Yea I know, in this country everyone by law is innocent until proven guilty. But this isn’t a court of law. So I will express some commentary of common sense.
Let’s get this one thing straight off the top. If you are one of those Christians who believe that Bishop Eddie Long is totally innocent and that all of these young men are lying as some sort of a set up to get paid, you are at best totally naïve, and at worst an idiot. (Trust there will be plenty of both at New Birth tomorrow morning.) When I heard the news that he was using his pastoral power and influence to coerce young men within his congregation into sex, the first thing I said was, “Let’s just wait and see.” I didn’t want to jump to conclusions because I know folk do lie, and extortion is also a possibility. But I quickly added, “If a third young man comes out of the woodworks, it’s a wrap!” There may be some legal wrangling, but that doesn’t mean that the Bishop was guiltless of dirty deeds being done. No sooner than I said that, I looked at my CNN app and ‘BAM’ there it was, accuser #3. As I write this the number is up to 4. It’s like some Tiger Woods shit now.
Not only are the details of this scandal telling, the way the Bishop is handling it is as well. First he cancelled a scheduled appearance on The Tom Joyner Morning Show Thursday morning. Then he cancelled a scheduled news conference on Thursday afternoon. His shield is heavily shined with the polish of high priced attorneys. Now why is that? Look, if I’m a rich guy who can afford the credentials he is paying for and innocent, they could not keep me from publically stating on Tom Joyner, a news conference or from the rooftops for that matter that I am innocent of coercing sex from young men under my pastoral charge. Sure I would retain attorneys to represent me in the case. I’m also countersuing on top of it. I know the attorneys are claiming that it’s their call for Long to keep quiet till Sunday, but in the name of Miles Davis, ‘So What!’ If he was accused of robbing a bank, something he didn’t do, would he be merely releasing a statement and letting this stew? At the very least an innocent man accused of such travesties would say something like, “I hired attorneys who will instruct me, however since I am innocent I have no problems saying to anyone that I did not have sexual or improper relations with these young men including buying gifts etc.” What else would he say in court if that were the case? This is just common sense. This case is not a criminal one. All of this silence is unnecessary unless there is something to hide.
I can see where the first steps are leading however. Bishop Long is going to speak where his bread is buttered and where he has tens of thousands of devoted supporters in the element in which he is most comfortable. The church will set the atmosphere. There will be the usual singing, praising and worshipping of God as is custom. Except this won’t be so usual; Emotion will be at a fever pitch as those in the congregation not looking for a car wreck will feel a special mission to cry out to God (literally with tears) in this service to save their bishop. They believe he is under Satan’s attack! And with their faith Jesus will deliver their prophet of God from the ‘hands of the enemy’. Finally the Bishop will emerge and offer his doding followers some spiritual psycho-babble about Satan, deceived young men who betrayed are being used by Satan to attack the church as a whole, and the victory that will be delivered by God Almighty. He already released a statement saying that …”we will arise.” I didn’t think ‘we’ his congregation were accused of what he is accused of. But he is rallying the troops, making them feel as if they are also the object of Satan’s attack.
Trust me when I tell you; I know how these things work. I was in these circles of theology for many years in the same type of churches. I know how they think and the rhetoric that they function on. In mainstream power-based Christianity pastors are placed on pedestals that would make kings blush. And when they are not careful, their pride allows for dastardly words and acts.
I remember belonging to a church where the pastor told us that any extra money we received that was a blessing outside of normal income didn’t belong to us but to him God. There was a new building project the church was working on, and he wanted to walk into it debt free with the money from the congregation. He even went on to say that we should get the equity out of our homes by taking out second or third mortgages because it was God’s money we were holding on to. Most of us were smart and said, “This nigga must be crazy!” But the point is that he felt that freedom because of the power of influence he had as pastor. (He also called himself Bishop by the way.) I also remember a time when he preached over and over again about having the faith to give an entire pay check to the church to show that God is our provider. Unfortunately, I did fall for that one once. I didn’t go under. I am a fiscal conservative so I wasn’t foolish enough to give the church bill or food money. The point is, within that environment hearing that message over and over again I thought it something to aspire to.
