Greenleaf & My Issue With Churchgoers Who Have An Issue With It
I really don’t watch much television. In fact, the little bit of television that I do watch are reruns from my childhood. A Different World, Living Single, Martin—you know, the 90s greats that showed Black people in a positive light. Smart. Educated. Family oriented. Genuine friendships. That type of thing.
Not much of that is on TV anymore. Usually when someone suggests a show to me I end up disappointed and opt to read instead. I hadn’t even heard of Greenleaf until the show had already premiered. My social media news feeds were all the buzz, and a few “friends” who noticed I hadn’t commented insisted that I watch. I decided to see what all the fuss was about and immediately became hooked.
The show is about the family of a megachurch pastor, and it’s full of drama. I can’t even give you a proper synopsis because it’s just that dramatic. Ladies, you’ll be clutching your pearls within the first ten minutes. It’s captivating with a stellar cast of beautifully hued individuals, and every episode leaves the viewer wanting more.
Well, almost every viewer.
Not everyone is a fan of Greenleaf. The show has received a fair amount of criticism, mostly from churchgoers who feel it portrays the black church negatively and in no way glorifies Christ. A fellow Christian fiction author pointed this out to me, and I have to admit it took me a while to find Christ in the storyline. But maybe that’s the entire point. Finally. Someone is saying what needs to be said.
The agenda of the show’s main character is to expose her uncle, Mac, as the child predator everyone outside of the church seems to know he is. She holds him responsible for her sister’s suicide while the rest of the family is too concerned with appearances and keeping secrets to even say her name.
How many “Uncle Macs” do we know? Our communities have been so sick with perversion that people aren’t even offended anymore. The protection of our daughters is a Thanksgiving meme. Yet no one says or does anything about it. We just continue to go to church, clap our hands, sing our songs of praise, and shove “forgiveness” down victim’s throats whenever they dare to speak about their abuse.
Creflo Dollar’s jet is an obvious punchline. A few episodes were inspired by that fiasco as well, and even his refusal to comply with Senator Grassley’s senate investigation a few years ago. I believe Kenneth Copeland was mentioned, too, but I don’t remember the exact context. The stereotypical gay choir director, closeted and cheating husbands, devious preacher’s kids, and the love of money are all present and accounted for.
Do you see the fascination with this show? It has opened all the closed doors of the church and pulled out skeletons, dusty bibles, and all of Jacob’s sermons printed from the internet. Of course the saints are upset. Oprah and her network are exposing all of the secrets many have fought so hard to keep covered—and making them look bad in the process. Furthermore, where exactly does the show glorify Christ?
I hear the complaints, but do churchgoers really have a right to be upset?
Though Tyler Perry, who is loved immensely by the black church, has been featured for years on the network, OWN doesn’t have the same mission as TBN. It didn’t set out to create Touched By An Angel, so why do we hold it to that standard? Why are we looking for those outside of the calling of God to adequately tell our stories?
Preaching, teaching, and singing are not the only calls that God gives, but many in the church sure do behave that way. If you’re not preaching, teaching, or or doing anything music related, your ministry is deemed a cute pastime to possibly fill space on a weekend program when leaders want to impress visitors. It’s not given the same respect or support, and many who are actually doing God’s will leave church week after week disappointed.
Don’t agree? Okay, let me ask you a few questions.
When was the last time your church hosted a book signing or reading for its authors—the ones not related to the pastor? When was the last time someone who was not a musician was given the floor to share their gift with the rest of the congregation? Was the person who put on the children’s play actually paid for their time and service, or were they required to “be a blessing” for the hours they spent writing, putting together a set, crafting costumes, and managing rehearsals?
Please don’t misunderstand. This is not about money. My point is to say that you can’t expect the world to glorify Christ when they don’t know Him, and that’s exactly what will continue to happen if the church continues to neglect its artistic ministers. If you want godly writing, writing that ministers, writing that heals our hurt instead of simply showing it, then you must seek and support the writers who have been called by God to do just that. We do exist.
There are several of us who have accepted our calling to write for God. We work hard, we sacrifice, and our families sacrifice because of that sacrifice. It seems, however, that unless our presence comes along with fame or a big check—something that God doesn’t plan for everyone—we aren’t supported. Meanwhile the churches we faithfully serve in pay thousands of dollars for a celebrity no one even knows personally to come to our meetings and “bless us” with their presence. A lot of these ministers blatantly disrespect God's word, but that too is overlooked because they can draw a crowd and have best-selling CDs.
But I digress.
If you don’t want to support the artistic ministries of those you know, don’t be upset with the world when they artistically portray you the way they want to. Clearly they are interested. In the past few years a plethora of “Christian” shows have sprouted. Why not support the people who will actually give the message you believe in?
Or is that what you really even want?
With all that said, I’m not exactly sure that I’ll continue to watch Greenleaf. As engaging as it is, it’s leaning on the personal boundaries I set for my eyes. I really don’t care to see any more sex scenes (or pastor’s underwear, for that matter), and the scene with Uncle Mac and the underage girl in his apartment was much more than difficult for me to watch. I want to see him go to prison for all of the crimes he’s committed, so for now I’m watching. Hopefully it happens by the end of the season. After that I can’t promise that I’ll continue to watch.