Between the Church & the Honky-tonk

Bishop T.D. Jakes explains Ray Charles' music and faith were both products of the spiritual community he came from.

Beliefnet kicks off our annual Oscars feature with a conversation with megachurch preacher T.D. Jakes about the Best Picture-nominated "Ray." This biopic tells the story of the late musician Ray Charles, tracing his life from his boyhood in the South through his struggles with the childhood death of his brother, racism, blindness, drug abuse, relationships, and ultimately fame. Beliefnet's Rebecca Phillips spoke with Bishop Jakes, the bestselling author and head of the 30,000-member Potter's House church in Dallas, about the spiritual themes and moral struggles in the movie--and in Ray Charles' life.

Did you like the movie?

Yes, I enjoyed it very much. I thought that it gave a very fair and balanced depiction of a very complicated life that was filled with peaks and valleys. It caused us to see not only the tremendous impact that Ray Charles had as a musician, but sometimes the internal struggles in his private life.

Were any of those internal struggles easy to relate to?

Well, my life and his life were totally different. He was blind, and that creates a myriad of problems that thankfully I have never experienced. I did have the privilege of meeting him at the NAACP Image Awards last year. When I was given the Presidential Award, he was given the Living Legend Award. To the best of my knowledge, that was the last award he received before he passed. Meeting him was very brief because we were both on TV at the time. He left immediately after the award; it was obvious his health had begun to deteriorate, that he was there sacrificially, in terms of his physical condition.

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Returning to his internal struggles, the movie depicts how Ray handled things like his brother's death, his drug abuse, and his affairs. At one point in the movie Ray says that he felt like God had given up on him after all these struggles. How did you respond to that?

Well, I don't know. I think he had a lot of influences in his life and some of them came from a church, but most of them were developed, based on the movie, from experiences he had on the road, learning his own brand of faith and theology. Having worked with professional entertainers, people in the industry, when people like that develop a relationship with God outside the church and outside biblical influences, they often develop a mutated understanding of who God is. I think that he struggled to feel accepted in the Lord and needed spiritual mentoring that he unfortunately didn't get, if the movie is an accurate depiction of his personal experiences.

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