I finally watched the first episode of the highly controversial Preachers of L.A. to see what all the fuss was about. A week later I watched the second episode out of curiosity since it’d made such a stink that Bishop T.D. Jakes condemned the show during a sermon. When episode one ended, I walked away quite disturbed.
The premise of Oxygen’s latest reality show is to show the real lives of five L.A. preachers. Many of the preachers are born-again sinners. Between the five of them, they’ve participated in gang banging, adultery, fornication, fathering a child out of wedlock and drug addiction. Their response to critics begs for the public to see their humanity. “We are not perfect,” they say. If people see how God reformed a pastor’s life, they’ll turn to Him to do the same in their own lives. At least that’s how they justify it. Despite backlash, the first episode debuted with 1.1 million viewers.
Oxygen is smart. The success of Mary Mary opened the door for Oxygen to take it a step further by showcasing actual preachers. They aren’t just any preachers, though. These pastors own mini mansions, drive Bentleys and proudly sport Louis Vuitton bags. One Bishop walked on stage to do an altar call with a Louis satchel across his shoulder. You wouldn’t be able to ignore the pastors’ riches if you tried.
To be clear: I am not opposed to the prosperity of those doing the Lord’s work. Those ideas are not mutually exclusive for me. Rick Warren and Joel Olsteen (and I hate to be the one praising the white guys while constructively critiquing the black ones) are great at what they do according to the people who follow them. Both Warren and Olsteen allegedly refuse salaries from their churches because frankly: they don’t need it. They’ve sold millions of books gaining riches from outside entrepreneurial ventures. But still, people are uncomfortable with pastors living anything but modestly. I am not one of them.