Bishop T.D. Jakes is a best-selling author of 29 books, a Grammy-winning gospel singer, a nationally renowned preacher, and the subject of a 2001 Time magazine cover story that asked: Is This Man The Next Billy Graham? He is also pastor of one of the largest churches in the nation--the 30,000-member Potter's House, in Dallas. His sermons are broadcast nationally on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Black Entertainment Television. And now Jakes is a movie star, as his first movie, "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" begins appearing in theaters nationwide this week. The R-rated film, based on his famous book by the same title, deals with child molestation and the response by Christians. Jakes is hoping the film will have the same grassroots appeal that Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" had.

Beliefnet senior editor Deborah Caldwell interviewed Jakes recently in Washington, D.C., where he was promoting the film.

You've said you hope your movie would work in the same way that "The Passion" worked, as a grassroots phenomenon.

It almost has to be because it's an independent film, so we don't have a big marketing budget. It comes out [this week] on 400 screens.

In just major cities?

It's major cities, but it's also some small markets, too.

Can you name a couple?

Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Phoenix, Greenville, South Carolina-there are about 80 cities on the list right now.

So is there hope that it will grow as large as "The Passion of the Christ"?

I don't think that's realistic. This film doesn't have to reach anywhere near that level to be successful. If it provokes conversation and enough people see it that it meets the budget.I have to be real. The investors who have invested in it get taken care of, but far beyond that, I hope it helps to stir up conversation, bring awareness, and becomes a tool of ministry. I didn't measure it against "The Passion." I think "The Passion" is in a category all by itself. This, to me, is just another artery that we can tap into to continue a conversation that I've been having for about 14 years.

What have you've learned in those years about the pain of abuse?

I've learned more than the film can show or the books depict because I've been bombarded with volumes of material from women all over the country who've written and emailed and sent cards and sent tapes and sent dolls and sent articles of clothing and everything imaginable that were emblems of the tragedies that happened to them. Amazing material. I mean, just amazing, some of the letters you can't read them and not cry. And over the years I've worked in prison with inmates who've shared stories of horrific abuses that they've gone through that brought them to crime or violence or drug addictions. It has transcended every barrier, I mean it can be a white woman in Idaho, it can be an inner-city woman in Watts. There is no typical "Michelle." [The movie deals with a woman named Michelle who is now an adult and then flashes back to events in her childhood.] She's any woman, she's every woman, and she's also men.


Yes, it happens with men, and with men it's even more shameful and harder to talk about because we are not given permission, even though we were victims, to be victims because of the sexual connotations. So it is a tremendous education I've had, and it's taken on a life all its own; it's really much bigger than me, and it's much broader than me.

How will congregations deal with the movie?

Many churches are buying out nights at the theater, and they're using it as a tool of ministry. They will view the film and then go back to the church and talk about it, provoke conversations about it, because the movie deals with such a plethora of issues, from domestic violence to child abuse.

You must be exhausted from the sadness and the pain out there.

Yes, it makes me exhausted. Because I stepped on a stage and started talking about things that were taboo. I never, ever thought that people were going to come to my presentations like they did. I wasn't trying to get people to come. I was just saying what I thought. And it was much bigger than I'd thought. All the weight of dealing with the heavy issues and the emotional rollercoaster ride it places you on as you stand up there. When I minister on a subject, I have to become the victim in order to describe the issue enough to get them to be transparent with me. It's exhausting. And you can't do it well if you're tired; you can't do it well if you have crisis in your own life; you don't know whose pain to borrow--yours or theirs--because you're having a human experience as well.

It's amazing.