Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bishop Eddie Long Scandal: Pimping Out God

Update: Accuser count is up to FOUR as of Friday afternoon.  Check out the latest info here.  A fourth accuser just filed his lawsuit this afternoon and in a new twist he claims to have been DRUGGED by the Bishop while they were on a trip together in Kenya.  His lawsuit also claims that the Bishop paid for his car, his house, and his tuition.  There have been reports that as many as 30 men have contacted the plaintiffs attorney B.J. Bernstein.

Photo allegedly sent from Long
 to one of the young men in this case
 I don’t care whether Bishop Eddie Long is a homosexual.  According to this week’s lawsuits the Bishop allegedly has a preference for young men who are just above the age of consent.  All of this is perfectly fine with me even with Long’s long track record of homophobic and anti-gay rights rhetoric (which really is a separate blog post entirely).  Hypocrites aren’t really all that uncommon.

What is not okay with me is that Long is also accused of using funds from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church to purchase gifts for these young men.  Allegedly the church’s tithe payers paid for a Ford Mustang that Bishop Long is said to have purchased for one of the plaintiffs in the case.  If I was a member of his congregation I would demand my money back. 
This is nothing new and the instances of mega-church pastors and other religious leaders, taking their congregants money to purchase luxury items is old hat.  This thieving from the pulpit phenomena is much more disturbing than pictures of the Bishop in his bathroom in a spandex Under Armor suit.  I’m sick and tired of these jive time pastors (as my real life pastor would say) pimping out God.

I grew up in the church.  I’m the daughter of two ministers.  My mother is the child of a Baptist preacher.  I’m not being critical of the Bishop here because I am some sort of anti-religious type.  I read my bible and nowhere in it does it mention tithe money going to a Bentley and a private jet.  I realize that New Birth may do incredible things for the community, but at what cost?  Is it worth exposing these young men to what is being described in these lawsuits as a sexual predator?  Is it right that the Bishop Long is siphoning money away from charitable causes the ministry supports and instead is funding sexual rendezvous with young men who are members of his congregation?  

Photo released by
the attorney for the plaintiffs
New Birth would not be the first religious organization to come under fire for religious leaders allegedly preying on congregants (see: The Catholic Church).  They are also not the first to use money received from tithes and offering to enrich their leaders.  This isn't even the type of thing that is isolated to the Christian faith.
What makes this Bishop Long scandal stand out is not only is he a fierce and vocal opponent of gay rights, he's also high profile enough to sit in the pulpit with Presidents as in the case of the funeral of Coretta Scott King.  Ths story is going to get traction in the media based on the level of his hypocrisy alone.  But it is not Long's hypocrisy that is the problem (well the biggest problem), it's his use of faith to dupe his congregants into making him rich.  Rich enough that he is allegedly able to carry on elaborate and illicit sexual relationships with men in his church for many years without anyone willing to come forward, until now.

For his sake I pray that the Bishop believes what he preaches because it is true that God will forgive him for his sins.  I'm just not so sure all of the members of his congregation and his alleged victims will be so willing.

ABC News Update on the allegations now that a 3rd man has come forward along with the pictures released above.
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