Anthea Butler, an associate professor of religious studies and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, agrees but is mostly amused, in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. In the African American religious tradition, she says, there are the historic leaders and intellectuals. And there was also Rev. Ike, the televangelist who exhorted his followers to “close their eyes and see green” — as in cash.
“I’d call it religious entertainment,” she says. “It’s ‘Elmer Gantry’ in a dress. They’re kind of grifting.”
Cast member Ivy Couch, the recipient of the handcuffs, is a Spelman College graduate with a degree in English. She’s a little bit impatient with the idea that the cast is — how to say this — trifling.
She offers the handcuff incident as a case in point.
They were filming on Father’s Day last year, she says, and on camera she gave her husband, Mark, several gifts. He surprised her with several gag gifts in return, including a white T-shirt, hunting gear and the handcuffs, as part of an inside joke about things he knew she wouldn’t use, she says. But after editing, the only thing that’s shown is him giving her the handcuffs, with the implication they’re part of sexual play.
“If we had portrayed a typical Christian church’s pastor and first lady, no one would be watching,” Couch says. “What I love is it’s getting people who wouldn’t ordinarily go to church to watch the show. God can sneak up on you like that.”
For her part, Tara Lewis is letting people know she is not pleased with her portrayal. At one point in a 49-minute “Special Commentary from Star Pastor Tara Lewis” on YouTube, Brian, her husband, asks how she feels about the show so far.
“It sucks,” she says.
Brian is also miffed about the insinuation that he might be gay. He takes to the camera to cheerfully say, “
I’m going to say not now, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be gay. And if I wasn’t married and I wasn’t a Christian and I was in the world, I would think this would be an awesome opportunity to prove to all the fine sisters out there how not gay I really am. Hallelujah!”
Woo. Stay tuned.
airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on TLC.