October 20th, 2010
03:57 PM ET

Black preachers who 'whoop' - minstrels or ministers?

Editor's Note: CNN's Soledad O'Brien looks at how some are fighting debt from the pulpit in "Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special," premiering at 9 p.m. ET on October 21.

The Rev. E. Dewey Smith Jr. bangs on the pulpit with his fist. He shuts his eyes and moans. Then a high-pitched sound rises from his throat like the wail of a boiling tea-kettle.

"I wish you'd take the brakes off and let me preach," he tells his congregation during his Sunday morning sermon.

Rows of parishioners stand to shout. One woman in a satiny blue dress jumps up and down like she's on a pogo stick. A baby starts to cry.

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- CNN Writer

Filed under: Black issues • Christianity • Church • Music • Race

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. ChildofGod

    Community college, clep test, online classes, (stay at home & get a job as well) and vocational schools are much cheaper. GI bill and the military have great benefits as well. No need to get in a lot debt to get an education. Getting a certificate or diplomas or an associate degree first so one can get a practical job and then get a higher education while you work. Some of us worked full time & went to school part-time or full-time but without debts. Some hospitals pays for their employees education (especially nursing stundents who work as a sitter or nurse assistant, etc..) with guranteed work afterwards as part of the commitment (win-win situation).
    Living below your means (putting savings away early) is always good. Some parents make it a priority to pay for their kids education if that means living in a smaller house or doing away with leisures or gettiing two jobs or scrubbing toilets.
    By the way, there are payday loans centers-lots in the suburbs as well. Personal accountability and responsibility are a start.

    October 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
  2. `Jabu

    Time Warner Cable, is this just me or did the cable television cease to work when 'Black in America" came on? Is this a sabotage in one of the cities that is predominantly black I am in Cleveland ; black and frustrated. I need answers?

    October 22, 2010 at 2:10 am |
  3. The Reverend KL Lister

    Well in to response JohnQuest preaching is “The oral communication of biblical truth by the Holy Spirit through a human personality to a given audience with the intent of enabling a positive response.” Whooping is just a tool to get that positive response. It is some thing you feel inside. Different preacher have a way getting a point across, just like car. A cadillac and ford focus may be different in their appearance, but they both will get to where you want to the destination which is heaven. Bless God I Feel like Preaching! A place where every day will Sunday.

    "Iron Sharpens Iron"
    The Reverend KL Lister

    October 21, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  4. The Reverend KL Lister

    Whooping is an art which roots go back to the days of slavery. As a young preacher i have learned through the guidance of other seasoned preachers, and pastors that whooping is used to get your point across. When i say God is Good i want to say it in a way that the you know that i know who and what i am talking about. You want them to feel it. As Dr Smith says it adds gravy to the sermon. It is said that a good steak is better with a little gravy. However my pastor says some of the best steaks make their on gravy.

    God Bless You
    The Reverend K. Lister

    UTS Shreveport Campus Class of 2011

    October 21, 2010 at 10:12 am |
    • JohnQuest

      The Reverend KL Lister, if the message is true you would never need to Whoop to make your point.

      I wondered when I was a much younger man, why God doesn't send down Angles to pass the word. Imagine a world were all the preachers were Angles, you would no they are Angles because they would be 8 feet tall and the Wings would be a giveaway. Instead we have other humans that are as flawed, self centered, and self serving as the rest of us, why should we believe any of them? They have no evidence, the lives of the believers are as screwed up as the non believers, if there is no difference then whats the point?

      October 21, 2010 at 10:43 am |
  5. Reality

    Some more 21st century Christianity:

    In his book, Church: The Human Story of God, Edward Schillebeeckx, the famous Catholic theologian noted:

    "Christians (et al) must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history."

    "Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human activity there is possibility of free choices. Therefore the historical future is not known even to God, otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings. For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women."

    i.e. Prophesying/fortune telling violates the inherent human characteristics of Free Will and Future.

    Schillebeeckx was responding to the Dutch citizens who were blaming God for the North Sea storms that destroyed a significant number of levees resulting in a significant loss of life and severe storm damage. Sound familiar??

