Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis city. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His project The Hero Killer was released on January 21 and will be followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For the Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get The Hero Killer here.
I'm going to start this off by saying I abhor Pastor Kerney and Peter Popoff.
Kerney is the preacher who apparently can cure AIDS just by speaking in tongues. And In my opinion, Peter Popoff is the devil himself, seeking comedic relief by going to church every Sunday.
Black people eat this mess up and Peter laughs his way to the bank. My father kept the TV glued to Benny Hinn despite the fact that he was blatantly full of crap. Hinn grossed $100 million a year in his prime.
I was raised in the black church. We went to church most Sundays, and when we didn't we had some form of church at home. Spirituality and practicing our faith was very important in our household. My father was as close to being a preacher as one could be. My youngest brother Mario attended seminary school and even preached a sermon at our church at the age of twelve.
I remember my father would spend entire days praying sometimes. There was always some sort of religious theme in home. In the car we heard nothing but gospel music and recordings of televangelists. I even grew up listening to nothing but Gospel rap until a certain point. But I've matured since the days of my childhood and somehow managed to become a fairly civilized adult.
My problem with being raised in the church lies in the lack of free thought and self expression and freedom to formulate an unbiased world view that wasn't color-coated with undertones of religion and lack of experience. This might be the real reason I became a musician: freedom. Freedom to create and be yourself even if you are flawed. Freedom to not judge other people based upon their downfalls. I enjoy the fact that music unites people more than it separates us. Religion, on the other hand, has caused (at last count) a gazillion wars and murdered people throughout every generation of mankind's history.
The Vatican can silently influence a politician to bomb a country right now if it wanted to. This has always been one of my personal problems with structured religion, and people always seem to close their eyes to the fact that greed and modern day Christianity go hand in hand. It's a problem that has been unchecked for centuries, and now it has grown totally out of control. The black Christian is often the least educated because we are the main people that place the mystique of Jesus in any slot that is open to our lack of understanding. If we don't understand something or aren't educated on the topic, we have zero problems with "placing it in God's hands" instead of being a logical human being and actually finding a sensible answer. My lights are off, I need a job, I'll just sit here and pray because God will indeed figure it out. Meanwhile God is yelling back at us, "I already did figure it out: You need a job."
We can't overlook the fact that it's in our heritage as African Americans to be slightly foolish when it comes to Christianity. Some of us actually believed the Southern Baptist slave master pastors when they said the Bible supports the idea that being black is a curse. We believed that white Jesus designed us to be slaves. They gave us bibles and took all the land and we went along with it. I'm not saying absolutely nothing good came from the slaves using Christianity to get them through their hardships. I'm just saying it's in our DNA as descendants of slaves to be a bit more relaxed about certain things concerning grey areas and faith. It's also apart of our heritage to look to the sky for the day God will deliver the magical answer to all of our problems.
My younger siblings, Maurice and Mario, attended a private Christian school on the south side with a pretty open-minded pastor during their elementary school years. I was older, so we didn't go to the same school. But I liked the pastor, even though I was never the biggest fan of going to church, because I didn't feel any intellectual stimulation from sitting there. I'd rather watch a documentary about the Bible or read scripture in my own private time.
My family ended up relocating to this church after our original church closed due to a financial scandal. That church had an ambitious and charismatic pastor. You know, one of those black pastors who solely preached about money and prosperity. Poor blacks love to go to church and turn Jesus into a money machine. I watched that pastor drive by us one day as we all struggled to carry groceries home. He pulled over, looked at the bags, rolled down the window of his shiny brand new Jaguar, stuck his head out the window and said to my father, "You need to get you a car, brother!" He drove off, and from that day forth I believed something was shady about this man.
The church ended up closing, as the pastor stole all the money from the building fund and seemingly vanished from the face of the Earth before the congregation could catch up with him. For years in a desolate off-road section of north St. Louis county the beams constructed for the new building stood half-built as construction for the new church was ceased. I saw my father save 10 percent of every paycheck to give to the church in the name of God. He never missed a beat with this and believed strongly that this was God's money and not his. I'm not slandering my father for being a man of faith, but I am slandering the church for taking advantage of his eager desire to please God.
