WARNING: EXTREME FOOLISHNESS
The Rev. Marcus Murchinson of Tree of Life Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California, is unapologetic. There is nothing wrong with a few expletives in church, he says, because he knows God can handle it. And he is standing his ground even though he’s been getting death threats for his belief.
“The truth is sometimes when I’m praying, my prayers are not ‘guide me o thy great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land.’ I’m not quoting from the 23rd Psalm. I’m not quoting from Philippians. Sometimes my prayers have explicit language in them. God I am bleep, bleep, bleep upset. And because of that, I learned that God can handle that,” Murchinson explained in an interview Monday.
His small church in Watts has been at the center of a viral video storm since one of his now fired drummers posted a recording of three young girls doing what he describes as an avant-garde performance of Jay-Z’s “The Story of OJ” from the rapper’s platinum album, 4:44, on Sunday, July 30.
In the recording that runs for about 90 seconds, Murchinson’s congregation appear to watch in silence as the girls step, twirl and throw faux cash in the air to represent “follies” like wasting money on strippers described by Jay-Z in the lyrics of the song replete with the N-word and other explicit language.
Light n*gga, dark n*gga, faux n*gga, real n*gga
Rich n*gga, poor n*gga, house n*gga, field n*gga
Still n*gga, still n*gga
Light n*gga, dark n*gga, faux n*gga, real n*gga
Rich n*gga, poor n*gga, house n*gga, field n*gga
Still n*gga, still n*gga
You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit
You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it
Financial freedom my only hope
F**k livin’ rich and dyin’ broke
I bought some artwork for one million
Two years later, that s**t worth two million
Few years later, that s**t worth eight million
I can’t wait to give this s**t to my children
Y’all think it’s bougie, I’m like, it’s fine
But I’m tryin’ to give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99
I turned that 2 to a 4, 4 to an 8
I turned my life into a nice first week release date…
“The one thing that’s apparent about language is that there’s a difference between cursing or using derogatory language and using colloquial language,” Murchinson said. “What Jay-Z was using in this particular presentation was not inflammatory or derogatory. He was making a point to just communicate in a colloquial dialect that people understand … Ain’t a word in that song that I don’t know myself, that my congregation doesn’t know and or have used. So why do we come into God’s house and act like we don’t know it?”
While the controversial post also included a dance performance by the young girls to Tasha Cobbs’ more traditional gospel song “Break Every Chain,” it is the performance set to the secular Jay-Z song that has received the most attention. The clip has received nearly 4 million views on Facebook alone as of Tuesday evening, four times the views of the performance set to “Break Every Chain.”
And most reactions to the clip do not share Murchison’s appreciation for colloquialism in the house of the Lord.
Los Angeles-based Christian entertainer Kevin Fredericks, popularly known as KevOnStage, summarized the pointed criticism from the conservative Christian community in a post on YouTube.
“Let me just say, I don’t know how this happened guys. I like to think of things from everybody’s point of view and try to understand the logic behind when things happen crazy in church. I don’t know the logic because generally the kids got to get this approved by somebody and I just don’t know who approved it,” he said.
“I don’t know where the people are that stop these things. The dance team? The parents, the pastors, the sound board, the motherboard? They threw money at the motherboard. They made it rain on Mother Gladys, she been in church 80 something years,” he quipped.
Some people were so upset said Murchinson, who is a trained sociologist and military veteran, said that they threatened to kill him.
“We had death threats here at the church. Religious zealots just like the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to kill Jesus. I don’t believe that they want to kill me, I just think that they want to scare me but here’s the problem, you’re dealing with someone who served in the United States military and served in two war tours. I committed myself to God that I will be what He was — committed unto death … We had about five or six that came across here,” he told CP.
The Navy veteran said the decision to include the Jay-Z song in his presentation two Sundays ago was due to a study his church conducted in Watts to find out why they did not attend neighborhood churches.
“Most of my congregants, and I’m not too sure if this is a cross-country problem or just specific to Watts, but I do know that in most of our predominantly black churches in the innercity … our parishioners do not live in the community that the church sits in. They’re often commuters. So what I wanted to do was try to find out why the community doesn’t come to the church,” he said.
“We found that a majority of the people didn’t come to church because they no longer related to the Judeo-Christian understanding that the prophet was no longer myself or some of our black pioneers Bishop Jakes, Bishop Jones … they no longer had the prophetic conscience of this community. But there was a different prophet that did … p-r-o-f-i-t.
“They looked at the black church only as being the profit entity and not prophetic. They no longer found them to be oracles of God but just institutions that were trying to make money. And so we asked them, who do you look up to? Who are the voices that speak prophetically to your generation, your issue? And they told me, Chance the Rapper, who I did not know. But I did go back and do my homework on him and found out that he donated $1 million of his own money to help right the wrong of Chicago and not one church is on record doing anything of that caliber,” Murchinson said.
