Last Friday, after I finished posting a light-hearted commentary of a Youtube clip on Black Church singers, I started receiving texts and tweets about Creflo Dollar. According to various media outlets, he had been arrested after an altercation between he and his 15-year-old daughter over a party allegedly escalated to violence and ended with him choking and slapping her. He later denied these allegations on Sunday prior to delivering his sermon. Nonetheless, the disturbing allegations became the topic of several conversations within African American churches and communities over the past few days.
Where there were plenty of people who supported Pastor Dollar’s ability to use physical punishment against his daughter, there were many others who found it disturbing that a minister would find it appropriate to ever resort to such violence. Some people were even calling for him to step away from his pulpit until he had the chance to reflect on his actions. Of course, there were also people who used this incident as an opportunity to criticize megachurches and the prosperity gospel, which creates a somewhat troubling link between wealth and piety, though I am pretty sure that people within this category already had some strong issues with Pastor Dollar’s ministry prior to Friday’s events. Besides, people generally look at wealthy ministers suspiciously.
As I reflected on what had occurred, I realized that I am split on the issue. On one hand, I acknowledge the prominent role that physical punishment plays within the African American community. There aren’t too many of us out there who can say that our parents did not spank us. Many of my cousins were amused that Pastor Dollar was receiving so much press for doing what our people had done for generations and joked that these new laws would have placed many of our parents in jail as well.
On the other hand, I am very sympathetic to Pastor Dollar’s children. Supposing that this was not an isolated incident and Pastor Dollar had abusive tendencies, it must have taken a lot of courage for them to step forward. It is not easy to raise such allegations against someone who is a pillar in the community. People are quick to defend their heroes, and Pastor Dollar’s status as the pastor of one of the largest congregations in the country easily gives him “hero status” in many places.
Years ago, I faced a similar dilemma. A visit to my father over Easter week turned violent while I was in elementary school. He claimed to have been punishing me for some perceived disrespect, but his efforts went so far that I was unable to attend school again for over 2 weeks while I waited for the abundance of bruises to disappear. By this time, my parents were already divorced. My mother decided against involving the police because she was protecting me from what could have been a very ugly battle. After all, my father was a hometown hero. He was one of the must successful African American doctors in Harrisburg. Much of his old neighborhood in West Philadelphia still looked up to him. People would have taken the allegations of abuse as a jilted ex-wife’s attempt to sully her renowned ex-husband’s reputation even though we had plenty of photographs showing my injuries.
It is only occurring to me now just how much that incident with my father affected me. The physical damage may have healed, but a lot of mental scars still remain. To this day, I am not always confident in the systems that are supposedly in place to protect me because I somehow always manage to slip through the cracks. I also have a bad habit of keeping people around who treat me badly and regularly excusing their behavior. Hopefully, the Dollar children do not suffer the same fate. No matter what you feel about this issue, please keep the Dollar Family and World Changers Church International in prayer. The details are still being released, but it is clear that this situation is only going to get worse before it gets better.
For more information, check out this article from CNN.com.