SATAN IN THE PULPIT: THE BISHOP EDDIE LONG DILEMMA, DRAMA IN THE CHURCH
By: Fahim A. Knight-El
This article came about mainly because of all the recent controversy swirling around Bishop Eddie Long, the senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church located in Lithuania, George. His church is considered one of these huge mega-ministry churches in which the sanctuary seats about 35,000 parishioners. He was accused and alleged to have had inappropriate relations and sexual relations with at least four minor aged boys who were members of his church congregation and employees (this count could rise in the coming days).
Thus, Bishop Long was considered to be, one of the most well respected and prominent black ministers in the country based on his philanthropy work and various outreach ministries. I have watched Bishop Eddie Long from a distance for the last 10 years; he and I do share this much in common, we are both graduates of North Carolina Central University (Bishop holds a Master of Business Administration) and have been a strong supporter of Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He has given commencement speeches at NCCU and sat on the board of trustees.
I commend and applaud Bishop Eddie Long for the good works that he has done to assist the downtrodden—reaching down to the poor and oppressed. If you are not ministering a social Gospel then you are not following the teachings of Jesus. And you don’t have to guess about this much, if there were ever man called Jesus that walked upon this earth, he was on the side of the oppressed. Perhaps Bishop Eddie Long's fall from grace represents a moral decadence which is more pervasive than what we are willing to admit and for many years religious leaders who crossed moral lines was allowed to cover themselves behind a wall of church silence.
Carl Kenney former pastor of Orange Grove Baptist Church in Durham authored a novel titled “Preacha Man” he stated: “Someone’s thinking, what you talking about, preacher? I’m talking about having been cradled to sleep in the process of the doing. Some have slept so long without knowing it. They’re sleep walkers. The snore of their slumber has become so overwhelming that it looks like death. No one recognizes this condition. You can get by. The sleepwalkers of the world are able to exist in this false state of existence. Why? Because everybody else is sleeping. No one is awake. All of us have been hypnotized by the forces of evil to a state of rest. We walk, but sleep. We inhale and exhale, yet sleep. We talk, but sleep. We inhale and exhale, yet sleep. We think, yet sleep".
"How do I know there’s death? When there’s more Hell in the church than there is in the streets—that’s sleep. When we witness the decline of a community, yet a larger church building being erected to house God’s people—that’s sleep. When we note a change in the economic status of a few, yet zombies walk down the street—that’s sleep. When we have men and women in our church who have been raped by its leadership.” (Reference: Carl Kenney; “Preacha Man” p. 199).
Although, I must interject that I personally lost respect for him when Coretta Scott-King (the wife of the famous Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King) died in which the funeral was held at his church in 2006 and from what I was told that he would not allow Minister Louis Farrakhan to have words in the pulpit, but he allowed George W. Bush and other reactionary imperialistic voices to speak. However, like most black Americans this writer was somewhat shocked by the accusations (clarify only for a minute though) that Bishop Long was being accused of these horrendous allegations of sexual misconduct.
Lets get a legal definition of what the word, term, and/or phrases alleged and allegation means; thus, I pulled out my treasured "Black's Law Dictionary" and I first looked up the word allegation it stated: "The act of declaring something true; something declared or asserted as a matter of fact; especially in a legal pleading; a party's formal statement of a factual matter as being true or provable, without its have been proved." I next looked up the word alleged: "Asserted to be true; accused but not yet tried". We must be fair here just because someone is accused or alleged to have done something does not necessarily make them guilty of committing a crime. Yet, in America, if you are black, you are always presumed guilty before innocent and many have been quick to find Bishop Long guilty of the charges based on the sensationalized stories being reported in the mass media (it makes good copy-print).
The commercial media, bloggers and all manner of talking heads have had a field day with the Bishop Eddie Long story and some would argue justifiable so. Although, these allegations looms high, he is still supposedly protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which affords him due process and equal protection under the law and is presumably innocent until found guilty in a court of law. This writer is not sure, if the United States Attorney's office for that particular jurisdiction of Georgia or some ambitious District Attorney might review the civil allegations and see if they have legal grounds to convene a grand jury in which to gather an indictment for criminal charges (statutory rape or rape or some lesser sexual misconduct charge).
Some could equally argue that this could be a money shakedown (no doubt Bishop Long is a big fish in the pond), which Attorney BJ Bernstein and the so-called alleged victims could be legally seeking to extort Bishop Long for money. Most of these type high profile cases ordinarily ends in financial settlements and never makes its way in front of a jury or a civil court of law. The allegations against Bishop Long give the appearance of being possibly an abuse of office and power and definitely a violation of public trust. These type allegations takes on an even greater significance when the alleged perpetrator is of the clergy and is the one responsible for reminding the parishioners of how God looks dis-favorably upon sin and when something like this happens the minister loses credibility (the church has always been filled with sinners, but forgiveness has been for everyone else except for the minister).