“They told me that they listened to Jay-Z and that this song, ‘The Story of OJ,’ was so pertinent to some of the socio-economic dysfunction that they were seeing in Watts as we are watching Watts become regentrified, through its housing development. So what happened was, I then took that and revisited an argument from academia,” he explained.
He then pointed to the argument of social critic and author James Baldwin against the church and complained that the church had become too pious.
“James Baldwin said he did not support the church because the church on Sunday mornings in America is the most segregated place. I don’t think it is so much of a racial divide anymore, I think that the divide is now, it’s become piety. We have this generation of individuals who are pious and out of touch, who want to hold on to traditions that may not be effective, may not be working but all the more they just expose it and not address the concerns of now. So we have a generation of individuals who are transparently struggling and no one completely cares,” he said.
“What I have noticed in just looking at this particular fiasco is that there are so many individuals who are judgmental, traditional, who are addressing this only from the confines of their religious asceticism. They are trying to tell me that I’m not holy, that Jay-Z is a devil worshiper.
“I don’t know consciously if they’ve ever heard Jay-Z worship the devil or if Jay-Z has ever come out and said that he worships the devil but what I do know is that Jay-Z single-handedly on Father’s Day bailed out 107 black men out of jail so that they could be with their families. Our church did something similar. I took the template from him. On Mother’s Day, we bailed out two women out of jail. We have a fatherhood program. So my point is we decided to take a risk, we took a risk to really go against the confines of the religious infrastructure because what I realize is most of this infrastructure loves to keep people weak,” he said.
“We cook fried chicken, we eat pound cake and die of heart attack and will serve the same stuff at the repast. Something is wrong with the black church that does not address the issues that are relevant, prevalent to our people and so what we wanted to do was to try to show that young folk can praise God with a conscious message that speaks empirical truth. Jay-Z’s message, whether you agree with his presentation, it didn’t matter, it was empirically true.”
So why not simply just use a clean version of the song if he liked Jay-Z’s message so much?
“Because unlike the world or any other institution, I believe the church should be the one place where we are transparent and 100 percent true. I don’t know what has happened where we believe we have to domesticate God because God’s presence ain’t strong enough to handle our truth? The Bible says, not my words, those that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth,” Murchinson said.
“In the black church, I’ve seen fights break out in the sanctuary. I’ve heard of scandals of individuals having sexual relations in the church, I’ve heard of individuals smoking on parking lots, I’ve heard of individuals drinking in the church,” he said, noting that none of these things have happened at his church under his watch.
“If our truth is, this is how I speak out of church, you shouldn’t be trying to hide and become a hypocrite and saying that you don’t speak like that in the presence of God. Because then what we become are hypocrites and we promulgate a hypocrisy,” he explained.
“If we just be real about this thing. Think about this thing with an open mind and objectively. Do you think that every individual in the Bible that countered troubles, trials or tempests, did not have some form of what we could call cursing or language that could be inflammatory? Jonah sitting in the belly of the whale … you can’t tell me in that one moment Jonah did not sink with inflammatory language.
“You can’t tell me that the three Hebrew boys tossed in the fiery furnace, the fire has been turned up seven times hotter, are singing with the sound track of ‘Amazing Grace.’ You can’t tell me that. I can’t be convinced of that because I know humanity and I know that our humanity sometimes have conflicts with our divinity and our spirituality and God has no problem with that,” he said.
Pastor Ronald Thompson, former senior pastor at Mount Sinai United Holy Church in North Carolina and father of Ben Thompson Murchinson’s former drummer who was fired for posting the video online, suggested that he was heading in the wrong direction with his ministry.
“To the Pastor who fired my son for posting the pre-sermonic performance at one of your services on Facebook – I just want you to know what you have done. You have fired a young man of integrity. You have disposed of an asset with potential far beyond that of a musician. My son, Benjamin Alexander Thompson is a child of destiny. I consecrated his life to God when he was born. I do not present him to you as perfect. But perfection is in his DNA,” he wrote in a post on Facebook.
“We all need a spiritual gadfly whom God will use to startle and provoke us into remaining true to the message we have been taught! Rather than embracing the gadfly you have chosen to swat it! I implore you to consider the mercy of God who placed such a one in your presence. Ben was the unidentified angel in your midst. He was placed in your ministry to clear his throat at an offering that perhaps required more forethought. Prophets are often persecuted. Some of them have been killed for calling necessary attention to our spiritual missteps. This is not unusual. But we all must be expectant of the woe that will follow!” he warned.
