Many Kenyans were irked after American Bishop T.D Jakes use the N-word in a sermon in Dallas, USA. The clip that went viral was drawn from a section of a sermon where Jakes criticizes the materialistic lifestyle of the pastors in a new reality hit series ‘The Preachers of L. A” which he dismissed as junk TV. To distance himself from the hyped cast of prosperity pastors, Bishop T.D Jakes emphasized that “The natives all over Kenya drink water because of this ministry. And the hospital in Nairobi survives because of this ministry”. That statement rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Who are you calling native? That word conjures some of the most demeaning colonial era stereotypes that successive generations of Kenyans have had to bear.
As expected, #KOT (Kenyans on Twitter) reaction was quick and furious. T.D Jakes retraced and apologized probably baffled by the ‘natives’ enlightened presence online. The statement had all the highlights of the 1st World superiority complex. Africans continue to be identified by their most negative national characteristics and the sweeping statement was not going to be taken lying down.
Often for many African American celebrity figures, going back to Africa has become a euphemism for disease, ignorance, poverty and corruption. For a generation of Kenyans who have lived to witness an American of Kenyan descent rise to become the president of the US, it becomes personal.
The internet has flattened the world and Kenyans are challenging perceived stereotypes. Many have gained a voice and a platform to tell their own version of reality. Kenyans who have traveled abroad to Western Europe and America have tales to share of the daily encounters with the ignorant westerner, the racial profiling and their ridiculously daft questions.
The irony is that for many Kenyans, T.D Jakes was considered one of the pioneers of the prosperity gospel that he vehemently criticizes. His sermons are a spectacle to witness with the stirring of the huge congregation of ten of thousands into frenzy. He was about the most influential American preacher to hit the mainstream gospel channels and I believe he still a widely known and popular figure in Kenya. Bishop Jakes glammed up the gospel and introduced the breed of celebrity pastors.
Today, Kenya is littered T. D Jakes wannabes. The anointed preacher in a designer suit energetically pacing up and down a stage, using a white handkerchief to mop a glistering brow is a regular sight. We have seen the humble male preacher transform into a personality cult figure where members of new age evangelical churches are drawn to a pastor’s charisma. It is a radical shift from the past where the clergy man wore a simple collar and churches were not run like a business that is focused on turning a profit.
The contemporary TV preacher (also known as Mpesa preachers) has become a showman. It comes down to the basic tenets of the business of media production. Without a show, you draw no ratings and lack of ratings is bad for business.
The church was a relatively credible institution until the new generation of T. D Jakes inspired pastors started to appear on the scene. Nowadays, the pulpits are crowded out by business people masquerading as holy men, flaunting their wealth and rubbing their generosity in the face of the less privileged. The soul searching masses are the fodder this ego-centered version of spirituality and charity is a central part of their bragging rights.
Here is thing…Charity isn’t charity if you have brag about it. I hope the good Bishop has picked up a lesson in humility.
17 thoughts on “Who Are You Calling Native?”
I like the ending and I cant agree more than that. I hope that T.D Jakes realizes that humility is Key when it come to giving. If you gave me a shirt, it would be offending to me if you go telling everyone that you gave me a shirt. I firmly believe in the mainstream churches, true missionaries who left their comfort and came to spread the gospel in Africa, never returned to their homes. They never bragged about it and never lived wealthy lavish lifestyles, but rather a humble life and fighting for the rights of the oppressed.
In Memory of Fr. John Anthony Kaisa Murdered in Morendat for fighting against the injustices within the society. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Anthony_Kaiser
I concur with James. True Missionaries hardly returned to comforts of their Western origins. They are found buried in remote Graveyards spread across Africa, South America and Asia. Pure spiritual figures never seek extreme material wealth, Dazzling media publicity or recognition.
He’s done movies, written books, etc, raking in more money from his prosperity gospel, he can’t deny who he blatantly is. He should be featured on that “Preachers of LA”
Heheee! Loved the bit of him being puzzled by the presence of natives online! And I have to agree with Juma Bahati Ali, he ought to be featured on that show, heheee!
I don’t blame T. Jakes whoever. I blame the idiots who attend his nonsensical nonsenses (to make him rich).
