Bishop T.D. Jakes Speaks On The Importance Of Fatherhood In The African-American Community, Strong Leadership, Marriage

Roland Martin and Bishop T.D. Jakes talk one-on-one about the importance of fathers in the African-American community, the Bishop Eddie L. Long scandal and what Black men look for in leadership.

MR. MARTIN:  Bishop, when we sat down in Washington, D.C., we were talking about all kind[s] of other different things, and as a part of the conversation, I – I – I brought up what was in the news that day, and that really was the allegations dealing with Bishop Eddie L. Long.  And one of the things that I said that I was concerned about was that it’s already so difficult to get Black men into the Church, and that part of his ministry was reaching out to men.  And I felt that that scandal could have a negative impact on bringing men into the Church.  And so we began to talk about this whole issue of what men expect from pastors – what they expect.  And one of the things that I said was that I thought that Black men responded to Minister Farrakhan so well because he represented Black, male strength.

What is it about men, but specifically Black men, that we’re ab- — that we respond to strength, we respond to a strong man and say, “That’s who I’m willing to follow”?

BISHOP JAKES:  I think one of the things that I had to learn that separated me from my Cau- — Cau- — W- my Caucasian counterparts is the reality that Black men often come to church for different reasons than White men, and their expectation from their pastor is different.  Because many, many Black men grew up in homes where there were no fathers, went to school where there were no male teachers, lived in a society where everybody they saw up front was female, they search and long to see a man in a position of authority to kind of fill some of the voids that they did not get throughout life.  And, inevitably, more than seeing you as “Rev,” or “Bishop,” or something like that, they see you as “dad” as “father,” because many times you become a surrogate father in their lives.

MR. MARTIN:  And are – are you cognizant – you talk about that “void.”  Are you cognizant in terms of how you carry yourself and – and what you say?  Because I – a lot of times, I’ll hear men say, “Bishop said this,” “Bishop said that,” because they are looking for somebody who can lead them in the right path.

BISHOP JAKES:  Oh, very, very much so.  The – the – [chuckles] – the weight is unbelievable, sometimes unre[a]listi- — -r- — -realistic, but it’s very, very important.  You know, in the ’60s, our pastors filled a void in the country in – in terms of civil rights.  They – they stepped up to the plate.  We didn’t have congressmen.  We didn’t have senators.  The pastor had to be everything.  The challenge that we have today is a little different, and some of it’s more domestic.  We need men who can serve as role models, as fathers speaking to the lives of other me, and they need to be men who are willing to show that they are not perfect – bec- — because sometimes, when we set ourselves up as perfect models, we alienate the men we seek to serve.  We need to be able to say, “I’m” – “I’m touched with like passions, like you.”  “I’ve got struggles, just like you.”  “I get out the bed every morning just like you.”  “Sometimes I’m depressed like you.”  “Sometimes things get on my nerves,” “frustrated with my wife,” “kick the dog,” “slap the cat,” “upset with the kids.”  “I’m a guy.”  Because if you lift yourself up as Superman, you’re not going to be able to draw anybody, number one.  Number two, that’s not really true.  We are people.  We are guys.  We are people.  We are people that God uses, but we are people


BISHOP JAKES:  — you see?  A- — and – and so your strength is in your ordinariness.  I tell people that Jesus looked so much like everybody else, that Judas had to point him out in the crowd.  He wasn’t floating through the air.  He didn’t have halos in there[?].  He looked like a guy.  His ordinariness is what drew people toward him, and my prayer is thatwe’ll have more pastors who can sit down and say, “You know, I” – “I have temptations.  I have struggles.  I have good days.  I have bad days.”  “This is what I do.”  “This is how I deal with it,” so that men can feel like – that they are accepted and that they can be realistic – realistically wooed into the intr- — infrastructure of the Church.

MR. MARTIN:  Years ago, I was reading a story on Oliver Miller, a star basketball player in the NBA [who] played a number of years ago, grew up not far from here in Ft. Worth.  And in the story, he talked about giving his mother a card on Father’s Day.

BISHOP JAKES:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  And oftentimes, when you’re watching television, and you’ll be watching the NBA draft, the NFL draft; you’ll be watching a game, and all you will hear [is], “Hi, Mom,” “Hi, Mom,” “Hi, Mom,” “My grandmother raised me.”  Terrell Owens gives a[n] interview, [and] he talks about the impact of his grandmother raising him.  And I sit there, and I always say, “Man!  Where is ‘Daddy’?