This is the problem with big time baller preachers:
On one hand they say to put your trust, faith and belief in Jesus. He is the only way. But within that next breath they imply that the way to really get in there with God is to listen to God’s man. (Himself of course) After all, this person is so much closer to God than average member is, and that he is especially ‘anointed for such a time as this.’ Therefore, people believe that their spiritual elevation is directly connected to the one preaching to them every Sunday. Look at him: He has the nice clothes, the bling, the Benz etc., and everybody wants to be around him. A seeking parishioner who wants to please God thinks to himself, “He must be the man especially appointed by God.” Once folk buy into that, it’s like stealing candy from a flock of babies. As John Milton famously said, “Vanity, it’s definitely my favorite sin.” When the deity factor is in place, or that feeling that one’s basic purpose and eternal state is at play, they are being capable of doing anything for the cause. See suicide bombers for instance. But I digress; Back to spiritual daddy Long-stroke.
What is bothersome to me within this story is the way the accusers describe the set up. Bishop offers to be a spiritual daddy to these young men who are without significant male mentors. He takes an interest in them. He does things for them like taking them on trips, buying gifts they can’t afford. The latest accuser even said ‘daddy’ told him not to become involved with any females. Then he puts the moves on them.
Sad to say the timing of this was ironic for me. I just finished a book written by actor Todd Bridges, “Killing Willis, from Diff’rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted.” In it he described how the exact same thing happened to him from an advisor who helped to manage his career. This guy was doing nice things for Todd in his career, earned his trust and eventually made his move on a pre-teen. As he did these nice things for Bridges earning his trust, he made a point to tell Todd how he was doing so much for him and how Todd’s own parents wouldn’t even do what he (Ronald) would. Ronald told Todd not to be interested in girls as a man could make him feel just as good if not better.
From Chapter 5 of “Killing Willis”
One day, Ronald was driving me home from an autograph signing at a record store in the San Fernando Valley. He had a big Cadillac with one of those long bench seats. We were sitting side by side kind of close to each other. He pulled the car over on a quiet side street without any traffic and looked at me with that intense look I was starting to recognize from past conversations.
“I’m telling you, it can be the same with boys as it is with girls,” he said…. If you try it you’ll like it.”
“I don’t know,” I said looking out the window… I’d recently turned twelve, and I wasn’t even sure it was possible for me to feel good in the way he described.
“Believe me, you’ll like the feeling,” he said. It feels better than anything else in the world.”
I have to admit I was curious. And obviously I really liked Ronald and wanted to make him happy. Even more than that, I didn’t want to disappoint him. He had done so much for me. I didn’t want him to go away, like he said he might. Then the autograph signings and special appearances would go away. He wouldn’t be there to ride bikes and play football, or tell me he was proud of me.
Ronald put his hand on my crotch. I squeezed my legs together and looked at him, still unsure. He smiled at me like he had so many times before. But he looked different to me now.
“You trust me, right?” he asked
“Yea,” I said. I did trust him. But I felt weird and a little scared too.
“I want to show you that a man’s mouth can feel just the same as a woman, “he said. “There’s no difference.” … “Pull your pants down.”
I didn’t want to lose everything he had given me. And so I did. He put his mouth on me. I got hard. I didn’t know where to look or how to feel. I squirmed against the back of the seat. He kept on going, getting into it. I hoped it would be over fast. Then it happened. I came.
…. “You okay?” he asked, rubbing my thigh.
“I guess,” I whispered, still not wanting to look at him.
…As we pulled up in front of my house,… Ronald put his hand on my shoulder before I could climb out of the car. “Remember, Todd, this is our secret, right?”