This is a great article. I am a Christian who spent alot of time following Td Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Crefflo Dollar and Co. Unfortunately, the health and wealth gospel has really diluted the centrality of the gospel. Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and not our personal satisfaction . God is now seen as this Santa Claus who keeps giving . God blesses us with material things , but He also cautions us about worshipping the created. Unsound doctrine is common place in Kenya. I have tried to have conversations with some friends and family about the danger of the prosperity gospel with no success. These preachers have many defenders who are not willing to back down any time soon. I have often wondered how a country that is 70% Christian is in the moral state that its in. I am sure a large percentage of this number are nominal christians. My biggest concern for Kenya is that there is no real transformation after conversion to Christianity. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sins. Instead we have all these folks politician and common mwanainchi at prayer rallies that are very insincere. We know how entreched tribalism, elitism and sycophacy is with our people. A believer cannot be a real christian and all these things combined. A christian should hate their sin.True men and women of God know that suffering will be apart of their walk with Jesus. Its not about living a flashy lifestyle and being rich. There is nothing inherently wrong with money, but because of our sinful nature we will always want more. Its very hard to be content with this type of teaching. Faithful christians often give up the comfort of their earthly life to evangilize countries where the gospel has not been heard. Today, more christians are being persecuted in places like Asia and the Middle East than ever before. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd. He is sovreign and will look after His bride- The Church. We can add on all this stuff that’s not the real Gospel, but in the end Jesus will redeem His people. If you know and have heard the Good News you ought to rejoice. Take sometime to try and help others see the Truth. We live in a very narcissistic age. It’s all about self importance and egos and relevance and not about Jesus.
I am not sure why we natives took offence. we stop dancing half naked in front of foreigners (tourists), we stop defecating on bridges the Chinese built for you with their own money, we stop using telephone phone books (especially the soft yellow pages) for toilet paper, we stop giving away your gold, limestone and oil for beautifully inked green paper 2.61 inches wide and 6.14 inches long, we stop living purely to satisfy our loins and our voracity.. we stop abusing our women.. our women stop abusing themselves.. we stop exploiting the weak in our society, we find out the purpose of life and live above our instinctive needs… then we will stop being natives.
we need to stop being natives… then we will stop being called natives…
using twitter, facebook, driving vehicles and flying aeroplanes… does not make us civilized.. it just makes us highly educated, tool savvy natives….
civilization is all together a different game…
T.D. Jakes let slip his true perspective of us… a real moment of truth… running away from it or forcing him to recant it doesn’t change it…
I dare say, he is the friend we need.. the one who has such a pure heart, such innocence that he lacks the devious cunning to tell us other than what he really thinks of us.
Well said. We behave primitive but like to pretend that we are civilized just because we have an online presence. This is what is driving us to china who are pretenders to civilization like us. Civilization is not about speaking English but on how you conduct yourself and treat others. The way we react to people like TD Jakes on using the word ‘native’ and South Korean ‘primitive people’ even when they apologize on an apt perception from their end shows our lack of graciousness; a mark of civilization.
Great read Pala; I absolutely agree with Arkan up here…..quite on point.
I agree with the retraction of Dr. Jakes. However, I disagree with the lumping together of preachers and assigning them a certain code. It is intellectual laziness not to thoroughly investigate an issue before launching forth on opinions – and I say this with all the respect Mr. Pala has gleaned from me over the years.
Dr. Jakes is wealthy, that does not make him a “preacher of L.A.”. Indeed many biblical figures of note were fabulously wealthy; a major case in point being the Old Testament character – Job.
The source of Dr. Jakes’ wealth is also well documented and accounted for. – If you Impute he amassed his wealth through his flock, please be gracious enough to provide evidence.
Neither does your article differentiate between well-dressed preachers and “MPESA preachers” – the two from my own experience are not synonymous.
Finally, I would like to finetune the meaning of the word humility. True humility arises from the individual’s heart, not from the environment or from the opinion of those around a person.
I agree with the heart of your article, that too many pulpits have become – like the biblical temple – a marketplace very much in need of a whip of cords.