When asked if his drummer was fired because he disagreed with the Jay-Z song being played in church and if that was the reason he shared the clip on social media, Murchinson said he did not want to speculate on whether or not the musician had an issue with his decision to use the Jay-Z song in his sermon.
“What I will say is that he did violate the internet policy of the church for its staff members in worship and so because of that, that was the ramification for that particular behavior. I don’t know, all I can do is, I read the same comment that you read that said he had no ill-will and I trust that,” he said.
As for how his parishioners are doing in light of the furor over the performance, the pastor said: “My parishioners knew about this three weeks before. We were all prepared. We all knew. There was a point in the service where I remind them that this is going to be an unconventional presentation and that we were praying about this, let’s pray one more time for this so that we do not get offended but that we become empowered or at least walk away with an open mind.
“And so my parishioners have no problem. My church has supported me through this. They have been the ones to encourage me, they have been the ones that want to defend me and I’ve asked them not to do so because we’ll be vindicated by being different.”
As for his critics, Murchinson called them hypocrites and “n*ggas” for judging him and his church before getting the appropriate context of the controversial presentation.
“They (critics) make judgments based off their feelings, emotions and they’re never coming to Watts. They are never coming to Tree of Life and so it’s dangerous. It’s so immature, and it is what Jay-Z calls n*gga. Still n*gga. This is what n*ggas do. That ‘n*gga’ word really refers to unintelligent, ignorant. So it’s ignorant for them to make an assumption based on 90 seconds and they don’t know the three years of work that I have labored here,” he said.
The Dangers of the Last Days 2 TIMOTHY 1:1-9
1You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 5They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
6They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of a vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. 7(Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.) 8These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. 9But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres.
I was listening to a new Christian Pop radio station called NGEN radio, an extension of KSBJ radio. They have this segment of the morning show where they talk about current events that’ve occurred. They offer listeners an opportunity to call in on the matter and so on…
This particular day they were discussing an online dating service called Tender. They discussed how Tender sponsored a man and woman who never met in person who where chatting for sometime. They purchased them a free trip to Hawaii for their first date. Of course this being supposedly a Christian radio station, the female Hispanic Host made a joke saying, “make sure you two get two separate hotel rooms, you guys don’t know each other that well yet.”
What is that supposed to mean? Is it supposed to mean wait six months before having sex like Steve Harvey suggests or at least not until they both feel like they know each other well enough before sex?
The broadcast staff shouldn’t have even mentioned this unless they were going to give some basic-sound Christian advice like: DON’T GO ON THE TRIP! It’s that simple. The bible says… Why didn’t didn’t they take this route? Perhaps for more views, to cater to unbelievers, to get more donations…, who knows. What we do know is that, that particular broadcast has left thousands even further lost and gave them a license to sin.
It’s frustrating to always see alleged Christians that have some sort of platform with a chance to extend the Gospel holistically without compromise continue to fold in those moments.
Listen to a broadcast about fornication:
The Kingdom Church of Houston | Baby food: The Truth About Fornication
As the R&B legend tours the country this summer, parents have told police that R. Kelly is running an abusive “cult” that’s tearing families apart. Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle told BuzzFeed News similar stories.
Backstage at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, on May 23, 2015, J. was thrilled that her 19-year-old daughter’s music career was going to make a major leap forward from recording demos and performing at talent shows to the chance of stardom — thanks to the help of an R&B superstar.
“When we got to go backstage with R. Kelly, we stayed there over two hours,” said J. “One-on-one with just me and my daughter and him. We went back to talk about the music. He listened to her CD. He was going to help her with her CD, and I was really impressed with him at first, because I have always been an R. Kelly fan.”
J. said that Robert “R.” Kelly, who turned 50 in January, met her daughter backstage at a concert in Atlanta earlier that month. Soon enough, he’d invited her to fly out to the Indio concert on his dime. J. said she’d heard about past sexual misconduct accusations against Kelly, but wasn’t overly worried. She is a fiercely devoted stage mom — she and her husband of 22 years, Tim, a car dealer, had moved from Memphis to Atlanta to help their eldest child’s career — and was confident she could protect her daughter.
“In the back of our minds, we were thinking [my daughter] could be around him if I was with her,” J. said. “It didn’t really hit home. Even with the Aaliyah situation, now that I think about it, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number’ … but you don’t think about that. You grew up with the song, and you like the song.”
Two years later, J. and Tim are in a desperate fight to bring their daughter home. (BuzzFeed News verified their identities and full names in public records, but is withholding the alleged victim’s full name and her parents’ last name to protect her privacy.)
