Anthea Butler at Dissent:
After the heyday of the freedom movement passed in the 1970s, two contrasting paths gradually emerged in black churches: one stayed true to the message of social justice while the other turned to an emphasis on individual morality and a gospel of prosperity. Most rising religious leaders took the latter approach. In the 1990s T.D. Jakes—whom Time dubbed “America’s Preacher”—organized “Women Thou Art Loosed” conferences that promoted spiritual and sexual health. These gatherings, which attracted audiences of over 10,000 women, combined spiritual counseling, group therapy, and personal confession. In a dramatic style, Jakes spoke to women about the abuse they had suffered, and they let their emotions flow. The sermons were just the cornerstone of a thriving business, which included teaching materials, a book, and a movie. Jakes used the message of respectability and prosperity to build a massive support group for women, who are the majority in most black churches. While Jakes said little about politics, other ministers employed talk of moral uplift to advance their views about social issues—in particular, their opposition to same-sex marriage.