Bishop Eddie Long is pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, a suburb of Atlanta, Ga. Some people think he is extremely successful to have grown his congregation from 150 people in 1987 to over 25,000 in 2010, including a satellite New Birth Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. Many others question his ostentatious lifestyle. Bishop Long lives in a $1.2-million mansion, drives a $350,000 Bentley sedan and owns a private jet.
The Feb. 10, 2004 Washington Blade details how Long led a march of thousands of people to support an amendment to Georgia's state constitution to ban gay marriage.
Former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond boycotted Coretta Scott King's funeral because it was held at New Birth M.B. Church. Bond felt that Long's strident and persistent opposition to civil-rights protections contradicted Dr. Martin Luther King's message of civil rights for all and Coretta Scott King's support of rights for LGBT people. In recent years, Long called for a federal ban on same-sex marriage. He is well known across the country and quite influential in Black religious and gospel music circles.
On Sept. 22, 2010 national network news outlets announced that three young men filed papers in DeKalb County, Ga., civil court against Long. Most Black religious folk, nationwide, were shocked by the allegations: that Long gave the men ( now about 20 to 24 years old ) expensive gifts, electronic hardware, a Chevy Malibu and numerous trips to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Kenya and South Africa. While at these and numerous other distant vacation spots it is alleged Long shared hotel rooms with the young men; they were allegedly lured, coerced or pressured into fellatio with Long. These trips took place from about 2007 to recent months. The civil court papers filed against Long are readily available on the Internet.
A fourth young man, from the Charlotte, N.C., New Birth Baptist Church filed a civil suit against Long Sept. 24, 2010.
Some Internet sources suggest that up to 16 more young men may yet file similar civil court papers.
In many megachurches, the congregation idolizes the pastor, hold him above reproach and support the view that the pastor always knows best. Very large church buildings may bind the congregation to the need of unending fundraising to meet the church's mortgage and to meet heating, cooling and maintenance costs that are higher now than anticipated. The current severe recession, and prolonged joblessness among church members may not have been foreseen.
The uproar over these allegations has produced varying perspectives. On Sunday Sept. 26, 2010, Long spoke to media about the allegations, saying from his pulpit, "I am not the man being portrayed on the tv. I am not a perfect man, but this thing I'm gonna fight." Individual churches and many gospel television and radio broadcasts called for Christians to pray for Long to be restored to renewed faithfulness, and to a more Christlike way of living.
Unfortunately for Long, many people with more secular ways of living are jaded and feel cynicism toward perceived hypocrisy. There have been so many examples of scandalous and outrageous behavior in recent years! Stridently anti-gay Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley sent sexually explicit e-mail to young male congressional pages. Rev. Ted Haggard and Tiger Woods were in the gossip news for weeks. Why didn't Long learn from those bad examples of infidelity, if the rumors are true? Did Long not care about the potential hurt feelings of his wife? One can only imagine the long-term emotional trauma Long's four children will have to endure.
Mr. Roland Martin, formerly of Chicago's WVON AM 1690 talk radio and now a CNN political analyst, called for Long to remove himself from the pulpit while the allegations are being resolved. Martin said, "Long, your congregation and the world don't want to hear excuses. They don't want ambiguity."
Martin went on to say, "Your motto at New Birth for years has been 'Taking Authority.' This is the time for you to live that credo out before your flock, no matter what the outcome will be."
NEWSONE, an Internet site specializing in news about African Americans, claims to have uncovered a letter through Mediatakeout.com, sent from Jamal Harris, one of the four men who filed a multiple count civil suit in this case, to Bishop Eddie Long. It says, in part, "You are not human, you are a monster, you have made me one to those who care and cared about me and now I see the world like I see you, evil, corrupted and full of lies."
In May 2009 I published a book that seeks to show the historic connection of racism with heterosexism. Writing it was a way to channel my frustration and anger about the ways Bishop Eddie Long and other Blacks in Dixie oppose civil rights for the LGBT community.
AFRICAN AMERICA's 3rd Rail: SGL has not yet become popular. Some people don't like examining scripture, and think it is too much trouble to attempt to try to educate Christian conservatives. Others have moved on to a spiritual life not connected with organized religion, or have embraced the Buddhist faith, or are agnostic now. Some friends would rather wait until it is available on DVD.
My opinion is that Christian liberals and progressives have made the matter of what the Bible says and does not say about same gender loving ( SGL ) people too complicated for this age of sound bites. I sought to create easy to understand talking points.
First: In the Old Testament, Ezekiel 16:49 says, "Behold Sodom, she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy." In America, from 1619 to 1863, "the poor and needy" were slaves. It was in the economic interest of wealthy Americans to make it a serious crime to teach slaves English. Very few Americans back then knew Greek, Hebrew or other original languages of the Bible. Therefore it was easier to teach that the Iniquity of Sodom was about an attempted homosexual rape at Lot's door ( in Genesis 19 ) . Not to do so would have required the abolition of slavery hundreds of years before the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment.
Second: In the New Testament, 1st Corinthians 6:9 says ARSENOKOITAI ( Greek language word for "homosexual rapist" ) and MALAKOI ( Greek language word for "homosexual prostitute" ) may not enter the kingdom of heaven. Is it moral for a man to rape a woman? No. Is it same-gender lovemaking when a man rapes a man? No. Do 21st-century Christian conservatives abuse this scripture to argue against gay marriage? Yes. Is prostitution sometimes the end result of economic privation, such as the need for money to feed an addiction? Yes. Would it be worthwhile to "judge not, lest ye be judged," when considering prostitution?
Third: Did Long ever teach that the iniquity of Sodom was about pride, wealth and inhospitality to the poor? Or does Long exploit the prejudice many Baptists have against gays with emotional sermons about Sodom to increase offerings? Why am I, a same-gender-loving man, personally accountable for an attempted homosexual gang rape at Lot's door some 2000 years before I was born?
Fourth: Other scriptures abused to bash LGBT people are based on the heterosexist fiction that 100% of all people are born heterosexual. The bashing of LGBT people with those other scriptures is based on the fiction that people willfully choose to have same gender attraction.
Fifth: Now is the time for same-gender-loving people to support the numerous civic, social, athletic, religious and other groups around today that acknowledge, appreciate, affirm and accept the LGBT community. We should encourage PFLAG in order to build bridges to our families, friends and allies. We must quit pretending that same gender attraction is "personal and private." Aggressive conservative efforts to enact constitutional bans on same-sex marriage and efforts to block civil-rights protections of your employment, military service, etc., are very public matters.
The controversy surrounding Long is much bigger than one person. It calls into question matters of organized heterosexism; the enormous gap between rich and poor people; the need for total honesty pertaining to affairs of the heart; and the need to hold powerful leaders accountable.
Thank you for your consideration of this essay. For comments or questions about it, e-mail MaxsonnCS@aol.com or Andrew@WindyCityMediaGroup.com .