Creflo Dollar and the Criminalization of Black Pastors

Creflo Dollar and the Criminalization of Black Pastors



In 2007 Juanita Bynum called the police on her estranged husband, Preacher Thomas W. Weeks III, after he allegedly attacked her. Weeks was ultimately charged with aggravated assault and terroristic threats. In 2010 Bishop Eddie Long was in the middle of a despicable scandal after five young men accused him of sexual coercion – said to begin when the males were only minors. Despite his death in 2011, beloved Pastor Pastor Zachery Tims Jr. caught national headlines after being found dead in a New York hotel room with a glassine envelope containing (what was believe to cocaine).  Most recently, mega church Pastor Creflo Dollar was arrested as a result of his daughter calling police with claims of domestic abuse.

Almost once a year the media has a field day making a mockery of the Black church through the shortcomings and alleged criminal matters of a prestigious pastor. By no means should criminality in the pulpit be condoned. However, the alleged iniquities of a pastor capturing more notoriety than the philanthropy occurring inside churches daily should be considered sinful in and of itself.

The Black church is not only the oldest African American institution, but the largest, most viable institution for African American philanthropy. Not to mention, the Black church has played a pivotal role in securing civil rights for African Americans throughout history, and continues to be a significant element in African American advancement. The black church is at the heart of educating the African American community about incentives or political issues that are beneficial to enchanting the lives of African Americans. Many Black churches are not only focused on meeting the basic needs of people, but also on promoting economic empowerment and development.

But, sadly, all that goes out the window when a preacher gets arrested.

Common complaints surrounding the lavish lives many mega church pastors live have been howled for ages. “Why does he need a private jet?  Where is all the money going? Exactly how much are they paying that pastor? Why does the pastor have a Rolls-Royce, and I’m struggling?”  These cries only add fuel to the fire when the same pastors are caught in criminal mischief – leaving churchgoers feeling as if their money was mismanaged.

It would be more beneficial to African Americans to wonder why most states spend more of their tax money on incarcerating their Black men, than it spends on educating their innocent children.

It would be more beneficial to media to figure out how African Americans only make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to census data, but reportedly make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates – mega pastors not included.

Instead of throwing stones at “criminal” mega-pastors while ignoring the Black church’s worth and contribution to society, it would be more beneficial to think of ways in which we can integrate the most racially divided hours of the week- Sunday mornings.

Can I get an Amen?


  1. I agree the media concentrates on the negative but not entirely on black pastors exclusively. Im sure you remember Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Ted Haggard just to name a few.
    The media is only targeting their audience. If Real Housewives of Whatever city is on at the same time as a program like Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Housewives will get more ratings. Now if viewers chose Home Edition over Housewives then we wouldnt have this conversation.
    I wish the later was the case. I prefer positive programing but I cant say I watch TBN. I FEEL programs like Creflo and Benny Hinn (I keep hearing Benny Hill) have become informercials-trying to sell me something. The Holy Word is now being used to sell DVDs and Books. TBN has now become QVC. Which is besides the point.
    The media is not the problem its the viewers. We as a people are the current Romans watching Gladiators but on TV with commercials.

  2. Thank you Ray for the comment! I do agree that people themselves are a big part of the problem, majority of them are simply influenced by what they see/read in the media. Hopefully they'll all remember the scripture that clearly reads: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." -Matthew 7:1

  3. Mega pastors are public figures. They throw themselves into the spotlight, soak up as much publiclity as possible and then complain when they receive the same treatment that is dished to all famous people. I don't think that mega pastors have been singled out or treated unfarily by the media. They have to accept the good with the bad.

    • I agree that the spotlight has its perks and its disadvantages. My issue is people acting as if the Black church is just all bad once the preacher is caught up in some sort of scandal. The church itself is a body of members, let us not throw them under the bus when their pastor falls short.

  4. Kimora, I can't co-sign onto your half-apology because it suggests a false equivalence between Black clergy as community leaders and everyone else. Neither is it true the 'Black' clergy, as a group, is being unduly persecuted.

    The overwhelming majority of the African-American clergy go about their work without fanfare — which is as it should be IMO because ministers of all people are to conduct themselves with humility. There is, however, a highly visible cross-section of Af-Am clergy whose ministry represents a radical interpretation of the traditional 'Black' church on multiple levels. For these ministers, it's important for them to understand a dalliance with the public spotlight brings heat as well as light.

    • "The overwhelming majority of the African-American clergy go about their work without fanfare — which is as it should be IMO because ministers of all people are to conduct themselves with humility. "

      ARE YOU SERIOUS? For the past 30 years or so most black preachers have turned into money obessed crooks. They loot funds from the church to buy luxury cars, planes, mansions and the like and don't give crap back to the black community. The black church today is nothing but a joke and a greedy business for most preachers..

  5. I disagree with this assessment as it seems defensive and emotional versus what happens in reality…

    "It would be more beneficial to media to figure out how African Americans only make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to census data, but reportedly make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates – mega pastors not included."

    This statement makes no sense as it implies that blacks are the victims of the criminal justice system through no fault of their own. Criminality and imprisonment do not happen in isolation from one another. There are a myriad of reasons why that imbalance exists, much of it apart from the notion of racism, but the media doesn't have the courage to say it and unfortunately, we as blacks don't have the courage to confront the recognizable elephant in the room, which is personal responsibility with assistance from the church, not the government.

