Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thoughts on the Eddie Long Scandal

Much of Atlanta, where I live, and the internet church world has been abuzz since the revelation less than 48 hrs ago that Bishop Eddie Long is being sued for sexual coercion by 3 young men he had been mentoring. Long is pastor of one of America's largest churches, the 25,000 member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia, and is probably one of the top 10 most influential preachers in our nation. Initially, I was going to put up a quick post here with my thoughts on the issue, but when I learned Eddie Long was going to make a public statement today on the matter, I decided to wait till he did so before posting. I figured it would be good to at least hear what Bishop Long had to say regarding these serious allegations.
I guess I shouldn’t have bothered even waiting. The latest news this morning is that Eddie Long canceled the radio interview and press conference that were scheduled for today. This is after a third lawsuit was filed yesterday in addition to the two originally filed on Tuesday. He is adamantly denying the claims, however, and of course most of his church members are supporting him through this ordeal, which is understandable I suppose.
But frankly, my concern is for Eddie Long’s soul. And trust me when I tell you I believe there’s good reason to be concerned. Indeed there have been rumors and whisperings about Long for a while now, which I used to immediately dismiss whenever I heard them. I know that ministers, and especially prominent ones, are susceptible to lies from the devil in order to bring them down or bring reproach on the Lord’s name. Thus, without something substantial to hang my hat on, I figured I should give Eddie Long the benefit of the doubt. That changed some time ago.
I received some information last year from an unimpeachable source here in Atlanta that convinced me that the whispers were not just empty rumors. It made me sad to hear it, but it was persuasive enough for me to become convinced that Eddie Long indeed had a problem in terms of same sex attraction. This source, who works in the media and spent some time around Long for a news article, witnessed some --- shall we say--- questionable interactions, first hand. And when he/she (I’m being ambiguous regarding the gender to shield this person’s identity and privacy) mentioned to one of Long’s staff members what he/she saw, the staff member sheepishly conceded that they, his inner circle, were aware of his “struggles” in that area, but still had faith in him.  I’ll just leave it at that without going into further detail.
It immediately made me wonder how many people knew this, and how long something like that could stay under wraps without exploding into the public arena.
Suffice it to say that from that moment on, not only was I convinced that the rumors were true, but I’ve been concerned that this issue was a ticking time bomb that could one day explode all over Bishop Long, having a negative effect not only on his church, but the body of Christ as a whole, since the fall of high profile ministers (Bakker, Swaggart, Tilton,etc) always hurts the image of the church as a whole.  Well, with the news from 2 days ago, I’m thinking the bomb may have finally gone off. Only time will tell how bad this could all get, but I have a very uneasy feeling about where this could all lead.
There’s a lot at stake here.  Even if the allegations are true, from what I’ve seen so far, the accusers might have a tough time proving their case. Yet even if Long is exonerated in this, he could still be end up being viewed as guilty in the court of public opinion.
Of course, there is still the possibility that these 3 accusers are lying here, the case could get thrown out of court, and Eddie Long and his church put it all behind them and move on. That still would not negate the fact that Bishop Long has a problem in this area, if, as it appears to me, he actually does. I’m sure it’s hard for any preacher to admit to gay attractions and/or activity, and the natural impulse is to deny, deny, deny all accusations, and hope it all goes away. Still, for any preacher to lie about their sexual misdeeds, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. It just doesn’t deal with the underlying problem. Besides, since all liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8), it would be a horrible thing for a person to depart this life with unrepented sin in their souls as they go to meet their Maker.
There’s still a part of me that hopes this is all not true. But, based on the information I was given, there seems to be little reason for me to believe it’s not. However this all plays out, I do hope the body of Christ does not get too badly damaged by the fallout. Furthermore, if Bishop Eddie Long is innocent in all this, I do hope the truth comes out and his good name is cleared. But if indeed he has had this secret life on the down low, I hope he uses this as an opportunity to come clean, get it right with God, and start afresh, even if he loses everything he’s built up over the years at New Birth. Indeed, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul (Mk. 8:36)?
This is serious stuff. The lives, souls, and eventual destinies of tens of thousands of people could well hinge on what develops as a result of this case. May God’s hand be at work in this situation.

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