A Sermon for Bishop Eddie Long
Accusations of sexual misconduct against the popular Atlanta pastor are a warning for all churchgoers who have fallen victim to charisma, bling ministries, and leaders who engender fear and loathing.
For many young people, the reality is that they are sacrificed on the altar built for pastors we have deified. We must dismantle the cult of the clergy and other leadership frameworks that place male leaders above reproach. We must stop regarding our cowardice as loyalty and take the risks to support our young when they are victimized.
How can we ensure them that if they disclose their abuse, they will be believed and their abusers will be confronted, regardless of their ranking? By challenging abusers who hold authority in our organizations, families and communities, we prioritize the safety and health of our young over peer approval and the comfort of "getting along."
Whether or not Long actually committed the acts of which he was recently accused, this much is true: He is assuredly guilty of engendering fear and hatred of LGBT people among thousands. He has convinced countless numbers of gays that they are sinners whose salvation rests on becoming "reconditioned" into heterosexuality. Such toxic teachings reinforce the stigma that compromises HIV-prevention efforts as well as our mental and physical health.
One who cannot face aspects of himself that he despises will train that animus on another whom he regards as his opposite. Did he sell out countless individuals in order to throw congregants off the scent of his own hunt, the exploitation of young men? Was there a point when, at first, a few and then many knew what was happening and said nothing? How long will we enable the abuse perpetrated in word and deed by our pastors? When will we dare to speak the ugly, inconvenient truth even when we are afraid?
This story of this sullied bishop serves overdue notice to Christians across the nation who have bought and sold snake oil presented as holy water. It is a foreclosure warning to every black male pastor who deems the church his castle, and the women, gays and young who build it as no more than chattel to serve his appetites. It is a subpoena, a calling to account for all black men who endorse patriarchy as the most legitimate form of power in our communities. It is a stained diary page brought to light. It is truth. Amen.
Craig Washington is a writer and an HIV-prevention manager for AID Atlanta. He has been HIV-positive for 25 years.