Why T.D. Jakes Stays Christian
The mega-preacher discusses his favorite Christian, his annoyance with politics, and even recites his favorite Psalm.
BY: Interview by Deborah Caldwell
When your father gets sick when you're 10, and he dies when you're 16, and you grow up with a kidney machine in your house, you become a caretaker. And you see life differently from kids who grew up playing basketball and football and tennis matches and white-water rafting. There's a certain sobriety, there's a certain seriousness, there's a certain compassion that exudes out of your speech and out of your character.
And I think my success in ministry--in spite of my large structure and booming voice-- there's a certain compassion that resonates in what I say that makes people feel comfortable with me. I think that my hurt comes through.
What's the downside? Do you become, in a way, egoless?
It's funny you should say that. Two days ago, I burst a blood vessel in my eye and my wife was having a fit because I wouldn't sit down and take care of myself. And I think that's the way life balances things. Sometimes people who care for everybody else don't take time to care for themselves--and God gives people around you who care for you, who make up the difference.
One of the great problems in life is that we think we have to be good at everything. And in reality, nobody is good at everything. You have to be good at something. And then God brings into your life, people who accessorize you and complete you in the most unique and beautiful ways-that's what marriage is all about, that's what partnerships and business relationships are all about, that's what friendships are all about. It's people who complete you, not people who compete with you.
You alluded earlier to Christianity being used for political reasons. What do you think of the nation's current political climate?
It's a very interesting time in our country. I think we're doing some political sweeping, and everybody is having to take another look at their message points and their agenda. I think the last election did bring to the point that moral values are important to most Americans. But I'm concerned that we define morality based purely on hot-button political issues. And I think that we oversimplify the challenge that we all have to maintain the kind of morality that God would want us to have.
What do you mean by that?
We have reduced morality down to just a couple of political issues, like gay marriage and abortion and things like that. Whereas when I teach my children about morality, I teach them the power of keeping your word, f the importance of showing up on time, the importance of paying your bills. When you start talking about morality it's a wider turf. I think that racism is immoral, I think that not taking care of the elderly is immoral, I think that not feeding the homeless is immoral.
And so I would just like to broaden the conversation. And I would like for none of us to get to the point that we assume because we voted this way or that way on a couple of issues that we have mastered morality. In reality, morality is something that we all struggle to manage--it's like weight loss. For some of us, it's something we have to work on every day.
What's it like in Texas now, with that political climate? There are a lot of moral lines being drawn in the sand there, no doubt.
First of all, I love being in Texas--Dallas in particular. And there are lines being drawn politically, but I see people jumping back and forth across the lines.
Oh, yes. It's very important to understand today that no one can assume that they have any group of people locked down. People are jumping across the board. There are people who are signing up to the Republican Party that historically did not and vice versa. And I think it's very, very important that we continue to work hard to serve the community rather than to take sides. And more and more we are proving as African-Americans that we are not monolithic, that we do think differently, and we are interested in whichever party is going to serve the issues and concerns that reflect our community.
Would you ever try to get involved in politics to be a healer?
[laughs] Absolutely not. I've got my work cut out for me. Politics is something that I'm curious about. I don't think any of us can totally divorce ourselves from politics, because we live with the consequences of political decisions. I deeply enjoy my right to vote and I encourage other people to do so. Our church was able to get more people registered to vote than any other church in Dallas. And so we encourage that right, but at the Potter's House we do not tell people how to vote. I think as we teach them to vote, we celebrate our right--but when we tell themhow
to vote we start manipulating their minds--and I respect my congregation too much to do that.