    October 21, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  6. doctore0

    I see a madman

    October 21, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  7. Annointed

    To all, Whooping is indeed a cultural "thing". Pastor Smith is a highly educated man who does not whoop in every sermon. As the video mentioned, he teaches before he preaches if you will. He never makes himself the object of praise and lets us always know that its not about him but about GOD at all times. For more in depth teachinga nd studying GOD's WORD we have Bible Study every Wednesday night @7pm. This is the time to really dive into the scripture and get an understanding of the messages in the BIBLE and ask questions. We are one church ministreing to 4 generations. Our church has been operating for 133 years. My pastor does NOT wear a new suit every Sunday, his salary is set by a board of directors, we have a finance team that does NOT include the pastor (he does not handle any money in the church; which is indicative of Southern Baptist and not new Southern Baptist), and our pastor is NOT the only one in the church who is prospering. To be quite honest, our pastor makes less than many parishoners in the church. He doesn't have this lavish lifestyle that so many others have, he doesn't drive the latest Bentley (drives an Acura), he's an active father (coaches football), he's a husband, the parishoners don't call him "daddy", and he is not so big that we can't approach him or talk to him because you have to go through security or make an appointment to see his Assisstant and not even him. He is a people person. As long as you are active in the church and speak to him, he know you by name and something about you. He has an AWESOME memory. I have been a part of GTRB since 2006 and I love the fellowship and love felt between members and the Holy SPirit that is felt in the presence of out most high GOD Jesus Christ the Saviour of the World. Don't take one video or report to gain an opinion of our worship, for our worship is for real! If you don't believe me, come join us every sunday morning in Decatur, GA for worsip, praise, and message! Time is winding up and you need to get your house in order for he is returning like a thief in the night....no man knows the hour, none but the FATHER! He's returning for a church (body of Christ/the people) without spot or wrinkle. If he came back right now, would you go to Heaven or Hell. If you don't know, give your life over to Christ right now and today. May God's grace, love, and kindness continue to shine over your lives!

    October 21, 2010 at 6:37 am |
    • Reality

      For Annointed's eyes only,

      Judaism and Christianity in the 21st century:

      1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment.

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan se-cts.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hit-ti-tes, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      For added "pizz-azz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "fil-icider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedo-ph-iliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      3. Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:

      Adu-lterous preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      October 21, 2010 at 7:04 am |
    • ktrails

      @Annointed – your pastor sounds like a great guy, and your worship services do look Spirit-filled – thanks for sharing!

      @Reality - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz... sounds like you've been as-similated by Crossan and Borg...

      October 21, 2010 at 8:38 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Annointed, you make several assumptions, 1) there is a God, 2) God cares about you 3) Jesus is real and coming back 4) Christianity is the correct way to worship God. I think it was CH who said "anything that can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence", where is your evidence that what you say or believe is true?

      October 21, 2010 at 9:33 am |
    • Nancy

      Amen! I couldn't have put it better myself! God bless!! Isn't funny how people shun what they do not understand? We do not do as others so it is considered weird or crazy. lol

      October 22, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  8. Robert Distefano

    It's a cultural thing! Personally, I wouldn't want a steady diet of this type of preaching, but for those who are able to get a message from the Lord and they are comfortable with it, why not?

    October 21, 2010 at 1:56 am |
  9. Marta

    I think he is good! I liked that!

    October 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
  10. TheRationale

    Well I suppose their ears are numb anyway after listening to whatever ridiculous babble probably preceded this ruckus.

    October 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  11. nunu

    yes religion is an opiate for the masses. its the new crack. we need to get it together, times ticking away. black unempoyment rate is higher than all other groups. instead of opening churches lets open some schools and training centers. lets give our money to the black colleges that educated us when the rest of the world turned us away. td jakes always has a nice suit, he doesnt need me to buy him another.

    October 20, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  12. Peace2All

    "One has to 'earn' the right to 'whoop' ..... "Whoopology" "Whooping legends." .... ??????

    Oh my...

    October 20, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
    • Raison

      Whoopi Goldberg...lol

      October 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  13. Mary

    My only question is...Is God praised or is the art form taking precedent over praising God? Is the preacher the focus or is God? Are the feelings generated needed to know God? Paul, on many ocassions put his oratorical skills on the back burner if it would detract from the message of the gospel. Do people walk out inspired by the preacher or God's word. That is my question.

    October 20, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
    • Guest


      Well said. It makes me think of Johnathan Edwards famous 'Sinners in the hands of an angry God' sermon which he read to the congration in a monotone voice to let the Holy Spirit do the comviction without any coercion from him.

      October 20, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
    • Frank

      Yes, I am certain that God was speaking through Puritan preachers. Mmhmm.

      October 20, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Mary: Not trying to be a jerk, but I truly am confused by your statements. If the Rev is a good speaker, who can relate things well to people, why shouldn't he use that gift for all it's worth to bring people to his god? I thought the bible says we aren't meant to hide our talents but to use them to the best of our abilities. Wouldn't that mean Paul was wrong not to use his oratorical skills to preach?

      October 21, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  14. Frank

    Is is a bit embarrassing, yes. It is the stereotype of a Southern black Baptist church. But if it works for them, then whatever.

    "A baby starts to cry."


    October 20, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
  15. David Johnson

    You said, "Jesus still is a-mold'ring in the ground somewhere near Jerusalem!!!"

    Damn, I wish I'd said that. *sigh*

    October 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  16. Reality

    Whoop, Whoop, Whoopie,

    The simple, preacher man aka Jesus still is a-mold'ring in the ground somewhere near Jerusalem!!!

    October 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  17. Raison

    In terms of indoctrination, anything that gets the adrenaline flowing is going to make any indoctrination more effective and memorable.

    "Whoopin' it up" can be fun. 😀

    No religion needed for that. I can have fun without religion ruling my ability to reason.
    This insistent calling for victimhood on the part of groups that are only related to past victims is dishonest.

    We need more equality and honesty in how things are done. Individuals have individual viewpoints, yet identifying with a group can be comforting. We are all human beings. That is the biggest group. We all need a "group hug", I think. 😀

    October 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.