Late last week, I posted an article entitled, “The Descent: James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel and the Blurry Road to the Prosperity Gospel.” Since that time, the storm that has threatened to envelope the evangelical world has only intensified as more and more people have begun to rightfully react to MacDonald’s highly questionable decision to bring Jakes into the Elephant Room, and his even poorer handling of the actual exchange itself.
Today, I want to respond to a round table discussion that Pastor MacDonald has filmed and posted on his blog. Why? Because aspects of this discussion further inflame and ultimately confuse the issue by giving voice to racially-insensitive, ad hominem attacks. I am, of course, referring to the words spoken by the African-American Pastor Bryan Loritts of Fellowship Memphis.
“Some of the strongest reactions of people were African Americans in the blogosphere. And I’ll just go ahead and say it, who strike me as wanting so bad to be in the white theological world. And to take a little bit of a tangent here, and I’ll get back. The loudest voices in the conservative, evangelical world, in my estimation right now, are your older white reformed voices. And so that implicitly sends the message that mature Christianity in the conservative evangelical world is older white. And you’ve got some African Americans who so idolize that – its what some people would call white idolization – that they then feel is if they’ve got to be the voice for black culture to speak against people like T.D. Jakes. So what happens is you kind of prop them up … My concern is: African Americans, a small minority, speaking against Jakes, and then leveraging that in the white theological world, for some of these older white theologians … to fit into their circles. We want to be in their circles. And so we’ll allow ourselves to be used as a puppet.”
Now stop and think about what Pastor Loritts has just said. Without personally knowing the character of all of the various African American critics of this debacle, Loritts feels free to dismiss them, in an ad hominem attack, as “puppets,” who are simply trying “to fit into [the white theological world].”
And where is James MacDonald when Loritts is voicing these patently unfair, unwise and dangerous derisions? He is once again opting to say absolutely nothing. He doesn’t put a stop to it. He doesn’t shake his head in disagreement. He doesn’t even ask a counter-question to force Loritts to consider the gravity of what he has just said. Instead, he allows for Loritts to use racially inflammatory rhetoric to condescendingly dismiss the African American critics of the Elephant Room 2 and then dares to conclude the session by offering these thoughts:
“One of my main take-aways is that if you discount relationship, you misunderstand a lot. If we hadn’t reached out to Bishop Jakes in relationship, we would have misunderstood his theology.”
So apparently, certain African American pastors and theologians were wrong to voice their concerns over T.D. Jakes because they lacked the necessary relationship with him to question his theology. But as for Bryan Loritts, he is perfectly justified in dismissing African American critics as sycophantic “puppets” without having personally reached out to each and every one of them.
The longer this goes on, the more troubling it becomes.