    As it regards the appeal to Matthew 7:1, I think if we read the entire passage in its proper context, we see that one is to remove the log from one's eye first to see clearly the speck to be removed from one's brother's eye- which means judgment is okay when it's not done hypocritically and when he who judges holds himself to the same standard in which he judges others.
    That said, those who have been called and entrusted with not only delivering the gospel of Christ but also embodying that gospel through discipleship are necessarily going to be held to a higher standard than those who are not. Their responsibilities are far greater, obviously, and we see what happens when they fall. They are seen to represent everything wrong about Christianity.

    The good thing is that if those caught in destructive patterns of behavior repent and seek forgiveness, they can be restored communally and in the church as well.

    • I respect your opinion Montenegro, Thanks for leaving the comment also. However, yes I'm fully aware of the context in which Matthew 7:1 is birthed from. Pastors are rightfully held to a higher standard, however my point in writing this is was not to be emtional nor defensive. It was to point out more pressing issues and the importance of the black church rather than focus the few pastors that have been caught in scandal.

  6. well i agree with this assessment almost in it's entirety. i am shocked and delighted that someone else has noticed – something fishy is going on.

  7. Well written Kimora.

    Montenegro, I take issue with you trying to minimize her assessment of the incarceration rates. There are a ton of factors, including racial profiling as to why so many of our young black people are much more incarcerated than the masses. You seem to insinuate that black people are innately criminals as our failed justice system has implied. Give people more opportunities to make a legal dollar and they won't turn to illegal matters.

    As far as the pastors go, I'll simply say this. They are humans as well. I encourage our community to pay closer attention to the good that the body of Christ does daily, instead of concentrating on the incidents of the few who fall.

    • There was no minimization of the incarceration rates of blacks. I was minimizing the inherent characterization of victimhood of those who are incarcerated. I do not think that blacks are innately criminal. To suggest as much is racist and dehumanizing. My point expressly was that one reason those rates are so high is that lack of personal responsibility fostered in black communities. Criminals- black or otherwise- don't end up incarcerated through no fault of their own. Yes racism exists and no one disputes that, but to say that racial profiling is a reason that blacks are imprisoned unjustly goes a tad too far (and supports victimhood that debilitates our community).

      Simply put, racism or the supposed ineptness of our justice system, doesn't force nor explain why blacks engage in criminal activity. It's a broken value system (which at one point in time, the value system was sternly taught from the pulpit of the black church) that facilitates the high numbers of blacks participating in uncivil behavior that leads to their incarceration (for the most part).

      • Many young black males do not attend church. In fact, if a black male hasn't been raised in the church since adolescence, the odds are very low that he will attend once he becomes an adult. Therefore, a value system sternly taught from the pulpit is truly preaching to the choir. I think the deterioration of the family unit is the biggest reason we have higher incarceration rates. I learned my values from my parents, not the pastor. The lack of employment opportunities after release is what perpetuates the high recidivism rates and keeps the cycle going.

        In my opinion, the black church itself and the pastors should be doing more for the communities they serve in terms of economic development and job creation. I see too many people thinking they can just pray their problems away. Afraid that if they don't tithe, they'll miss some blessings. These mega-church pastors, walking around in Gators, wearing $2000 suits, and flying around in private jets, should not be immune to criticism. In fact, the phrase "pimps in the pulpit" seems appropriate to me. Why should their transgressions be overlooked?

  8. It seems to me that the Catholic Church as a whole has received far more negative media attention than have black churches in particular. And while more media and policy attention should focus on the disparity in incarceration rates and sentence length between blacks and their white counterparts, these issues have little to do with the rash of sensational coverage involving black pastors.Simply put, if you are a public figure and you get caught doing something dirty, the media will nail you. That will never change.

  9. I appreciate this…but fundamentally, I disagree. Essentially, what it feels like the "they do it too" argument. Yes, governments waste dollars and engage in criminal activity. There are many individuals and institutions who call them out on that. However, it doesn't change the fact that these pastors should be accountable for their actions as well. The use of the term "criminalization" makes it seem like there is some conspiracy to target these men…and I don't think that's the case. I think sometimes the black church is reluctant to make their pastors accountable….which does a disservice to their victims, to the pastors themselves (who start to believe that they're above the law) and to the many church-goers and pastors who conduct their business and personal lives with integrity. Those are the people we should be reserving our defense for.

  10. Wrong is wrong. The media is in the business to sell papers and gain viewership. The Pastors are supposed to be reprsentive the words and life (as much as possible) to thier flock.
    Unfortunatley some Pastors have changed their mission. I have no sympathy and they'
    ve positioned themselves to be used by the media.

  11. Why should black pastors be overlooked when they screw-up? Especially pastors of mega-churches who are, in my opinion are non-theological robbers. Their focus appears to be to escape with as much money as possible. They do very little out-reach, live lavishly on other people's dime and avoid paying their fair share of income taxes. Their lives are a great example of what Christians should not do. The media, black or white should and must report what happens, that is what they get paid to do. Actions that violate the law should and must be reported.

  12. Christ's ministry rallied against the established church of his time..chasing the money changers out of the temple,preaching a doctrine of love for your neighbor and to care for those in need…The Black church has a historic history but it should not be given a pass (niether should parents,schools and our elected officals ).
    How effective has the church been in dealing with the present conditions of blacks…The new prosperity doctrine I find very troubling were capitalism is placed above spiritual development..there was a time when we held a spiritual high ground in this country..that is not the case now..We Are The Problem And The Solution Lies With Us.. No Passes!!