However, we are guilty of setting the minister and preacher up for failure by requiring them to appear as being divinely inspired and guided saints who are without humanly faults. Our faith becomes shattered when these men or women of God transgress and violate the biblical laws and principles that undergirds the foundation of what we consider to be right and wrong relative to our theological convictions, which they expect their parishioners to follow with a sense of absolutism. Thus, in most religions right and wrong are not up for negotiation; either you are committed to the tenets of faith and chose to acquiesce to all the positive benefits of being associated with a faith tradition, or be led to compromise edicts and languish in the abyss of personal spiritual un-fulfillment. Most people are on a path of seeking the former over the latter. But after all we all are human and subject to temptations and shortcomings (wouldn't it be best to keep the clergy on a mortal plain).
This incident involving Bishop Long surely was to shake some people's faith and trust because they were blindsided by the incident that was deemed sin and hypocritical—this is spiritual betrayal. Nevertheless, Bishop Long is in deep trouble, but he is not the first minister who has taking indecent liberties with boys in the church. Do you all remember Reverend Ted Haggard just a few years ago who was one of the foremost televangelist in the country and he was exposed for living a double life style (his homosexual partner snitched him out and Reverend Haggard’s life started tumbling down)? These type public incidents creates pain, doubt and mistrust, but more so than that it reveals the vulnerability of the men and women that have been entrusted to lead humanity to God and have taken the responsibility to lead us to a moral foundation of belief.
There was an African American author named J.L. King who wrote a book in 2005 titled: "On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of 'Straight' Black Men Who Sleep with Men". King toured the country (appearing mainly at small venues) addressing the subject of black men who were living secret lives relative to their sexuality—they often were in heterosexual relationships, but lived a double life by engaging in homosexual relations unbeknown to their wives and/or girl friends. Yet, these men did not consider themselves gay or homosexuals. King stated in a speech that coincidental Atlanta, Georgia (this is where Bishop Long is located) had a huge "Down Low" population.
The Roman Catholic Church has had their share of homosexual (and promiscuity behavior) scandals involving high ranking priest and minor age boys and pedophile behavior have been running rampant in the Catholic church for decades—scandal after scandal. The history of immoral behavior and questions of ethical sexual misconduct go back to when Constantine setup Christianity at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. (this is where this conduct had its inception). These type sexual predators are often moved from Dioceses in order to protect priest identity and provide them with a new sanctuary to continue their sexual molestation of children (and often the victims are left to languish in untold psychological and social prisons that consist of pain and anxiety). The Catholic Church has had to settle a number of civil law suits and it has served as an embarrassment to one of the most powerful and influential religious entities in the word.
The Catholic Church money and power have often softened the debate relative to pedophiles priest and their suitability to continue to preside as religious mentors and spiritual confidantes. Perhaps as opposed to the sinners revealing their sins at confession; may be the priest should be allowed to confess their sins to the would be sinners. Thus, it even appears that these Catholic priests had sovereign immunity because very few have been convicted and sentencing to prison for sexual misconduct. Bishop Long was powerful, flamboyant and reasonably wealthy—basic ingredients to an ego driven personality (the invincibility syndrome sets in and this lead them to think that they are untouchable).
Eckhart Tolle in his book titled, "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" stated: "Whatever forms it takes, the unconscious drive behind ego is to strengthen the image of who I think I am, the phantom self that came into existence when thought--a great blessings as well as a great curse--began to take over and obscured the simple yet profound joy of connectedness with Being, the Source, God. Whatever behavior the ego manifests, the hidden motivation force is always the same: the need to stand out, be special, be in control; the need for power, for attention, for more. And, of course, the need to feel a sense of separation, that is to say, the need for opposition, enemies. The Ego always wants something from other people or situations. There is always a hidden agenda, always a sense of 'not enough yet,' of insufficiency and lack that needs to be filled. It uses people and situations to get what it wants, and even when it succeeds, it is never satisfied for long." (Reference: Eckhart Tolle;"A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose"; pp. 79-80).
Bishop Long actually dressed and looked like a pimp in the pulpit with the clown outfits (modern zoot suits) and all the ‘bling, bling’ that you expects to see worn by Hip-Hop artists or professional athletes. He became a millionaire in packaging and selling the Jesus story (which often consist of the greatest lies ever told) to poor and middle class blacks who become drunk off religion and caused them to lose all reasoning and rational thinking. Thus when people are poor, oppressed, disenfranchised, disillusioned, etc., there is a yearning to seek external religious sources as a coping mechanism in order to deal with the daily social, economic and political dilemmas—prayer and holy ghost experiences and worship in itself provides an emotional outlet and a form of temporary escapism from the daily afflictions.