As part of their efforts, the mother closed her businesses, became a relentless amateur detective, and shared her findings with the FBI and police in two states. But their daughter isn’t a missing person — at least not in the eyes of the law. She still lives with Kelly and says she’s doing fine, despite her parents telling the police that she is “being held against her will” in what they call a “cult.”
Three former members of Kelly’s inner circle — Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee — provided details supporting the parents’ worst fears. They said six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.
The last time J. saw her daughter was Dec. 1, 2016.
“It was as if she was brainwashed. [She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible,” she said. “I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her. I don’t know what to do. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening.”
J. and Tim said they have only heard from their daughter twice since they last saw her. They got a one-sentence text from her on Christmas Day: “I hate Christmas has to be this way this year.”
And J. received another text on May 14: “Happy Mother’s Day from me and Rob.”
Kelly has sold nearly 60 million albums during his 25-year career, and though his relevance is fading somewhat from the heyday of “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Trapped in the Closet,” he remains a major star in high demand for concerts, endorsements, television and radio appearances, and glossy magazine profiles. When he’s not performing, Kelly splits his time between his suburban Atlanta home and Trump Tower in Chicago. Extensive interviews with Mack, Jones, and McGee and a review of legal documents by BuzzFeed News paint a picture of what Kelly’s life offstage is like today.
The women in Kelly’s entourage initially think “This is R. Kelly, I’m going to live a lavish lifestyle,” said Mack, who worked as Kelly’s personal assistant for a year and a half starting in 2013 and has remained in touch with some members of his inner circle. “No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”
Jones and McGee both said they lived with Kelly and had sexual relationships with the star at different times over the past five years before leaving. Their documentation of this time is limited, however, as they said Kelly controlled their phone and social media use while they were under his roof, and they were not allowed to take photos with Kelly or of the rooms where they were living.
According to Mack, Jones, and McGee, the women living in Kelly’s Duluth, Georgia, “guest house” or his Chicago recording studio last summer included:
— A 31-year-old “den mother” who “trained” newcomers on how Kelly liked to be pleasured sexually. She had been best friends since high school with the girl in the videotape for which Kelly was tried in 2008. She recently parted ways with Kelly, these sources say.
— A 25-year-old woman who also has been part of Kelly’s scene for seven years.
— A recent arrival, a 19-year-old model who has been photographed in public with Kelly and named on music gossip websites — a rarity among the women in his circle.
— An Atlanta songwriter who began her relationship with Kelly around 2009, when she was 19. (She is now 26.)
— And an 18-year-old singer from Polk County, Florida. Mack said the Florida singer is Kelly’s “favorite — his number-one girl.”
Mack, Jones, and McGee claim that women who live with Kelly, who he calls his “babies,” are required to call him “Daddy” and must ask his permission to leave the Chicago recording studio or their assigned rooms in the “guest house” Kelly rents near his own rented mansion in suburban Atlanta. A black SUV with a burly driver behind the wheel is almost always parked outside both locations. Kelly confiscates the women’s cell phones, they said, so they cannot contact their friends and family; he gives them new phones that they are only allowed to use to contact him or others with his permission. Kelly films his sexual activities, McGee and Jones said, and shows the videos to men in his circle.
Mack, the star’s former personal assistant, said Kelly almost always tells the women to dress in jogging suits because “he doesn’t want their figures to be exposed; he doesn’t want them to look appealing.” She said when other men are in the same room, Kelly “would make the girls turn around and face the wall in their jogging suits because he doesn’t want them to be looked at by anyone else.”
If the women break any of Kelly’s “rules,” Mack and Jones said, he punishes them physically and verbally. For example, Jones claimed that Kelly held her against a tree and slapped her outside of a Subway sandwich shop in spring 2013 because she had been too friendly with the male cashier there. McGee said she never saw Kelly hit anybody, but also said he was running a “cult” and manipulated her emotionally and sexually.
“R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet,” McGee said. “But Robert is the devil.”
Of course, the law says that consenting adults may take part in any relationship they want, no matter how nontraditional. Welfare checks by police in both Illinois and Georgia in the past year didn’t lead to any charges; in January, the aspiring singer from Georgia told Cook County police she was “fine and did not want to be bothered.”
And all of the women in Kelly’s inner circle are of legal age — the age of consent is 17 in Illinois and 16 in Georgia — despite Kelly’s history of allegations against him regarding his sexual conduct with women. He was last tried in 2008 in Illinois, where he was acquitted on 14 charges of making child pornography. The case, which took a record six and a half years to go to trial in Chicago, focused only on a single videotape that prosecutors alleged showed him having sex with a 14-year-old girl. (While he was a reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, this reporter received the tape anonymously and turned it over to the police; called by Kelly’s attorneys to testify, he took the Fifth Amendment rather than revealing sources.)
