COMMENTARY: "The devil is busy!" a user commented on an online article about Bishop Eddie Long's alleged sexual encounters with four teenage men. The commenter was convinced the Georgia pastor was being attacked by the devil. In truth, the devil isn't homosexuality; the devil is the accepted and profitable homophobia in the black church.
Almost like a Sarah Palin of the black church, Long turned down or canceled interviews with the press, speaking Sunday in a controlled environment at his 25,000-member megachurch, the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. No questions, especially from reporters. Even at a promised news conference, the Georgia pastor simply read a statement denying the allegations. Therefore, this "sermon" on the sabbath was a dramatic plea for his members to not abandon him; he's going to need their cash to maintain his defense fund, Bentley, and private jet. Mr. Dick Tracy Long, the alias he allegedly used at hotels, will say whatever he needs to cover his assets. "I am not the man that has been portrayed on television," he told his congregation. He stressed that he would fight the charges and added, "I feel like David and Goliath, but I've got five rocks and I haven't thrown one yet." Long received a standing ovation.
Even though there have been rumors about the pastor for years, his religious zombies are shocked at the accusations and will believe him at any cost, however delusional. No matter if the alleged truth whispers from aisle to aisle every Sunday or if the truth blatantly stares them in their faces weekly, there is still dismay. Who can blame them? Reality is hard to digest when you believe your pastor is a historian, teacher, therapist — or a baby-sitter for teenage boys.
In an attempt to be sympathetic, I will say that if Long is guilty of these deeds, he is to some degree a victim of the homophobia that many sectors of the black church, and churches of various backgrounds, proudly endorse. The 57-year-old was likely taught a worldview that didn't embrace acceptance of anything outside of heterosexual and Christian. What would make Long despicable is his alleged abuse of power, and so my sympathy would evaporate quickly. If you want to be a self-hating church queen, then keep it to yourself.
"Church Queen" culture, as I like to call it, is a vital part of the black church. There is more sexual decadence in this cowardly subculture than in any gay club on any night of the week from New York City to San Francisco. Sadly, many gays who are immersed in this world are being introduced to their sexual identity via hypocrisy. I know people who have lived the experience alleged by the men who filed suit against Bishop Eddie Long, and the experience of men involved with other pastors who damn gays to hell from the pulpit only to be in bed with them later that night.
The accusers were supposedly above the legal age of consent in Georgia, which is 16. But what's revolting about the case is that some in the black church are less concerned whether or not these men were of age and more concerned that they are male. Yep, the issue isn't child molestation, it's homosexuality. Indeed, it would appear that in some black churches you could be a pedophile and have more respect than a gay man or woman. Even the media is ignoring that if the teens were of age, there were allegedly years of grooming involved, which is not only criminal but psychotic.
Thankfully, not all are blinded by Bishop Long and his Jim Crow Christians. Julian Bond, the former chair of the NAACP, did not attend Coretta Scott King's funeral because it was held at Long's church. Bond famously said, "I knew her attitude toward gay and lesbian rights. And I just couldn't imagine that she'd want to be in that church with a minister who was a raving homophobe."
Not every black church is homophobic. Popular televangelist Reverend Carlton Pearson is strongly against homophobia and has lost members of his flock because of his inclusive beliefs. But it’s the homophobic churches that roar the loudest and take in the most revenue. Some say, "I'm not homophobic, I just believe the lifestyle is an abomination and you shouldn't get married!" If someone supports using sexual orientation to limit the rights of other Americans, then that person is a homophobe.
Furthermore, it’s not just heterosexuals; plenty of gays support these hateful institutions. If you want to find a slew of gay men, just go to the black church. If these charges against Bishop Long are true, remember he had a wealth of men and boys he could entertain at his megachurch. One can only imagine how Long’s “teen mentoring program” might’ve helped damage the minds of many youths, straight or gay.
Like Jim Jones, these pastors uphold self-hate, abuse their control, and prey on the vulnerable. These pastors are contributing to the spiritual and, at times, literal suicides of countless LGBT youths. And like Jim Jones, they use lines like "Die with dignity!" and call the "children" to the pulpit so these impressionable minds can drink their poisonous Kool-Aid.
This disease of homophobia in the black church is lethal. It helps spread violence against LGBT people. It helps destroy families. It helps terrorize LGBT youths in the classroom. It helps spread HIV — if you are taught that the supreme being views you as an abomination, then why wear a condom to protect your life? For decades, the black church idly sat by and watched AIDS destroy its community. It wasn't until black women had the highest rate of new infections and "down-low" men could be used as scapegoats that there was any effort made to even discuss the disease.
I say this to every person who attends a church that clearly speaks out against LGBT people, whether you are closeted, a straight person who "loves" their gay friends, or the queen in the choir who everyone knows is gay but avoids discussing — you are a villain too.
You may rationalize with "I ignore the homophobia" or "There are so many other good things they say," but every Sunday you co-sign a death warrant with these churches. There is blood on your hands for the endless youths, of the legal age of consent or not, who have been sexually assaulted or taught that they do not deserve love because they are “abominations.” To any parents who take their kids to churches that preach any type of prejudice, your hands need a good washing as well; you are damaging your child for life.
Supporting a homophobic church, handing over your cash, singing in its choir, or promoting its events is cowardly and shameful. Until we take a stand against this bigotry, it will continue to exist. Being religious does not make you a zombie. But supporting dogma from leaders who are far from God that damns selective people to hell does give you a leading role in Night of the Living Dead. Again, I hope people will realize pastors are not historians, teachers, or therapists. Preachers like Eddie Long are the pimps of the church, and Jesus is their prostitute.