Bishop T.D. Jakes, prolific author and television minister who was tabbed as “America’s best preacher” by Time, is in the movies.
Taking a page from Mel Gibson, who made such an impact with his movie, The Passion, Jakes, pastor of the 28,000-member The Potter’s House church in southwest Dallas, has a major role in Woman, Thou Art Loosed: The Movie, a brutally realistic Hollywood film based on Jakes’ play about sexual abuse.
Jakes plays himself in the movie, which is scheduled to open in 500 theaters in October. Jakes says the movie’s goal is to give a face and a voice to the many sexually abused women he has seen in his work.
The movie, which won the American Spirit Award recently at California’s Santa Barbara Film Festival, is expected to be R-rated. It was produced by Hollywood veteran Reuben Cannon and directed by Michael Schultz (Boston Public, L.A. Law).
– Concerns About The Teachings Of T.D. Jakes
Although some in the audience may object to the graphic scenes, Jakes says the Bible, too, is filled with R-rated stories, such as Amnon raping his half-sister, Tamar; David committing adultery with Bathsheba; and the incest between Lot and his daughters.
In the movie, Jakes is shown conducting a revival meeting and also visiting a woman on Death Row, who, in flashbacks, tells of being sexually abused as a child by her mother’s boyfriend.
Although the screenplay is fiction, “part of that comes from real-life experience,” Jakes told me this week. Jakes recalls visiting a Death Row inmate in Texas shortly after convicted murderer Karla Fay Tucker, a born-again Christian, was executed by lethal injection.
The movie’s central character is portrayed by Kimberly Elise, the actress who is appearing with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep in The Manchurian Candidate.
“I was working with pros,” Jakes says. “I was the only rookie on the set. It was amazing. I learned a lot.”
The story is based not only on Jakes’ real-life experiences, but also on his Sunday-school lessons, books and popular “Woman Thou Art Loosed” conferences held in recent years.
No one should be surprised that Jakes, 47, is now into making films.
The multitalented minister is a playwright, songwriter and author of 28 nonfiction books and novels. He has produced and sung on gospel CDs that have been nominated for Grammy Awards and won Dove Awards.
In his latest book, He-Motions: Even Strong Men Struggle (Putnam, $19.95), Jakes debunks macho stereotypes and says “real men” kneel in prayer, cherish their wives and share their feelings and emotions with friends they can trust.
Although he’s been criticized by some for his affluent lifestyle, Jakes’ personal wealth comes mainly from books and other ventures outside the church. Also, a central goal of Jakes’ church is reaching out to those in need — both rich and poor.
“Some of our staff were formerly homeless people, or were in prison,” he says. “Many times that turns out well, but not all the time.”
His message is one of economic empowerment, Jakes says, but too often people equate financial wealth with success. The true goal is to be fruitful and productive.
“Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith had money and were not happy,” he says. “The biblical teaching about prosperity is much more than dollars and cents.”
He says he still counsels Sanders and Smith, both former Dallas Cowboys football players who were baptized at The Potter’s House. “Emmitt and Deion still attend when they are in town,” says Jakes. “Michael Irvin [another former Cowboys player] was there last Sunday.”
Jakes tells how he started from poor beginnings and once dug ditches to supplement his income while preaching at a small church in West Virginia.
“I’m still like that itinerant preacher who does a lot of jobs,” Jakes says. “[But] I’m not digging ditches now. I’m making movies.”