The trial, however, excluded claims made by girls or their parents that alleged Kelly regularly abused his position of fame and influence to pursue illegal sexual relationships with underage girls — which has also been the subject of a dozen or more civil lawsuits against Kelly that were settled out of court with cash payments from Kelly. The girls signed nondisclosure agreements when they accepted the payments. Also excluded was evidence of Kelly’s marriage in 1994 to his then-15-year-old protégé, Aaliyah, for whom he wrote the album Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.
Chicago attorney Susan E. Loggans declined to say how many settlements she has negotiated with Kelly before lawsuits were ever filed, but she said they were “numerous,” and recently included one for a 17-year-old aspiring singer from Chicago’s West Side who is said to have been part of Kelly’s inner circle. Loggans gave no other details, citing attorney-client privilege and the terms of the settlement.
Kelly also has been sued by other attorneys representing women over the age of consent in their respective states. In 2002, an Illinois lawsuit was filed by Montina Woods, a dancer who toured with Kelly’s friend Ronald Isley, in which Woods claimed she was unknowingly recorded by Kelly during sex. (Kelly eventually settled the suit, paying Woods an undisclosed sum.) And on April 21, a Mississippi lawsuit was filed by Hinds County sheriff’s deputy Kenny Bryant over an alleged affair between Kelly and Bryant’s wife.
The music industry has a history of stars using their fame to gain the trust of young women — and their parents — who expect professional relationships but end up in sexual ones. But numerous sources, including women who left his inner circle, made on-the-record allegations suggesting ongoing mental and physical abuse of several women in Kelly’s entourage far beyond that of the groupie culture. For two decades, Kelly has been accused of a similar pattern of mistreating women — some have called it “predation” — but because of his acquittal on the child-porn charges and the nondisclosure agreements in his numerous civil cases, the charges have remained in the realm of gossip instead of derailing his career. Major record companies, television shows, and other stars continue to work with Kelly. Lady Gaga recorded the duet “Do What U Want” with Kelly in 2013, Lil Wayne, Ty Dolla Sign, and Juicy J made cameos on Kelly’s 2015 album The Buffet, and he performed on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon last December. He recently starred in a digital campaign for Alexander Wang.
“I got trapped,” said former insider Jones. “I had people telling me I was an idiot. But it took me a long time to realize they were right, and I’m talking now because I hope I can help some of these other girls.”
After her backstage visit with Kelly in Indio, California, the aspiring singer from Georgia began secretly talking with Kelly on her cell phone, her mother said.
“As far as I know, we weren’t talking to [Kelly] anymore,” J. said. “Or at least I wasn’t talking to him anymore.”
In June 2015, J. and Tim said, their daughter lied to them about taking a weekend trip to visit a Georgia university. Instead, Mack arranged for her to fly to Oklahoma City, where Kelly was performing.
After the show, she had sex with Kelly for the first time, she later told her parents and at least two friends, including a record producer who goes by the stage name TONE.
As the Georgia singer and Kelly became closer, TONE recalled her saying she was frustrated with Kelly. She thought every time she tried to bring up her music career Kelly changed the topic to sex — and she wanted proof. So TONE and the woman decided to secretly record a phone conversation between her and Kelly.
BuzzFeed News was later given a copy of the recording. On the tape, it’s not just what Kelly said that shows his pattern of behavior with the women close to him. It’s how he said it, which is immediately clear from listening to the audio.
“I miss my baby,” Kelly told the woman, before asking her what she was wearing. After she replied, he told her: “I want you to get in the habit of telling me what color panties you got on every day,” he instructed repeatedly, revealing in his own words the early stages of their power dynamic and the demands her parents say have become criminal.
When she tried to turn the conversation to a song she was working on, however, Kelly seemed less engaged.
“Hello?” she asked him at one point, to make sure he was still listening.
After a few minutes, Kelly changed the subject. “I’m more interested in developing you. Songs are not an issue. We can always do a hit song.”
In June 2016, the daughter enrolled for summer classes at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville and began living in the dorms. Her roommate at the school, who is being identified by the initials T.S. to avoid retaliation, told BuzzFeed News that, at first, she did not believe her new friend really knew R. Kelly. But, T.S. said, the Georgia woman would often call the superstar and put him on speakerphone during their explicit sexual conversations.
The Georgia woman also began visiting Kelly at his homes in nearby Duluth and sometimes traveled with him to Chicago, according to T.S. She recalled the woman telling her that Kelly took away her cell phone and replaced it with a new one, with instructions that she should only use it to communicate with him and needed to obtain his permission to use it to communicate with others.