But in most instances it doesn't matter what your socio-economic status may be; religion has proven to be persuasive over the minds of humanity. For example, we have seen intelligent and influential people who have come under the spell of religion. It is easy to be lured into religion because of the soothing phenomenal of our spiritual yearning, which it attempts to offer to the sin sick soul and simultaneously in an abstract way religion places itself in a position to answer the questions to our daily earthly afflictions and struggles.
Most of these religious conmen like Bishop Eddie Long often embarked upon the ministry with good intentions and immediately notice how gullible their parishioners were and at that moment they become prime targets of exploitation. People have been socially conditioned to trust the clergy and see them as an extension of God on earth (the first mistake) and forget that they are human beings with faults, shortcomings and human fragilities just like themselves. We often contribute and assist in this false aura and supernatural plateau, which we creates for those who claim they represent God and set them up for a difficult fall when it happens.
Moreover, the other part to that equation is that the clergy often allows their ego to be smitten by this dangerous lofty status that is already rooted in failure and at that moment lose all sense of the continued path toward perfection, which is bigger than lip service, but a way of life. People foolishly began to bow and praise the minister more than they praise God. This ordinarily is when religion transition into the making of a cult (although most religion often started as cults).
Chris Mikul in his book titled, "Cult Files: True Stories From The Extreme Edges of Religious Belief" stated: "The question of what distinguishes a cult from a religion is a vexed one. It is not simply a matter of belief, for a strange as the teachings of some cult leaders may seem to most people, there are ultimately no objective proofs for any religious belief. To put it bluntly, one person's cult is another's religion. . . what ultimately separates the groups routinely labeled 'cults' from more established religions is the level of commitment they seek (over and above embracing an unusual set of doctrines). This can range from a financial commitment--the expectation that members give 10 percent, or 100 percent, of their income to it--to the demand that they give up their lives for it. Cults provide a window into the extraordinary variety of religious beliefs, and the lengths that people may go to cling to them, whatever the consequences to themselves and others. They are also, without exception, fascinating stories, full of larger-than-life characters and elaborate mythologies, where incredible depravity can coexist with the highest of human aspirations" (Reference: Chris Mikul; “Cult Files”; pp. 7 & 11).
They often see these well dressed tailored suit wearing and religious pimps as intercessors between them and God (this creates vulnerability and dependency on the clergy to make certain connections with the omnipotent power). Thus, this mindset aligns them up to be prime targets for exploitation because they have correlated their religious salvation to the minister or preacher’s standards and not God. They even become somewhat delusionary and forget that the preacher is flesh and blood—mortal like themselves. These mega church preachers live the life style of the rich and famous while often the parishioners live in stark poverty, but find it necessary to continue to turn their money and wealth over to these religious hustlers and pimps—these hustlers can be found in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The preachers have sold us on the pie in the sky doctrine, just bring me your money and you shall acquire a heavenly reward after you die. There is an old dictum, which states absolute power absolutely corrupts—money, sex, lies and the messiah syndrome are the ingredients and the mother of hypocrisy. People and humanity are hurting and as I stated above oftentimes religion is sought-after to soothe our yearning and desires to be fulfilled spiritually. It is often pain and our search for answers higher than ourselves that draws us to religion and the Bishop Eddie Long types—we are often attracted to their level of charisma and personal magnetism and most of all believe that all our answers are to be found in their interpretation of the Bible (why do not religious people learn to read and interpret the holy texts for themselves?) I was taught as a very young boy that you did not question the Bible or the preacher to do this was like to partake in an unpardonable sin and was equated to blasphemous.
But unlike my siblings, I had silent questions and I never believed that the preacher was above reproach. It became this type of thinking that set me in motion and turned me against organized religion and led me to become a free thinker. But for me this writer is always amazed at how people who follow organized religion often set themselves up to become pawns. People often think they need something to believe in and this places human beings at a vulnerable state, which to be misled and duped by wolves in sheep clothing. The appearance is that Bishop Eddie Long was living a double life style (homosexual and heterosexual) and this writer personally doesn't think these alleged four incidents is all that will eventually be revealed out of Bishop Long's closet. What is hurting to most Christians is that we have been taught to hold the minister or clergy to a higher moral standard (they represent God's word) and sin relative to the position of minister is beyond compromise. We expect the minister or pastor to live in a glass house and although we teach that he is of the flesh, but it is difficult for us to reckon that he and all humans are only striving for perfection and why should we be surprised when these imperfect souls commit human acts of era.
Thus, none of us are perfect and anyone of us could be in Bishop Eddie Long's shoes, but I do have a problem with hypocrisy and there is something fundamentally wrong to stand in the pulpit and intentionally lie or even mislead people about your sexual orientation. This writer is quite sure there were others around Bishop Long that knew of his problems, but chose to remain silent because of the perks (the yes man disease) and this contributed to leading him down a reckless course.
Fahim A. Knight-El Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of goodwill, of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolism and reinterpreted the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlightened world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-EL can be reached at fahimknight@ yahoo.com.
Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
Fahim A. Knight-El