Atlanta mega-church pastor Eddie Long has privately resolved a lawsuit that he had previously sworn to fight like David fought Goliath, so he is free to move forward with plans to expand his once profitable ministry. Should he be let off the hook?
Despite rumblings that his New Birth church is falling fast, Long, who settled out of court last month with several young men who say he took sexual advantage of them, has announced plans to open up two satellite churches and called on financially able parishioners to make donations from $500 to $1,000 as seed money for the new branches. He assured followers that a certified audit was done and that, "All of your money's being done right and being calculated right."
While that audit might settle the concerns of some of his churchgoers, many others have more pressing worries about the pastor and his church. In a recent sermon, Long's friend Creflo Dollar (a pastor himself) recently had some words for those parishioners who haven't stuck by the scandal-plagued Long.
Dollar lectured, "When you have a wreck, you expect God to forgive you and everybody else. Don't let the preacher have a wreck now. Then you become self-righteous and judgmental, and you gon' leave him for his wreck when you done had more wrecks."
Dollar further added that Long was still "anointed to do what he was called to do" and ostracized fleeing New Life parishioners, saying, "I just can't believe that people would leave their preacher 'cause he had a wreck, instead of praying for him." He also claimed that Long "had insurance, and Jesus paid the premium." Jesus' checkbook probably begs to differ.
This kind of oversimplification helps create the climate for more Eddie Long-like scandals to happen again and again.
If Long's former followers are being "self-righteous" and "judgmental," they're only taking cues from the self-anointed bishop himself. It's not surprising that Dollar thinks the scandal involving his friend — who was accused of using his power, wealth and influence to bed men introduced to him as boys — is just a "wreck" and employed some twisted form of theology to excuse it. Both men espouse this kind of "prosperity preaching" that's essentially nothing more than Christianity for the capitalist. Never mind that it's completely antithetical to the life Jesus led on Earth.
Long is the person who once said, "Homosexuality is a manifestation of the fallen man." People are within their rights to suggest that the pastor appears fallen as well. A settlement doesn't necessarily confirm guilt, but when you promise to fight like David but end up settling out of court, it looks suspicious.
Slavery, misogyny and segregation were all once justified in the Bible. Such is the problem with allowing agenda-driven clergymen to be biblical literalists of convenience and dictate what is and isn't right.
In the documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, Bishop Desmond Tutu explained, "The Bible is the word of God through the words of human beings speaking in the idiom of their time." That's why it's now OK to touch women when they're on their periods, and not so much to sell your children into slavery. Yet when it comes to gays, we allow hatred to continue being spewed despite constant reminders of the possible consequences.
Over time, will homophobia finally join other antiquated prejudices? Not if we don't start analyzing Scripture and sexual identity for ourselves. Not if we dismiss gross hypocrisy as a Jesus-excused "wreck" and condemn those who distance themselves from that hypocrisy. And especially not if we allow Long to go on to build new houses of hatred.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.