T.S. also recalled the woman telling her that one time, Kelly sent a cab to pick up the women at his guest house and bring them to a club where he would meet them. The Georgia woman told her roommate that she laughed when the cab driver told a joke, and one of the other women in the cab texted Kelly to report this violation of his “rules.” When the Georgia woman arrived at the club, T.S. said, Kelly “bent her over and he whupped her behind because she laughed at the cab driver, who happened to be a man.”
By the middle of the 2016 fall semester, the Georgia woman’s appearance started to change: She began losing weight, and she cropped her long hair short, permed what was left, and dyed it blonde, said her parents and the former roommate. T.S. recalled her friend telling her that’s how Kelly liked her hair to look.
The Georgia woman eventually began skipping all of her classes, and she did not show up to take her finals in mid-December. Her parents confirmed the school considers her a student who is “no longer in good standing.”
She had already broken off all contact with her mother and father before she started skipping school. “My calls were all forwarded to voicemail,” J. said.
In the middle of the fall semester, during their quest to bring their daughter home, J. said she called the new cell phone Kelly had given her daughter, who broke one of Kelly’s “rules” by texting her parents from the phone to say she was fine.
J. said Kelly himself got on the phone after the daughter picked up and denied anything was wrong.
The parents filed a missing persons report with the Gwinnett College campus police. A spokeswoman for the school confirmed the report and the case number, but said that when an investigator called the parents and learned that they knew their daughter was with Kelly in his suburban Atlanta homes no action could be taken. Their daughter was not technically missing, and at 21, she is of legal age to do what she wants, campus police said.
The last time her parents saw her was in December 2016. “What we really wanted to do was an intervention,” J. said, but her daughter would not listen.
On Dec. 27, 2016, J. and Tim requested that the Johns Creek Police Department, which is responsible for the section of Duluth where Kelly rents the two houses, perform a well-being check on their daughter at the guest house. The police report obtained by BuzzFeed News said J. believes her daughter is part of the R. Kelly “cult” and that he is “abusive and is controlling her daughter.”
When police arrived, the report noted, the “door [was] open, house clear, no one there.” No further action was taken.
A month later, the Cook County Sheriff’s police performed a well-being check in Chicago. The Georgia singer told officers she was “fine and did not want to be bothered with her parents because her father was threatening people,” according to the police report. (Tim denied this.) She told officers she instead keeps in touch with her grandmother, who she calls Nana.
When reached by BuzzFeed News, Nana said that she had spoken to her granddaughter by phone only two or three times since December, most recently on July 11. She said her granddaughter emphasized that she’s an adult in a consensual relationship with Kelly, and was mad at her parents for intervening. In text messages reviewed by BuzzFeed News, the granddaughter said she thought her parents were trying to ruin Kelly’s career.
Despite her granddaughter’s insistence, “I’m gravely concerned about her,” Nana said, echoing J.’s belief that she is being held against her will. If she could talk to Kelly today, Nana said, “I would tell R. Kelly to send my granddaughter home. He knows it’s not right and he would not want anybody doing this to his daughter.”
Multiple attempts by BuzzFeed News to reach the Georgia woman on her Kelly-issued cell phone were unsuccessful.
J. and Tim said they even reached out to the FBI about their daughter and spent hours being interviewed by an agent. Special Agent Stephen Emmett, an FBI spokesperson in Georgia, said the bureau’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny investigations into specific people or matters. But the parents are hopeful that perhaps federal law enforcement can help where local police have not.
“It’s not about my daughter, per se. It’s about all the girls,” Tim said. “It’s about my daughter, and I understand that. But the abuse that my daughter is actually enduring, nobody should go through.”
Two other parents are fighting to get their daughter back. The parents of an aspiring professional singer from Florida said their daughter met Kelly when she was 17 years old, and she moved into one of his rental properties once she was over the age of legal consent. (BuzzFeed News verified their identities and full names, but is withholding the alleged victim’s full name and her parents’ last name to protect her privacy. Her mother asked to be called by her middle name, Theresa, for the same reason.)
Theresa said she initially let her daughter spend time with Kelly because it was “supposed to be a music relationship.” She now regrets that decision.
“My thing was I trusted. I have never been in the music industry before, ever,” Theresa said. “He is a lyrical genius — he is R. Kelly! And the fact is he went to court, he was never found guilty — he was acquitted — and we were led to believe there was no truth in it. Now I got all of these people asking about why my daughter is there, telling me, ‘All of that, the charges against Kelly, was true.’ Well, how come you didn’t tell me that before?”
The Florida singer first met Kelly when her parents took her to see him perform at Funk Fest in Orlando on April 18, 2015.
“During the show, they were pulling people out of the audience,” Theresa said. “A guy said, ‘Oh yeah, her.’ He pulled her up onstage.”
