A tragedy - Bishop Eddie Long

 

“"The problem today and the reason society is like it is, is because men are being feminized and women are being masculine!" he roars. "You can not say, ‘I was born this way.' … I don't care what scientists say!" The crowd erupts in "amens," laughter and clapping.” From Southern Poverty Law Centre, “Face Right” Spring 2007 on Bishop Eddie Long’s sermon video.

The Bishop EDDIE LONG of the Atlanta New Birth Missionary Baptist Church was alleged to have a sexual relationship with three young men between the age of 16 and 20. At the time of alleged incidents, the men were over 16 hence over the age of consent making it not a criminal activity. Long is married to Vanessa Griffin and has 4 children. The allegations made headline news as:-

  • New Baptist Church was one the largest Black churches with over 25,000 in attendance.
  • Long was a close family friend of the Martin Luther King Jr, officiating Coretta Scott King's funeral.
  • He was the leading anti-gay black preacher in the states. The Southern Poverty Law Center's magazine called him "one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement." He had blamed gays for all the problems in the black community of crime and violence.
  • He was a pastoral counselor to Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal.
  • He was very controversial being a strong advocate of prosperity theology

The news reported that "The young men say that many people at the church who were close to Long knew what was going on but covered for him and kept quiet for years.....". Whilst we would not want to wash our dirty laundry in public, however, covering it up and being vocally anti-gay as a response is the worst kind of immorality and hypocrisy.

We may see it as consensual sex, passed the age of consent and nothing wrong except for using his position to seduce the men. However, since he is married and a church bishop, can we judge him no different than a lay person in the name of equality and justice for all, or does Christian Pastoral ship comes with certain requirements and obligations! Unlike sexual orientation, being a pastor is a choice and a high calling. We are not born with a dog collar, but we are born straight or gay.

Surely great harm will be caused to his family, the young man/boys and to the congregation if the allegations were found to be true. The higher you go, the bigger crater you make when you fall and drag others down with you. What about the nameless ones in the Gay community who has died committing suicides after Bishop Long's condemnation?

Why was Bishop Eddie Long so vehemently anti-gay in his sermons? Was he a victim himself and being tortured in his closeted existence? Would we have covered up the incidents just like his church staff allegedly did? There are no easy answers, but a sad story of how the condemnation of gays by Christianity in general may have led this Pastor to live a double life. Bishop Long’s motives may also be driven by the black-nationalist ideology which is very macho and anti-gay.

In response, Bishop Long has denied allegations in the lawsuits, and the photos of him in tight shirts even though suggestive was not conclusive (even though he is obviously posing with his handphone). However, the records of air travel and hotel stays with the men and using pseudonyms such as “Dick Tracey” when checking into hotels will be damaging.  His sermons also have a strong sexual connotation where he said “God is potent. The word of God is his sperm,” and “the job of the preacher is to bring fresh sperm”.

 (1 Tim 3:2 NKJV)  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;

Whilst the members of the congregation may have many wives, the Pastor was only supposed to have one wife for he is married to God and sex should not be a preoccupation. The vocation of a church senior pastor entails significant responsibilities and obligations. Spiritual discernment on matters of faith and godly living is a requirement. If the sexual allegations were true, it will impact his church and the gospel message. The faith of many will be broken and grieved.  It is a mega responsibility and obligation to be blameless with such a big public life.

Are we treating the Pastor with equality or justice? Probably not! Yet Christian Leadership is not an innate human characteristic but a choice and a calling. There are great sacrifices, but also great rewards being recognized as the spiritual father for a church of 25,000 and a salary of more than 1 million a year. At the end, why are we so perturbed when small churches sometimes are harm by minor sexual indiscretion when a church of 25,000 will now go through months of agony?

Sex by itself is not dirty but it is soiled when one is already married (physically to his wife) and spiritually (to God) in service of the ministry. If he was gay, he should have stepped down quietly from the pulpit, divorced his wife and live a life of honesty and integrity. Instead, Long appeared to live a tortured life in the closet, trying to crucify his innate same sex urges, resulting in him being virulently anti-gay and causing harm to the gay community. Apparently, he had used his position as Bishop and expensive gifts to allegedly seduce the young men.

The greatest tragedy is not about the harm being done or the reputation of Christ being tarnished, but an injustice suffered by Bishop Long himself for having to suffer so long in the closet. He had probably no choice based on the terrible anti-gay mentality that is present in the black community in America.

(Psa 72:4 NKJV) He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, And will break in pieces the oppressor.

The truth can never be hidden for too long, even in denial. Yet, equality and justice always will triumph at the end even if it takes the fall of a great man of God. If the allegations were true, it is unlikely limited to be only about 3 or 4 “victims”. Bishop Eddie Long is a pastor of incredible influence, and his anti-gay tirade would have negatively impacted many thousands of gay christians. 

In his anti-gay sermons, you can hear the shouts from the congregation of  "amens", "clapping" and "laughter" as he put down gay men and women. What will they be shouting now. This is a day of justice says the Lord of Hosts, to vindicate the many thousands of gay children of God that has suffered and made to be shamed. It is judgement time on the Bishop. The gay black community has suffered much whilst Bishop Long basked in glory.

The late Coretta King in 1998, more than 12 years ago, said

"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice," "But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."

 

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