T.D. Jakes Seeks Leadership, Not Faith, in PresidentThe black vote is key in presidential elections, and candidates turn to black ministers for support. But one of the most powerful black preachers in the country says that, for him, the pulpit is not the place for endorsements. Bishop T.D. Jakes talks to Michele Norris about religion and politics.
T.D. Jakes Seeks Leadership, Not Faith, in President
Bishop T.D. Jakes has taken a small, nondenominational church in Dallas and built it into a massive ministry with a brand of entrepreneurial evangelism that reaches followers through movies, music and mega-fests.
A typical Jakes rally will fill an arena with more than 100,000 followers.
Jakes has written 30 best-selling books, the latest of which is called Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits.
One of the most influential black leaders today, Jakes has the ear of President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton. He says the black clergy faces big challenges as the 2008 presidential election draws near, as they weigh competing strategies on how to work effectively for the betterment of their community.
But the challenges extend beyond the black community, Jakes says.
"I think really religion in general is struggling with politics, not just African Americans. Many, many times we've allowed ourselves to be taken up under the control of this party or that party, and I think that's dangerous when you do that," he tells Michele Norris.
"I don't think that God should be assigned to a party. When the party goes bad, then the clergy are embarrassed, and I think that faith should transcend politics," he says.
Jakes says he encourages his parishioners to vote and to be aware of the issues. But to assume that African Americans are "ignorant and need the pastor to tell them how to vote is an insult to our intelligence," Jakes says. "That day is gone."
Although it is important to Jakes that a presidential candidate has some consciousness of faith, spirituality and morality, he says he is not "myopic."
"I know many people who really love the Lord, but they might not be a good president," Jakes says.
He says that to be an effective leader, "you can't just be the president of the Christians."
"You have to be the president of the United States, which incorporates atheists, agnostics and all brands of faith," Jakes says. "And many, many Christians don't understand that. They see this as a Christian nation. But I don't see this as a theocracy. I see it as a democracy."
Describing himself as a practical and pragmatic person, Jakes says the primary issues of concern to Christians are many of the same issues that are of concern to all Americans: the morality or immorality of war, education, health care, poverty.
"Whoever moves into the White House now is going to have to be wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove, effective in building relationships internationally," Jakes says. "They're going to have to have the agility of thought, the dexterity of mind to be able to bring the nation together."
Although he says he has not had a "close enough look yet" at the current field of presidential candidates, Jakes stresses that he is looking for a person who "brings people together, rather than plays on our worst fears."
"I think that religious people, minorities and many others have been played on, that people say things to incite us to riot, to get us to vote and then don't fulfill promises," Jakes says. "I'm tired of being a pawn. I want us to be united again."
Did you ever play baseball or kickball as a kid and get to have a do-over if you missed your swing or your kick? We all wish we could have a do-over for the many mistakes and missteps we've committed. We can't. We must live with the consequences, the mistakes. But let's not do so without questioning what we can learn and how we can grow from them.
You can't have a do-over but you can reposition yourself and have a make-over. It doesn't involve plastic surgery, a radical diet, or a new wardrobe, although by the time you're done, you may be inspired to do all three! No, the kind of make-over I describe in the pages that follow involves throwing off the shackles of your addiction to apathy and embracing the tools needed to reposition yourself for a life of freedom and enrichment.
If this feels selfish or self-absorbed to you, then realize how many other lives are affected by your well-being. One of the key reasons why an intervention is often successful is it produces an awareness of how your behavior hurts those around you. Any time you're not focused on what matters most because you're allowing yourself to be distracted and numbed by some feel-good urge, it's hurting those around you.
If you know it's time and you are more than ready for a major life change, your recovery has begun. Your desire to change will only fuel your fight to reposition yourself into who you were meant to be.
If you're dissatisfied with your life, long for much more, and feel the desire to take some risks and make some changes, but those impulses are countered and blocked by your past disappointments, by the safety of your present status quo lifestyle, and by the uncertainty of your future, you are on the fence. You are flirting with the tragedy of a life wasted and regretted. Get off the fence and onto the road of recovery through repositioning.
If you are so deeply embedded in your addiction to apathy and mediocrity that you don't see what you're doing to yourself, afraid to let yourself hope, committed to busyness so that there's no time to think and reflect on what your life means and where it's headed, it's time to stop. Don't be afraid to want more and go after more. Winds of change are blowing your way.
You can have a better life. The question is: Are you willing to fight for it? Like an alcoholic recovering from the throes of his addiction, are you willing to fight the urge to settle for less and to endure the hard work required to reposition yourself? If the answer is yes, then turn the page.