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Have black preachers misled their congregations? 

Week of January 4, 2006

Hey Joe: Did you see that television special on Creflo Dollar called "Does God Want Us to be Poor?" What did you think about it?

Donald Trump, New York City

In viewing the program, I watched it from a black perspective. Creflo Dollar is a black multimillionaire preacher and was being interviewed by a white reporter. The crux of it dealt with prosperity. It didn't take long for me to figure out that the question of if God wants us to be poor stemmed from Dollar. This gave him the needed leverage to attribute his multimillion dollar status to prosperity. The word "us" in the question, however, aroused my interest. The word "prosperity" reminded me of an old-time political speech: "And if I am elected president, there will be biscuit trees on every corner and syrup flowing down the gutters. So step up, grab yourself a biscuit and sop your way to prosperity."

I listened to the program attentively as the interviewer posed question after question to Dollar regarding his prosperity. Not once did I hear him relate to anything even remotely sacred regarding it, despite that the church is the most segregated institution in America. The truth is God had nothing to do with the situation. But His name has been constantly used in vain as a way for some, who profess Him in order to rise from rags to riches. I'm sure that Creflo Dollar began his meteoric rise to fame by feeding off poor blacks before preaching to mixed congregations and joining white televangelists.

The program about Dollar was seemingly a way of showing the nation how one black can get ahead by outsmarting another. In other words, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps with black parishioners. The sad thing about it is there are other black preachers made of the same cut (T.D. Jakes and Frederick K. Price are the most notable). Like Dollar, they are of great concern to me, especially in the field of ministry. Together, they are three of the Bible's biggest money-making turncoats, who abandoned God for the want of money. Obviously, these guys aren't hip to Nat Turner, Adam Clayton Powell or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — all preachers.

Turner, during the 1800s, led a revolt against slavery and was killed. Powell, during the separate-but-equal era, coined the phrase "Keep the faith, baby," and King, during the civil rights era, led marches that broke down nearly all public accommodations that previously had barred blacks. In between Turner and King, most black preachers were programmed to console churchgoers, saying, "Turn the other cheek." Branch Rickey, after hiring Jackie Robinson for to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, asked him to use this philosophy, but only for two years. Robinson's entry, backed by overwhelming black support, eventually destroyed the once powerful Negro Leagues.

Following Dr. King, scholastic degrees became the order of the day for obtaining good-paying jobs. Black parishioners have provided jobs for black preachers for decades. There's a saying that "The wages of sin is death," but most black preachers believe that "The wages of truth is death." It is said that if you want to trick blacks, put it in writing. The Bible gives credence to this saying. With all these degrees floating around, there should be no problem in Bible interpretation. Or, to paraphrase well-known St. Louis television reporter Elliot Davis, "You asked for it!"

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn't know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman's Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry's most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they'd arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

Direct questions on any and all topics to If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.

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