By Sheletta Brundidge
I’ve been following this whole scandal with Bishop Eddie Long. I read the entire lawsuit filed against the Atlanta, Georgia minister by four young men who claim they were having sexual relations with him. The lawsuit chronicles four stories that all tell the same tale about money, celebrities and sleeping pills, about an older man using his authority to prey on younger men and entice them to do whatever he wants.
I gotta say I wasn’t surprised by the allegations. Over the past few years I’ve watched his sermons on television, and his demeanor and dress have been “suspect” for quite some time. I mean, what man wears Under Armor muscle shirts in the pulpit?
Instead of a church-issued robe or something more “bishopy,” like a white collar and black jacket, Long was pimped out in shiny muscle shirts, tight pants, and a vest that would leave his butt exposed. He’s married, so who was he trying to impress?
Women? I don’t know any woman who wants her man’s butt hanging out all over the place, and unless you’re in the NFL and you’re putting a jersey over it, you shouldn’t wear Under Armor out of the house.
The scandal didn’t shock me. Pastors seem to be running amuck in this country with no system of checks and balances, from Catholic priests roaming their congregations recruiting boys to molest to married Baptist ministers with a girlfriend “or two” in the congregation they’ve impregnated.
I watched with bated breath recently as Long addressed his congregation for the first time after half-naked photos had come out of him that he had texted to the young men, in addition to details about their sexual affairs and trips around the world together while his wife was home takin’ care of their kids. I assumed he’d cry, be sorry, contrite, and apologize for what he’s done wrong.
’Cause giving him every benefit of the doubt, even if he didn’t have sex with these boys, Long’s actions — those photos, the trips, their relationship and his demeanor — were at the very least inappropriate. That is not even appropriate behavior for a junior usher at a small storefront church, let alone a bishop of a mega-church.
The performance during the service was absolutely disgusting. Yeah, that’s right, I said it — I just wanted to throw up. Long took the stage like a rock star. Gone were his muscle shirt and tight pants — someone had advised him to put on a robe and look more “bishopy.” But that’s where the good advice stopped! Long didn’t apologize — in fact he was defiant and said he’d fight the charges. To that the crowd erupted with cheers!
Now let me pause right there and talk to Black folks: WHEN THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO STOP ALLOWING PASTORS TO PREY ON OUR CHILDREN? While all those thousands of Black folks were clapping for Long, I was crying for those four young men who had fallen victim to Long’s lies. The congregation had labeled these men villains instead of victims.
Who in that congregation was watching out for those young boys? Someone had to see and know what was going on. Who remained silent? Who turned a blind eye? Who had a deaf ear? Why didn’t anyone speak out when they suspected something was inappropriate? Is it all about protecting this man, or protecting our children?
We hold our school principals accountable. If allegations like these surfaced against a principal, that principal would be taken out of the school until the investigation is over and then we would determine what should happen next. If a politician did something like what Long did, they’d be removed from office and re-election wouldn’t be such a sure thing next term. But for some reason, we let religious leaders hide behind the pulpit and escape punishment and consequences for their actions.
With the crowd cheering him like he was Michael Jackson, the church leader said he’d fight the charges and that he was under attack. Stop right there, Bishop Long: You are not under attack. You are being exposed. That’s two very different things.
Dr. Martin Luther King was under attack when he fought for civil rights. He was beaten and jailed for silent nonviolent sit-ins at restaurant lunch counters. Rosa Parks was under attack when she was arrested for sitting in the “Whites only” section of a city bus. There have been some Atlanta folks under attack. Bishop Long, you ain’t one of ’em.
I’m just sad for those boys. Who is cheering them on? How many of their fellow church members from that 20,000-member congregation have come to their side and said, “We are praying for you. We support you. We believe you.”?
Sheletta Brundidge is a regular contributor to the MSR. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website at http://sheletta.com.