We’ve been focusing on real-life drama in the church. What often happens is when that drama spills over and gets out and is published in the newspaper, on the Internet, all of a sudden it becomes the focus of movies and television.
Roland Martin talked to Bishop T.D. Jakes, though, about how he deals with images of the church on the big screen and the small screen; and he also talked about why, for him, it’s important to be able to control the message on how the faithful are portrayed, where he says it’s all about having the control to tell your own story.
MR. MARTIN: We’ve been focusing on real-life drama in the church. What often happens is when that drama spills over and gets out and is published in the newspaper, on the Internet, all of a sudden it becomes the focus of movies and television.
I talked to Bishop T.D. Jakes, though, about how he deals with images of the church on the big screen and the small screen; and he also talked about why, for him, it’s important to be able to control the message on how the faithful are portrayed, where he says it’s all about having the control to tell your own story.
BISHOP JAKES: When you look at Matthew, Mark and Luke and John, the four gospels, more is written about what Jesus did outside of the synagogue than is ever written about what is happening inside the synagogue. The church has to leave the four walls of the church and embrace the culture, influence the culture and do what Christ said in Matthew 28:19: “go into all the world.”
And one of the ways that we go into all the world is not by camels anymore, but it’s by television. It’s by technology. It’s by social media. It’s by movies, and that’s how we influence the culture.
MR. MARTIN: Are you concerned, though, when you see some movies out there; you see some television shows that cast the Church in a negative light? Yet, when you look at the movies that you do, first of all, you don’t shy away from drama in the church, or drama in people’s lives; but you do focus on the fact that there’s[?] also redemption, and you can overcome that stuff.
BISHOP JAKES: I’m very focused on redemption, because that is central to the message of what we’re called to preach. We have issues and struggles just like anybody else, but we don’t want to highlight that. We want to focus on the positive message of Christ, who is the answer and not the question; and I think it’s very, very important that we do so in a very professional way.
I am concerned when I see people who are opportunistically exacerbating the very worst elements of the Church itself.
MR. MARTIN: You know, I remember when Tyler Perry had a development deal with ABC, and the standards folks there said, “You know, I think you’re saying ‘Jesus’ a little too much.”
And he decided, “Look, if I can’t say ‘Jesus’ in my television show, I can’t do a show with you,” and, of course, took his shows to TBS; and, you know, history has been made on that front.
And so what about being able to represent the faith in a way where you say, “I have to be true to myself, as opposed to change my standards to become more secular to please someone else”?
BISHOP JAKES: What a great question, and here lies the real issue.
I think many, many people who fall prey to negative messages that are perpetuated through the media do so because they don’t have control of their own show. I have tried to maintain the integrity of having control over the messages that are emitted up under my title, up under my name and brand. And I encourage other people to do so. Don’t allow the desire to have a contract and an opportunity to take you away from your core and from your core values and who you are as an individual.
MR. MARTIN: Bishop, I’ve got to ask you this last question here, and that is we talked a little bit a little earlier about what you see on the big screen or the small screen. And does it cause you to really get upset, or do you say, “You know what? This really is just a movie,” or, “It’s just a television show, so I’m not going to get all crazy about it,” as long as there’s some balance there, that you’re actually showing the good and the bad, the positive and the negative?
BISHOP JAKES:Well, you know, I have a unique opportunity that other people don’t have. People who’re sitting on their living room couch are vulnerable to the images that they see on
screen and sometimes don’t feel like they can change it. God has blessed me to be in a unique position where I have an opportunity rather than to criticize those who do things that I don’t like, but to do things that are more congruent with my value systems. Consequently, my philosophy in life is that it is far better to ‘light a candle than tit is to scream at the darkness.
And I’m encouraging other people. You know, one of the great things that we’re getting ready to do [is] we’re going to incorporate a film festival as a part of MegaFest, because we do want to train other people to take control of your own life and destiny and to be able to create and contribute to the global conversation that we’re seeing on the big screen and the small screen. We need more messages of faith. We need more producers, directors, actors, writers. Every caveat [sic] to this process is in this, from makeup artists to caterers. We can employ our own people. We can control the messages that go out about our people when we start producing our own product, rather than being subordinate to those who control the way and the images that are projected not only about the Church, but about black people – about all people, in general.
If you don’t like what you see, take control of the camera. There are more people in the theater on Friday night than there are in the pews on Sunday morning.