After the show, a member of Kelly’s entourage gave the star’s phone number to the then-17-year-old high school senior, Theresa said.
“We called, but he wasn’t answering, so we left it alone,” she said. “Then I guess he must have got back later on or texted her later on.”
As with the Georgia woman, the relationship between Kelly and the Florida woman developed over phone calls and text messages that were kept secret from her family, the parents said.
“And then one day we were looking for her because she should’ve been coming home from school,” Theresa said. “Then finally we get a text message saying that she’s OK, that she had met up with R. Kelly in his hotel. And I’m like, ‘You met up with R. Kelly at his hotel?’”
Theresa and her husband, Angelo, said they rushed to the hotel and called the police, who advised them to deal with hotel security. Their daughter finally came down to see them, they said, but Kelly refused to talk with them.
After the incident at the hotel, the Florida teen “was only [supposed to be] talking to him when one of us was around,” Theresa said.
“We needed to make sure it was about music, because he was going to mentor her,” she said. “And then from there he wanted her to travel with him so she could see how the music game really was. … We thought it could be an opportunity, and that she was going to be with a guardian — a female guardian that would keep an eye on her.”
But that may have been wishful thinking. Soon enough, the Florida singer was living with Kelly. Angelo said he initially received short text messages from his daughter every few weeks saying she was fine and the parents should not worry or try to contact her. Those have stopped.
McGee, one of the women who left Kelly, said the Florida woman is “head over heels” for Kelly. And McGee said Kelly is “obsessed” with the Florida woman, noting that he “would go into the kitchen and cook for her.”
But McGee’s feelings about the Florida woman were nuanced. “I have a 17-year-old daughter myself,” she said. “When I saw [the Florida singer] with him, it took me back. This could be my daughter. I just knew that it was not right and I just couldn’t understand what a man almost 50 is doing having sex with someone the same age as his daughter. That’s when I realized it was more of a mind-control thing.”
McGee also said she witnessed Kelly punish the aspiring Florida singer for breaking his “rules.”
“He left [the Florida woman] on the [tour] bus for, like, three days and she was not allowed to come out,” McGee said. “He said she didn’t do her homework — that’s why she was punished — which was very confusing, because she had just graduated [high school] over the summer.”
Multiple attempts by BuzzFeed News to reach the Florida woman on her Kelly-issued cell phone were unsuccessful.
Theresa said she is frustrated that lawyers and police have said they cannot help, and she fears that even if the relationship ends, she may not get her daughter back. On Dec. 24, 1996, Kelly was sued for $10 million by Tiffany “Tia” Hawkins, an aspiring singer and then–high school student in Chicago, who claimed she met the star when he lectured her choir class. According to the lawsuit, Hawkins began having sex with Kelly in 1991, when she was 15 and he was 24. The relationship ended in December 1994, when she was 18, the court documents state; distraught, she slit her wrists in an attempt to kill herself.
“I desperately want my daughter back but I’m not [sure] what will [be] the repercussions if she doesn’t come willingly,” Theresa said. “These girls think this man loves them. Matters of the heart are a touchy subject.”
The parents said they’ve tried numerous other tactics to bring their daughter home.
In August 2015, the daughter texted Angelo that she was in Chicago with Kelly, the parents said. On Aug. 26, 2015, they sent their older daughter to Kelly’s recording studio to check on her sister, according to her parents. Kelly and men in his entourage allegedly got involved in an altercation with the older sister when she tried to take her younger sister away, said the parents, who claimed the star and the other men pushed, shoved, and hit the older sister.
A police report obtained by BuzzFeed News indicated that one person allegedly struck the Florida singer’s sister in her face, but she did not seek medical attention. The case is classified as a simple battery and nobody has been arrested, according to the report, which said the investigation was initially suspended until a detective could contact the victim. A supplementary report was filed more than a year later, on Jan. 18, 2017.
“I have not talked to my daughter in more than a year,” Theresa said, adding she has left countless texts and voicemail messages that have not yet received a response. “We’ve had deaths in the family, birthdays, and I haven’t heard from her and she hasn’t been here for any of it. I didn’t even hear from her on Mother’s Day. All I want to do is bring her home.”
On Friday, July 14, after Kelly and the Florida woman had been asked for comment on this story, Angelo said he got a surprise phone call from his daughter, who invited him to come to see Kelly perform in Indiana on Saturday. Wary of Kelly’s motivations, Angelo said he declined the invitation. He also is angry over the other surprise news from his daughter: She said Kelly had recently paid for her to have breast enhancement surgery.
“I am beyond furious,” Angelo said. “I said to her, ‘How could you do this? What the hell were you thinking? What if you died on the operating table?’ I don’t even know what we can do anymore. I just know we got to get her home.”