Let me tell you something.  I had an incident happen here several years ago.  On Father’s Day, we had these boutonnières that we were going to have handed out to the men, and one of the little kids came up to the altar here and said, “You’ve been like a father to me,” and he pinned it on me.  And little by little, more and more people started pinning the corsage – they had no fathers to give them to – until I had all these – [chuckles] – corsages all over me.  And they were hugging me, and they were crying.  Some of them were grown people.

What they didn’t know is that the pins were sticking in my chest.


MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

BISHOP JAKES:  Okay?  The- — they had pinned me so much, that I was bleeding under my clothes, but I didn’t stop them from pinning it, because I knew it was an important moment in their life.

I tell that story because being a father is a painful process.  Being there and standing there and not running because you’re tired, and not running because you want to quit, and not running because you’re not happy every day means there’re going to be some pins stuck in you.  But somebody has to, having done all to stand, stand there anyway and go through the painful process of rebuilding our families.


MR. MARTIN:  We talk about that pain that they go through, a- — and this doesn’t compare to it, but I’ll be honest.  What drives me crazy is when I’m watching a commercial – and I think there’s a – I think there’s a[n] OnStar commercial.  And you’re watching this commercial, and a baby’s in the backseat, crying.  And the dad has no idea what to do, so he presses the OnStar button to call mama.  And mama start[s] talking, and the baby stops crying.  And I’m watching the commercial, going, “I can’t stand a punk daddy!”

BISHOP JAKES:  [Chuckles.]


MR. MARTIN:  I can’t!  Then, there’s the other co- — there’s another commercial where the kids are actin’ a fool, and they[’ve] got cereal all over the kitchen, and daddy goes, “Where’s your mama?”

And I’m going, “That’s not the way I grew up,” ’cause Daddy woulda just jacked all of us.


MR. MARTIN:  Momma didn’t need to be there.


MR. MARTIN:  Isn’t a part of this problem as well, in terms of how men are presented, how they’re represented –

BISHOP JAKES:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — where fathers are essentially some of the most clueless folks, who can’t fix anything, can’t do any[thing] right?  They’re just Dudley Doolittles in every commercial, movie and television show.

BISHOP JAKES:  Well, see – see, it’s a boomerang effect.  Years ago, women were oppressed – for years.  Not allowed to vote, treated like property, beaten like children.  Those women have risen to power now.  Anytime an oppressed group of people rises to power, they have a tendency to oppress those who oppressed them.  Okay?  And what we’ve got to do is come to a balance and an equity in our society where we’re not seeking revenge.  The lifting up of the woman does not require the tearing down of the man.  It –


BISHOP JAKES:  — does not require that.  It does not require that.  In fact – in fact, a strong woman appreciates a strong man.


BISHOP JAKES:  You see?  So – I go- — I got some support on that.

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah, it’s – it’s a couple amens –


MR. MARTIN:  — in the –

BISHOP JAKES:  — ye- —

MR. MARTIN:  — room.

BISHOP JAKES:  — yeah, so I’m – I’m – I’m on the right track with that.  A- — and – and conversely, a strong man is not intimidated by a strong woman.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.


BISHOP JAKES:  Okay?  One of the problems we’re having is that, more times than not, we marry people at one stage in our lives that don’t fit the next stage of our lives.  So, at one stage in your life, you needed somebody to be weak and vulnerable and supportive, and you needed to be needed.  At another point, you need them to stand up and be counted.  And so one of the reasons – and – and I’m – I’m not doing this as a plug at all, but the reason I wrote Before You Do is because so many times, people marry for poor reasons.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

BISHOP JAKES:  And in the – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  A lot of folks marry what they want – not what they need.

BISHOP JAKES:  — absolutely.  Absolutely.  And they marry for crazy reasons.  You’re 18 years old, and he’s got a car:  “He’s got a ba-a-ad car” – you know?  You’re 22 years old, and he’s got a blazing career – some sort of sports career or something like that.  All those things change.  “He’s fine!”  “He’s built!”  That changes.  If you don’t believe that changes, look at anybody’s wedding pictures and catch ’em 20 years later – you know?


BISHOP JAKES:  It changes.  It changes.  What remains is not the container, but the content.  You should marry people for who they are on the inside.