your evangelical supporters or are you repenting that you slipped into a compromised view of homosexuality? How is it possible that after praying for years about this issue you can make such a decision only to reverse it just two days later? When you made the initial decision to hire same-sex couples was it because you decided that homosexuality was normative? Yes, you said you were deferring to the authority of the local churches, but it seems that you deferred to the authority of local churches that accept same-sex marriage and embrace gay Christianity! Did you decide that it just didn’t matter in the face of doing good deeds unto humanity? If so, isn’t that the definition of a social gospel?

After reading Mr. Stearns’ interview with Sarah Pulliam Baily in the Huffington Post given after the reversal, I have concerns that cause me again to ask, “What do we think World Vision is?” In response to the question:

Did anyone come out in the time between the announced decision and the reversal? In other words, are there any employees in same-sex marriages currently?”

Mr. Stearns answered, “

As far as we know, we don’t have any World Vision U.S. employees involved in a same-sex marriage. With a population of 1,100 employees, I’m sure we have people with a same-sex orientation on our staff. But I think it’s important to say that we respect the privacy of our employees. We don’t ask about sexual orientation in the interview or in hiring because we do welcome people regardless of their sexual orientation if they can affirm the Apostle’s Creed and the statement of faith, and if they can abide by our conduct policy. The conduct policy applies to heterosexuals and homosexuals. We’re not trying to exclude someone because they have a same-sex orientation, but we do have a conduct standard that governs all employees.

So, World Vision has no problem with gay Christianity.

When asked,

What kind of church do you attend, and has that informed your personal view on same-sex marriage?

Stearns answered,

“It’s a Presbyterian Church (USA) in the Seattle area, but I don’t want to drag them into this. I’m not telling people where I stand on same-sex marriage because I don’t think it’s relevant.

Even the Huffington Post recognizes that a person’s church affiliation affects one’s opinions and that those opinions affect one’s decisions!

When asked about his opinion concerning the emphasis evangelicals put on sexual morality, Stearn, in part, said,

“But we all have to admit that issues like this distract us and take up more time than they should or than they ought to. We’re trying to call people to our mission and let’s come together and change the world. I wrote a whole book called “Unfinished” that’s about the kingdom mission that was given to Christ is unfinished 2,000 years later, and we need to finish the job, working across differences. That’s not saying we shouldn’t violate core principles of our faith in various faith communities, but we have to come together to finish this kingdom mission.”

As far as I can see from World Vision’s statement of their core values, their mission is to relieve human suffering among the poorest of the poor. Who doesn’t applaud that? But that is not the kingdom mission! The mission is to go into all the world, preach the gospel, teach people to obey Jesus commands, baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to make disciples. In the process of fulfilling that great commission, yes we meet human need, regardless of our success at converting those in need. BUT, we can’t compromise the biblical truth and principles of the spiritual mission for the sake of completing the social aspect of the mission.

Some will say this article is mean-spirited. It is not meant to be. But we must answer the most fundamental questions concerning where we stand on gay Christianity. If we don’t, the same thing that happened to World Vision is going to happen to churches and ministries all across America. Genuine evangelicals must consider their endorsements and ask themselves, “Who did we think they were?”