Black megachurch leader Bishop T.D. Jakes expressed pain on Monday at seeing the African-American church portrayed negatively by the media.
The media has painted the African-American church with a "broad, wide-ranging brush" as intolerant of other ethnic groups, divisive, and "filled with hostility," complained Jakes in his commentary posted on CNN.
But that is just based on "stereotypical ideas" derived from the "extreme and not the norm" of what black churches are.
"Most, if not all, predominantly African-American church doors are open to all, not just to blacks, but to anyone who is seeking a spiritual home, guidance, support, direction, faith and a feeding of the soul in the purest sense," said Jakes, founding pastor of the 30,000-member The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas.
Jakes's church, although predominantly African-American, is composed of 20 different nationalities.
He added, "Many of us have worked with other organizations, different cultures and denominations believing that there is more to unite us than there is to divide us."
Jakes' comments are in response to the controversy surrounding Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama and his former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In recent weeks, sound bites of Wright's hate-infused sermons have widely circulated on the Internet and through media outlets. Wright's venomous condemnation of U.S. foreign policies and racism in America caused many to view the black church as a hate- mongering institution rather than a house of God.
It has also cast a shadow on Obama's campaign as voters question the authenticity of his message of unity and moving beyond what divides Americans.
But Jakes defended Obama and his message of reconciliation and change, and urged Americans to not be stuck on the misrepresentation of the black church when there are more important things to take care of.
"I implore you to not take the words of a few and depict the thoughts, hearts and motives of many," the influential pastor pleaded.
"As an American I plead with you that we are running out of time. It is critical that we dislodge ourselves from political distractions," Jakes emphasized. "We must return to the task of looking for the right man or woman who can answer the bloodcurdling cry of a nation that is in search of a leader with a courageous effective plan for the war in Iraq, and the medical, moral, economic and security issues that are being ignored by these distractions. If we do not, we will have done a terrible disservice to our coming generations."
Jakes called on Americans to get back on track and start listening again to what the candidates' strategies are to solve the problems in the world.
"My hope is that the church remains a vibrant part of our process, sounding the alarm that warns: America, please wake up out of our sleep!" Jakes wrote.