Kelly has long maintained his innocence on allegations of underage sex, and in recent interviews he has either persistently dodged questions about his past behavior or stormed off when he was unable to do that.
Multiple attempts to reach Kelly were unsuccessful. Kelly’s RCA Records publicist Theola Borden, who was promoted to senior vice president of publicity for the label in 2014, did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment.
Linda Mensch, a civil lawyer in Chicago who represents the superstar, responded via email to the accusations outlined in this story. Mensch was asked about the on-the-record allegations that Kelly physically and mentally abuses women and that Kelly allegedly met one of the women in his inner circle when she was 17.
“We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life,” Mensch wrote. “He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that.”
Listen to this message on why Parents need to think Ahead Part 3!
A baby rescued from a vehicle that overturned in Texas floodwaters was revived through the help of a group of people who called on the name of Jesus.
The harrowing video was filmed by Thomas Mitchell who later set the camera down and helped perform CPR.
The Ocheltree family, including Phillip Ocheltree, his wife Emily, and their two children, four-month-old Marshall and 18-month-old Addyson, were traveling to seek shelter from the East Texas flooding last Saturday when their vehicle was washed off the road and flipped over.
Phillip and Emily were able to get out of the vehicle and were frantically trying to rescue their children.
That was when a group of strangers came to their aid.
“We had our guardian angels with us,” said Emily. “We heard voices talking to us and they told us they were doing everything they could,” said Phillip.
Mitchell captured the incredible rescue on video. The good Samaritans were able to get both children out of the vehicle and began to perform CPR on them.
Various people in the video can be heard invoking the name of Jesus to help the children, particularly four-month-old Marshall.
“In the name of Jesus, let him breathe, Lord. Give that baby breath, Lord!” prays one woman. “Dear Jesus, please let this baby breathe. Dear Jesus, please let this baby breathe,” she continues.
God answered their prayers. Marshall has now been released from the hospital and Addyson, although still hospitalized, is reportedly in stable condition.
A quick look at the scriptures will show you what true happiness in a marriage really means.
Here are just 10 Bible verses that clue us in on how a godly marriage should work:
In 1950, the median ages for first marriages were 22.8 years old for men and 20.3 years old for women. As late as 1970, the median ages were 23.2 for men and 20.8 for women. And then those ages started rising, and they’re still going up. The figures as of 2013: 29 and 27, respectively.
What’s going on here? What does it mean? Those questions are raised in an important new study by the Census Bureau.
The study, entitled “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016,” opens with a sobering conclusion: “What was once ubiquitous [for younger Americans’] during their 20s is now not commonplace until their 30s. Some demographers believe the delays represent a new period of the life course between childhood and adulthood, a period of ‘emerging adulthood.’”
The “delays” referred to by the study are not only those involving marriage and child-rearing, but also other hallmarks associated with what we used to call “growing up.”
As the report says, “In prior generations, young adults were expected to have finished school, found a job, and set up their own household during their 20s—most often with their spouse and with a child soon to follow.”
Now we’ve previously talked here on BreakPoint about declining labor force participation, so let’s take a closer look at the “setting up their own household” part. Forty years ago, more than half—57 percent—of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 lived with their spouse; only 26 percent lived with their parents.
Not anymore. Today, only 27 percent of that group live with their spouse; 31 percent live with their parents. Even if you add in the percentages of those living with unmarried partners or living alone, the number of 18-to-34-year-olds living independently is ten percentage points lower than the percentage of those living with their spouses just 40 years ago.
What’s more, they don’t seem to be in any sort of hurry to establish their households, much less have children. While more than 95 percent of those surveyed rated completing your education and getting a job as “extremely” or “somewhat” important, less than half said the same thing about getting married and having a child, and three quarters of these only rated marriage and child-rearing as “somewhat important.”
I repeat, this is consequential.
One obvious consequence is demographic. Delaying marriage means fewer children, which in turn means fewer workers to support an aging American population. It’s not working out well for Japan and China, and it’s not going to work out well for us, either.
Another consequence: fewer and smaller extended families. Fewer children will have cousins, and if trends continue, their children will have fewer aunts and uncles. The support and social capital generated by extended family networks will become a thing of the past. It’s fair to say that more and more of our elderly will become, by necessity, wards of the state.
Now are all called to marriage? Scripture and Christian history tell us clearly not. In fact, my colleague Gina Dalfonzo is releasing a book in June called “One by One,” which reminds us how vital singles are to the life of the Church. We have info about that at BreakPoint.org.
But for those not called to singleness, the command “be fruitful and multiply” is still in effect. It’s a command we ignore not only at our peril, but our future’s, as well.
3 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,