Many years later we ended up switching to a predominantly white congregation at our new church and the energy I felt at the previous church wasn't there. The preacher did more than preach about money night and day. There was a real community spirit and the energy was warm and comforting. Although I'm sure more than a few of the church-goers were a little apprehensive about us since we weren't from this particular community, at least the pastor wasn't juicing us and trying to sell us a miracle he couldn't produce. People paid tithes to the church but the sermons were very seldom about wealth or God's ability to produce money.
I left the house at an early age and drifted away from my family structure. I wandered into the world attempting to become a professional musician when I was seventeen years old. During the course of this process I learned about the world and the many different forms of religion and spiritual experiences one can endure through the quest to discover oneself. Last week I saw a video of Tyler Perry gifting T.D. Jakes a million dollars and it just rekindled my annoyance with mega churches.The entire video is a joke; it's Tyler Perry shelling out money to the black church world to protect him from the rumors that he is gay and hide his sexual preference from the black Christian community.
T.D. Jakes is the leading authority in the black church today, so giving him a million dollars (versus giving this money to a small struggling church that actually needs financial help) should be a sin within itself. This was a political payoff and a total mockery to God. Even still, the truth is some would say there's nothing wrong with T.P. giving T.D. this much money if he was honestly moved by the spirit to do so. I'd say that if these two jokers wouldn't have made such a spectacle of it the move might've seemed sincere. But instead they decided to turn it into a circus of North American Negro ridiculousness. I was watching this and waiting for Sambo to come out onstage tap-dancing with his lips painted white. The pastor's wife gets on the mic and turns into Lil' Jon with her hypeman tactics. The is the greatest show on Earth, folks, and it will never stop.
The problem is, nobody stops to think, "My lights are off. I'm struggling. It might not be a good thing that this movie star just gave our pastor a million dollars for absolutely nothing. If he just received a million bucks from him, then why does he also need me to give him some money today as well?" He could've given this money to a struggling member of the congregation and I would've applauded it. But the show Perry and Jakes put on for the cameras was simply disgusting.
Insanely large churches often gain too much influence in the political world. This would be okay if these churches were governed by saints, but absolute power corrupts absolutely, so more times than not these people are religious criminals hiding in the grey areas provided by the notion of faith.
I typically hate mega churches and I really hate black mega churches. Our community has so many internal problems, and institutions of this nature could be doing so much more to help us correct these problems. They're not going to have all the answers, but according to the Bible, Jesus was an extremist so an organization claiming to be the physical manifestation of him on this planet should be equally extreme. This guy's life story was all about being turned up at all times against the wrongs of society. His followers are often less passionate.
Instead most of them just suck the blood out of people's wallets and run away laughing. Being a preacher capable of magnetizing a large number of people requires some serious talent. I understand this, so I respect the talent required to pull this off. I respect the fact that the message they provide on a certain level is usually positive and uplifting. There's a new reality show called Preachers of LA, showcasing church pastors living like P. Diddy. The very book they preach from says it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. This scripture is irrelevant, apparently, or simply applies to everyone besides the preacher.
I'll probably annoy a few people with this blog post because black people don't speak down on Jesus and we also don't talk about the church negatively. There's an invisible whip that cracks across our backs when we do this. I'm being punished right now by God for even questioning the sacred nature of his beloved church. But I can't believe in Jesus and expect answers for the portions of the Bible that absolutely sound re-written and scripted to the liking of politicians and con artists from centuries ago. I have zero right whatsoever to spot these things and call them out. It's OK for popular rappers to stop rapping and start a church. It's also OK for these same exact popular rappers to preach about nothing but money. It's also OK for them to start rapping again about their playboy lifestyle while being the lead pastor of this church.
I don't think it's right to play games or take advantage of a person's spirituality. I'm sure these types of people sleep well at night because in their minds the congregation is a bunch of sheep and they aren't doing anything wrong. In the meantime though, the church is morphing into an ever lasting joke.
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