The Insult of Eddie Long's Coronation
The event was a major distraction from the positive work being done by worshippers of all faiths.
Last week I watched the YouTube video, just like everyone else did. Crowds appearing to cheer, testify and shout as New Birth Missionary Baptist Church's Bishop Eddie Long stood, sheepishly, being wrapped in a so-called Holocaust Torah -- perhaps it even had the "dust of Auschwitz and Birkenau" remaining on the precious scroll. Bishop Long was raised high in a chair carried by several strong men and hailed as a king according to "Jewish rituals." Even Long didn't look particularly convinced or excited about his "coronation."
Following this display, Long apologized to the Jewish community in a letter to Bill Nigut, Southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, saying, "The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community."
Sigh. Interfaith mayhem.
Watching the video (which has been removed from YouTube, but CNN did a story on the event) and reading all the commentary flying across my social networks, all I could think was, "What a shame." It doesn't have to be like this. Interfaith respect and spiritual clarity is, in fact, possible. The picture of confusion on the pulpit at New Birth during that video stands in such stark contrast to the worship experiences I had in different sacred spaces across the world during my "52 Weeks of Worship."
Over the span of a year, I experienced a number of kind, humble interchanges with leaders of various worship communities I visited. In interactions devoid of pomp and circumstance, I was able -- immediately -- to feel the energy of the sacred spaces I was in, as reflected by the leaders of those communities, and to appreciate the kind invitation they extended to come, experience, worship and learn.
Videos like the one of Bishop Long are plentiful. You don't have to search for long to find an example of "religion gone wild." Stories of situations where religion is used to confuse and sow sad seeds of deception abound. Undeniably, religion is wielded as a weapon and used as an excuse for violence all over the world.