Couple of weeks back, we witnessed a 200+ pound gorilla in a suit viciously assault a woman in full public view… I am not talking about some small tiff between jealous lovers, I am talking about a full scale savage attack by a senior public official, in a public office, upon another senior public official, on a official public matter!
Now, you cannot indict an ape for being an ape. An ape assaults a woman in public, you restrain it through humane means. An ape is an ape, you let it loose and then blame it for assault and you will do nothing else all your lives as a society except prosecute apes for being apes.
So please understand,while the attack was significantly shocking, what was extremely revealing was how society reacted to the brutal attack!? I must confess I never saw it coming…
Even people I consider intellectuals, people of thought, refined, gracious… did not feel violated by this act!? I will keep my comment short. The vicious assault was not the issue, the reaction of society is what was extremely revealing… varying from tacit approval to complete support for the act… and I am not talking about my fellow plebeians from Eastlands, I am talking about the educated elite, educated people, architects, business people, project managers, people who live in suburbs. even people who consider themselves very religious…acceded to this vicious attack..
I assure you, we are not called natives, monkeys, apes because of the colour of our skin or because of the continent we live on… we are called monkeys because we do not subscribe to a value system above that of animals in a jungle…
again allow me to clarify further.. what I am talking about is not the act by the individual but the tacit approval by society.. the issue is not the individual, it is the society.. society restrains errant individuals who behave like animals, but you cannot expect apes to restrain an ape that defecated in the wrong place, because… well they are all apes… so, given our tacit approval of a savage act by a savage… makes us all savages.
I will end with a small comment made by a close friend who lives in the UK… he was stunned by the queue jumping and aggressive uncouth behaviour of people in an upmarket hospital (Nairobi Hospital). I mean, you know locals, no shame at all. will find you queuing and go right ahead to step right in front of you. It happened once, we politely gave way thinking maybe there was a mis-understanding, and given it is a hospital your never know what desperation is prompting uncouth behaviour… but when people realised there were weak (polite) people in the queue, their predatory instinct took over and now every gutsy woman or man was elbowing and bullying their way ahead of us… my poor friend was horrified and addressed one of them politely… he got a vicious look.. I, after many years of embarrassment no longer even bother to explain or apologize for our behaviour… I simply tell my guests, “what do you expect? its ape continent.” and white people usually do not know how to deal with such a comment, an wisely keep quiet… well aware anything they say will be especially offensive because they are white… but this time my guest, who is very respectful told me something interesting “in the UK even killers queue politely, even known gangsters give way when driving.. because subscribing to cultured, measured, restrained public behaviour and norms are what civilised human beings”.. that is why pissing in public is an offence, NOT pissing in the open, pissing in the open where you are out of sight and no one can see you is OK, because it is about how we behave when we are together that matters… an ape, a buffalo, pisses and poops where it stands in the herd, that what makes it an animal… and the reason why we allow cats and dogs to live with us is because they can be trained in civilised behaviour…
so, again as I try to stay brief… I repeat, we are not called monkeys because of the colour of our skin.. we are called monkeys because a woman can be assaulted in full public view by an individual the public has chosen to be guardian over us in the public space and we applaud it… this is the behaviour of savages… it is not to say that errant individuals do not exist in civilized societies, it is to say that acts of savagery are punished by the society when they happen.. NOT celebrated.
He said that? Bastard.
spoken like a true native 🙂
man you should do a piece on kogalo
..kenyans took his little water, spat in it and then handed it back to him..’let me stir that for you good sir.there you go now’. Hautoshi mboga.
T.D. Jakes draws on extensive research, including interviews with numerous friends and colleagues of Jakes, to examine both Jakes’ rise to prominence and proliferation of a faith industry bent on producing spiritual commodities for mass consumption. Lee frames Jakes and his success as a metaphor for changes in the Black Church and American Protestantism more broadly, looking at the ramifications of his rise’and the rise of similar preachers’for the way in which religion is practiced in this country, how social issues are confronted or ignored, and what is distinctly “American” about Jakes’ emergence. While offering elements of biography, the work also seeks to shed light on important aspects of the contemporary American and African American religious experience.