Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bishop Joe Simon Sings the Blues Over Rappers and Ministry


Bishop Joe Simon Sings the Blues Over Rappers and Ministry
I call this column "Beneath the Spin" because it's dedicated to an honest search for truth, an attempt to stimulate thought, and an earnest effort to clear up the trough of pure bullshit served up to us on a daily basis. I generally deal with political demagogues in this context, but due to our current economic crisis I'm going to expand my attention to anything that doesn't smell quite right–and the fumes emanating from my current focus, seriously suggests that demagoguery is far from exclusive to Washington D.C.

While I'm normally not one to defend the rap industry, I have several problems with a claim being levied against it by former rhythm and blues singer, and now ordained bishop, Joe Simon. Bishop Simon is complaining that rappers are destroying his ministry by sampling his material.

In the article, "Bishop Joe Simon Says Rappers Damaging Ministry," in Frost Illustrated, Simon alleged that as a result of rappers sampling his music without his permission, "he started noticing that certain once seemingly open churches were starting to baulk at inviting him to bring his crusade to their pulpits. Some even rescinded speaking invitations they earlier had issued to the bishop." Simon went on to say, "Many churches want no part of preachers whom they feel are straddling the fence between secular and sacred worlds." That seems somewhat disingenuous since one would think that any misunderstanding within the church could easily be cleared up with a simple memo or statement.

The article also points out that "Since near the beginning of the year, Simon said he has sent the record company a series of letters asking that someone talk to him and to work out an agreement." What kind of agreement? You can't un-cook an egg. What kind of 'agreement,' could he come to with the record companies that would un-release music that's already on the market? The only agreement that he can possibly come to is a financial one–and how would a financial agreement help his standing in the church any more than a simple memo or statement that his previous material was being used without his permission?

This is not about his ministry–what needs to be addressed is whether or not this is actually his material. If Simon has legal ownership of the material, why is he trying to chase down record executives instead of hiring an attorney? The obvious conclusion is, he's trying to use God to be compensated for something that he has no legal right to.

The article goes on to point out that "In the wake of more and more folks hearing his voice on rap records, Bishop Simon said some folks seem to be shying away from supporting the ministry financially." Yet, Dr. Mark H. Sandilands, the presiding Bishop of the Mission Consortium of Churches International indicated that "When Bishop Simon was ordained as a part of this organization, he was placed right next to me. If something were to happened to me, he becomes presiding bishop overnight."

Oh really? I find it quite curious that a religious organization that is so disdainful of "worldly music" that it would withdraw support and speaking engagements, would place a "worldly musician" who is newly ordained into the organization into the second to the top slot in the organization's hierarchy. Thus, the church must find something of value in worldly music.

I can fully understand Bishop Simon being frustrated by people making millions of dollars while using his material and then thumbing their nose at him. But if that's the case, he should just say so, and stop trying to use his collar to drag God into what is essentially a personal and legal matter. The congregation of his church looks up to him and have vested in him a solemn trust, so he shouldn't be abusing that trust by trying to make the very God that they worship his private lap dog, utilized to address his personal issues. That's the kind of thinking that led to hundreds of thousands of people dying in Iraq, and what the facts seem to suggests, to a much lesser degree, but just as insidiously, is happening in this case.

That's the primary reason this issue is even worth our attention. It provides us with a bite size example of the mindset and kind of rhetoric in which people of faith should always remain vigilant. It clearly demonstrates how some so-called "men of God" often use the Lord's name to promote their own interests. It also shows why the many selfless men and women of God who are out struggling everyday to uphold God's name, are gradually beginning to lose credibility with the public.

In addition, Bishop Simon's actions in this matter are in direct contradiction to everything a man of God, and a Christian, is supposed to believe. Instead of trying to chase down record executives, why doesn't he do what they always tell their flock do about their problems–"take it to the Lord in prayer?"

Even though in many of the churches throughout America there are children sitting in the pews next to their parents with their stomachs growling, many of these professed men of God will unhesitatingly take the very funds needed to feed those children away from the family in the collection plate. Then, when it comes to the family's needs, they tell the family to have faith, and pray to God for help to feed their children. What has always perplexed me, however, is when the preacher needs money to pay the church's light bill, or for airfare and hotel expenses to fly across the country to go preach in another state, or "spread the word"–in states that are already literally overflowing with preachers–they don't pray for God to provide the airfare, or pay the light bill, they pass the collection plate.

Well, Bishop Simon, you're a man of God. Maybe it's about time to test your faith. Instead of wasting your time trying to chase down Jay-Z with your problems, maybe you should look to Jay-C, and pray on it.

As Rev. E. V. Hill used to say when I was a kid–"If you have the faith, God has the power"–but you also have to be right.

Eric L. Wattree
A moderate is one who embraces truth over ideology, and reason over conflict.

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