…“You’ve got another autograph signing in Agoura Hills next weekend. … I already told your mom that I can take you. We’ll have fun, right?”
Does any of this sound familiar in the Long allegations? It does to me!
I remember when I was about the same age visiting with a friend of my father’s. My dad had a date and left me over this guy’s house who was a preacher himself. He name is Clifford but he called himself “Prophet.” He was weird too in that he had fish bowls with water and money in them instead of fish. He had incents and candles all over his apartment. I even remember him smacking the butts of his teenage daughters in front of me and saying, “Look at her Chris, she has a nice fat ass doesn’t she?” I thought this was off to say the least though I was just a kid. Still I knew him since I was a little boy and respected him as an adult friend of my father whom I respected.
We were sitting on his couch watching the game show, “Family Feud.” Richard Dawson the original host was still hosting at the time. This was around 1979. Those of you who remember the show will recall that the pervert Dawson made it his business to kiss all of the women contestants. I joked with Prophet about the one episode where the host leaned over and almost kissed a man. Prophet’s response to me was, “What’s wrong with that?” I said something to the effect of, “That’s a man kissing another man. That’s what’s wrong with it.” I was 12. I didn’t know anything about homosexuality nor was heterosexuality an experience of mine though I knew I liked girls.
Prophet didn’t stop there however. He continued, “A man can make you feel just as good as a woman. Have you ever heard of anal sex?”
It’s not like it is now. I didn’t know what an anal was; let alone anal sex. But he described it fully to me. Afterwards, he put his arm around me, chuckled a bit and said, “You’re going to be alright son.”
After that I was not only embarrassed but extremely creeped out by this predatory nasty ass child molester. I made my way to the front door and took my behind outside to walk the apartment complex till my father pulled into the driveway. I told my dad what happened and told him to never take me there again.
In reading Bridges book I can see how his life was totally messed up by his experiences with Ronald the child molester. And I am thankful that I was not counted among those taken advantage of sexually by such a menacing figure. But you see my point by now I hope.
In the eyes of the law, time will tell. But conventional wisdom tells us that all of these dudes aren’t just making these things up about Bishop Long-stroke. The evangelical church experience tells us that the atmosphere where leaders use position and power for their own lust is pervasive. And from what I hear from the accuser’s own attorneys about phone records, gifts, and single hotel rooms around the world it’s going to be ugly. And while I realize that these young men are older than 12, the pastoral office makes it just as significant.
Let me be clear. I never liked or disliked Bishop Eddie Long. I never understood his apparent need to draw attention to his flesh by wearing tight shirts and suits while in the pulpit. I thought the attention should be on the Word of God when it’s being presented, not the biceps and triceps of a preacher appearing to be on HGH. All that aside, I wrote about this situation because it honestly hurt me. It hurt me that a man with such power and position within the black community and in the nation for that matter, would take advantage of young men who are impressionable with regards not only to life, but to a charismatic and powerful figure that appears to take an interest in them.
I could care less if Eddie Long is a homosexual. Though that would say something about the message he preaches against it. Still, that’s between him, his wife and his congregation. What is bothersome to me is him taking advantage of young and tender men under his spiritual charge who were obviously vulnerable. A predator who uses God and spirituality as a means to bag prey is the worst kind of predator in my view.
I wonder how many more will come out of the closet. I wonder how many won’t.
As a friend of mine and I discussed, in our experience as God fearing brothers, God always gives us plenty of chances to quit our most heinous sins before He ‘outs’ us publically. So what this tells me is that this has been an ongoing dilemma.
And just like David when he killed Uriah and took his wife in the Old Testament, the cover up is often worse than the crime itself. Because, in this case by lawyering up and denying it all, he abuses them twice.
I do know this. Church folk better wake up and stop putting all of their power in these ministers as if they are the way to God. A real minister of the gospel will never allow so much attention and glory to go in his/her direction!
See various articles from the Atlanta Journal Constitution regarding Eddie Long-stroke.