Monday, September 27, 2010

Thoughts on Eddie Long.

I'll be honest. I'm no fan of Baptist doctrine and I am especially not a fan of mega churches, but I do find the allegations against Eddie Long very sad. Bishop Long has been accused of coercing young men from his church to have various types of sex with him and using his power and money from the church to entice them further and keep them quiet.

He states that the allegations are untrue and that he will fight against them. He really has no choice though. A mega church is a business. Bishop Long is the head of the business and he can't allow anything to get in the way of what his business does. Whether you believe that is making money or saving souls, it doesn't matter. If Bishop Long is innocent and steps down (that way that Roland Martin suggests in his piece on CNN) he appears guilty and weak. If he stays and fights the allegations from the pulpit, he gives his followers some hope. They don't believe that he would stand in front of them and lie about something, fully knowing that the proof would never be able to set him free. One of the men accusing Bishop Long claims to have photographic evidence that should clear this all up.

I think the truth of the matter will be discovered in a relatively short while. If there are photos of the Bishop and his boys in the act then I really don't know why he'd bother to showboat, unless he felt that he could financially satisfy the accuser. If you'll notice, there are no criminal charges being filed. I don't find it very strange to be honest. I think that you'd be hard pressed to find the physical evidence or evidence of any kind that these men were forced to engage with the Bishop.

The fourth lawsuit is very interesting to me. The supposed victim was allegedly showered with gifts like a car and tuition. If that was the case there should be a paper trail of some kind (unless he paid for the car and tuition with cash, of course.) Surely, someone would have noticed the time that the Bishop spent alone in hotel rooms with his young male followers.

It is my experience, from situations I have witnessed within churches where a scandal erupts, that when we have a situation like this that people within the church know. Not the parishioners, but typically the leader in question will have a power circle. This circle excludes his wife. She's given other duties typically in the women's ministry. The power circle is an incredibly small group that believe so strongly in the leader that they unquestioningly follow every order. These are the people that the lawyers need to get to. It won't matter really, even if they do find them the members of this small group will lie on the behalf of the leader because being part of this group gives them a significant amount of implied power. I'd look for one or two couples that are always around, not necessarily high ranking members of the church.

I think the biggest outrage that some people feel is that Bishop Long has long been an outspoken anti-gay leader. He preaches and campaigns that marriage is between a man and a woman and that if you are gay his ministry can cure you. (It is my opinion that by "cure" they mean to humiliate and use fear tactics to shame you into behaving "appropriately".) What does it say about Bishop Long if he's been preaching so strongly about this topic, only to be "struggling" with it himself?

I do not want to hear that it means he is human and we need to forgive him. (Frankly, it's not any of my business to forgive him. He's not harmed me in any way.) I also am not sure that I agree with the fourth suit that claims the church had an obligation to warn these guys. I suspect that even if they allegations are true, that "The Church" had no idea what was going on. "The Church" believes very strongly in mentoring and training up young men to be leaders and I believe that is what people thought was happening. I do not believe the attendees of Baptist churches or Mega Churches are bad people. I think they believe very strongly in the doctrine of the church and that the Mega Church provides a strong sense of community and belonging. The Mega Church is so large that sometimes things that could never fly in a small church, can be easily brushed aside or looked over in this larger environment. I think that the lawyers are targeting "The Church" because what they really want is "The Church's Money."

I also wonder why it took the fourth victim so many years to become disillusioned with the Bishop's message. (I'm not blaming the victim. I just wonder about these things.) If the Bishop's message in the pulpit is "Homosexuality is bad" and his message in the hotel room is "Homosexuality is rad" you'd think it would have brought up some questions a little sooner.

The best way to sum up my feelings on the matter are to say that it would be refreshing to see the Bishop cleared beyond a shadow of a doubt. I don't agree with his message, but I dislike people who use false claims to damage other people even more. I hope that this causes his followers to take a good hard look at what they believe and ask themselves important questions. I hope that if the Bishop is found to have been participating in homosexual acts, that he stops faking his hetero lifestyle or at least finds a way to come to terms with it. I feel terrible for the hard time his family is going through either way and I hope that a resolution of some kind can be reached soon.

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