News » Ask a Negro Leaguer

So, Joe, why do we need preachers?

Week of February 15, 2007


Hey Joe: Regarding your recent column on black preachers, there are a few statements I don't fully understand. First, how does segregation relate to Creflo Dollar's remarks about prosperity? Secondly, do you really believe the institution of the church is the most segregated? I find more acceptance there than anywhere. Also, when you say, "With all these degrees floating around, there should be no problem in Bible interpretations," do you mean something like, "Why do we need preachers?"

Kathy Wentzel, St. Louis

I'm not suggesting we don't need preachers. I'm only suggesting that we hold them accountable for preaching the Bible correctly. That is, if they understand it. I love how you asked me to clarify things you didn't understand. That's exactly what parishioners should do to preachers, especially the biggies like Creflo Dollar, Frederick Price and T.D. Jakes. I want them to understand the history of the black church. It has been, in the words of the song, "like a bridge over troubled water." It provided blacks hope within a hopeless world. Like the old Negro hymn "Steal Away," it provided them with a place where they could steal away and take their burdens to the Lord.

The source of the problem occurred at a time when most black parishioners were unable to read and most preachers, due to incompetence, were called "jacklegs." Most never learned the basics of the Bible (the crux of it can be found in the Book of Exodus). Then came Reverend Vernon Johns, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, who challenged and conquered the South's notorious laws. Eventually King would become known as "Doctor," a title befitting him. His legacy speaks for itself. His dream amplified his ambition. His doctorate served to heal a racially split society, including the church.

During the show Does God Want Us to Be Poor? Dollar (who also exalts himself as "Doctor") exhibited a different personality. His ambition reflected the want of money and even encouraged his followers to pursue it. The Book of Luke [19:1-8] presents a clearer picture of the subject. Zacche'us, a rich man and a tax collector who hadn't received Christ, sought Him. Before repenting, the people called him a sinner. Dollar, also a rich man, is completely the opposite. He claims that God called him to preach, yet misleads his followers by using God's name to sell them his books and tapes, which are tax-exempt. By referring to them as "gifts," they are classified as "nonprofit."

As for his cohorts Price and Jakes, they are guilty of the same. Price — forgetting that he preached to a mixed audience — attacked Christianity by pointing at racial differences within the white church. For this he was ostracized. In order to atone for his "sins," he jumped on Louis Farrakhan, the Qur'an and the Black Muslims. But had America been a truly Christian nation, there wouldn't have been a need for the Black Muslims, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War and Dr. King.

As for Jakes, his emotionally packed sermons without substance serve to mesmerize his audiences.

However, of the three, none follow the lead of Dr. King. Their way has proven to be for self-gain. Maybe they should check out the Book of Jeremiah [22:22] in particular: "The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness."

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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