Bishop Eddie Long, the acclaimed Pastor of Atlanta’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and a noted pederast, has died. He was 63.
Ho-hum. He was just another con artist, though more successful than most, and his passing is noteworthy for only what it tells us about religion.
Long went to New Birth when the church had just 300-some members; today, it has more than 25,000 members, with campuses throughout the United States. In 2010 he was enveloped by allegations of sexual relations with several young men from his church, and the scandal followed a course long-familiar to connoisseurs of pious flim-flammery: Denial, denial, denial, acknowledgement of ‘misunderstandings,’ a settlement using the money given to the church by deluded believers.
All accompanied, of course, by swaddling Bishop Long in the loving bosom of his church family and condemnation of the young men he groomed and victimized.
Tom Rich, I think, gets it exactly right:
Long was a despicable human being for sure. He used a perversion of Christianity to get his hands on people’s wallets and their genitals. But those who supported Long with their money and love and adoration also share in the blame – they helped form this man into who he became and granted him the power and provided the venue for his abuses.
Ask any police officer, journalist, lawyer, social worker, doctor — anybody with first-hand professional experience of abuse of any kind in the church environment — and every last one of them, no exceptions, will tell you the exact same thing: Congregations all-but-invariably rally to the pastor, even when he admits wrongdoing, and victimize his victims a second time.
There is a reason why this is so, and it tells you something about who is sitting in church. Healthy adults simply do not sit still for the cult-like degradation embedded in Christian ethical teaching — and, yes, I am saying what I seem to be saying: However they wear it or hide it, there are mostly damaged, screwed-up, insecure people with grave character problems sitting in church. And that’s before you get to the part about the second-rate minds that accept those crazy stories about talking snakes, an Invisible Friend who deeds-over property in the Middle East, and a global flood.