Friday, September 24

I just returned from a small luncheon (about 100 people) celebrating the 30th anniversary of D (for Dallas) Magazine. Also attending were Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX), Dallas Democratic Mayor Laura Miller, developer Ray Nasher, real estate magnate Ellen Terry, along with D publisher Wick Allison (ex-editor of the National Review) and Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter's House. Gene Street, restaurateur (of Black-Eyed Pea and Good Eats chains fame and owner of III Forks) and raconteur, and his wife sat at my table along with a trio of long-time Dallas reporters and D editor Nancy Nichols.

It was a bizarre event. My invitation read, "Wick Allison cordially invites you to a luncheon celebrating 30 years of D Magazine. Guest speaker Bishop T.D. Jakes." I thought, you know, that there'd be a lot about Dallas over the past 30 years, some tributes to the magazine, a preview of their new book, D Magazine's Dallas: The 30 greatest stories ever told.

Instead, there was about 10 minutes of that and 30 minutes of Bishop Jakes telling about many of his and his ministry's accomplishments (they're considerable!) and the plans of one of his FOUR for-profit businesses (nothing to do with the Potter's House) to develop a community in south Dallas of mixed-use housing from multifamily to cottages to mini-mansions -- and a school, which will help; no one of any race while in his right mind would ever buy a house in South Dallas since there are lousy, rundown schools, no shopping, and no employment opportunities. The speech rambled in so many directions, from domestic abuse to Bishop Jakes' new movie (Danny Glover is one of the backers) to his recent appearances on Oprah to faith-based initiatives and "strategic alliances" between religious bodies and government.

He explained how African-Americans consider the church the hub of their culture and community, which I understand having spent my entire life in the South, but I was a little nervous about where this was going since I'm a firm believer in separation of church and state. He indicated that he expects (or has gotten, I was confused) a $22 million grant from the Federal Government for some kind of abuse and/or drug programs (again, it was a confusing talk) because he and his people can achieve better results with the needy than can professionals who are strangers. I have to admit, although this seems logical in a sense, it also raised my antennae as he continued to cite examples of other faith-based initiatives. It seems to me that by funneling taxpayer dollars and benefits through church organizations, church leaders gain even more power over their communities and could be tempted to bestow largesse or patronage as they see fit. It seems an invitation to corruption to me. I don't know quite what the answer is, but I'm uncomfortable with the whole government/church partnership thing. I guess it goes back to my Bible training, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." In other words, don't confuse the two. Both operate better separately.

At the end, Mayor Miller spoke a tribute to Bishop Jakes and presented him with a city proclamation, which explained why both Republicans and Democrats were in attendance. They were there to honor the Bishop, I presume, and not the magazine.


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