ANALYSIS: Black Pastors Reality TV: Pious or Pimped Out?

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Bishop Clarence McClendon is known for ministering to wealthy residents of Bel Air. When challenged about what many have called his “prosperity gospel,” Bishop replies, “there is no other kind of gospel.”

Smith said there’s a thin line between preaching the gospel and using the gospel to get rich.

“When one falls, we all fall or we’re all no good,” he said. “Now, I’m not against prosperity because God wants these people to prosper, but there’s a way off course being flamboyant and boasting about our prosperity. That causes people to look down on us. Our job is to preach the gospel, and to reach people. It’s not to match wits with the world.”

Smith added: “We should represent Jesus here on this Earth today,” he explains. “We have to separate ourselves from the themes and the limelight of what people are doing today as far as commercializing the Bible.”

But the producers at Oxygen say the show has substance.

“This show documents a journey of transparency from one man to the next as they endeavor to lead others to their own truth and self-discovery,” said Holly Carter who holds a doctorate of divinity with an emphasis on marketplace ministry and is the daughter of a pastor and an industry veteran in faith and inspirational development and programming. “It’s a dose of reality and a pound of redemption coming from a creative team reared in the church.”

Here’s Oxygen’s pastoral cast:

Bishop Noel Jones: A Jamaican born into poverty, Jones has made his way to the other extreme, now living on a hilltop with a view of the Pacific Ocean, Malibu at his feet, and across the street from the former home of the late L.A. Lakers owner, Jerry Buss. The pastor of a church full of celebrities and the brother of Grace Jones, Bishop Jones is headed towards retirement and looking for a successor who he can entrust his life’s work. But finding the right man is harder than it sounds.

Deitrick Haddon: The son of a bishop and an evangelist, Haddon was preaching at the age of eleven and conducting the church choir at thirteen. At 23, he married the woman he was expected to marry – the lead soprano of the church choir. However, everything didn’t continue as perfectly as the church had hoped. Haddon and his wife got a divorce and the members of the church shunned him. Aside from the call on his life, the one thing that helped him from hitting rock bottom was his music. A dynamic personality, singer, songwriter, and preacher, Haddon finds himself at an impasse in life. Which road will he choose?

Pastor Wayne Chaney: At the age of 20, Chaney got the call from God and has grown to become a prominent pastor of the church his grandfather built. Fast-forward 10 years later, Antioch is the leading church in its community. With an ability to communicate complex truths in a simple way, Pastor Chaney has remarkably helped grow the church, along with the help of his secret weapon, his wife, gospel artist Myeshia Chaney. While Antioch is poised to become the next mega-church with the ability to reach millions worldwide, there’s an obstacle in the way and it comes from within Pastor Wayne’s own family.

Bishop Ron Gibson: Born in Compton, addicted to drugs before he was a teenager, a leader of the Crips by the time he was 16, a robber and a pimp, Bishop Ron Gibson was the least likely person to end up a preacher. He now changes the lives of 4,500 people each week at the Life Church of God in Christ, which he started with only nine people in the congregation. Through it all, he’s accumulated great wealth, power and purpose. However, there’s one thing he and his wife would give it all away for – a child.

Pastor Jay Haizlip: One of the pioneering greats of competitive skateboarding, Pastor Jay Haizlip, originally from Gadsden, Alabama, collected big trophies, bigger paychecks and high-end sponsors, but fell deep into drugs, and into the crack houses of Huntington Beach and Long Beach, California. Back in the crack houses again, this time he’s not there for drugs – he’s helping rescue souls for the Kingdom. Serving as Senior Pastor of The Sanctuary of Huntington Beach, Pastor Jay Haizlip reaches out to troubled youth, finding them in prisons, skate parks and the same crack houses he once shot dope in.

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