Sunday morning in church, Bishop Eddie Long told his congregation that he would "not be pulled into a street fight" and that he doesn't hate anyone, in remarks widely construed to be directed at the four men accusing him of sexual misconduct.
"They talk about the Constitution but they don't want to live by it," he said to applause. "They talk about the forefathers, but they practice discrimination. They want to change this country."
Bishop Eddie Long did not directly mention the accusations to thousands of cheering supporters during services at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Lithonia. But his remarks seemed directly addressed to his accusers.
"In times of challenge, there are several things that come out. Your faith will be strengthened or weakened," he said, to growing applause. "My faith is being strengthened."
Long told supporters at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church that he is "not going to be pulled into a street fight" and that he doesn't hate anyone. But he directed his listeners to turn to a passage in the Book of Job that read: "Those who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more."
As his devoted flock cheered, Long joked that he accidentally led them to the wrong page. "That was the Holy Ghost," he said, flashing a smile as the sanctuary echoed with laughter.
Long's more than hour-long sermon was greeted with thunderous applause and adoration. Several thousand parishioners flocked to the suburban Atlanta complex for the 8 a.m. service, and cars snaked in traffic for miles after it was over.
As he said in the past, and rightly so, these accusations should not be tried in the court of public opinion. So should the pulpit be used as a tool for the defense? Just asking.
Sheryl Huggins Salomon is senior editor-at-large of The Root and a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based editorial consultant. Follow her on Twitter.