Generally I try to avoid the news, as my own life is already enough of a national tragedy that I don’t feel the need to exacerbate it by reading about the misfortunes of others. It’s hard enough to stay on a diet without reading about some poor kid who has cancer. No one can fight the urge to turn to a large plate of cheese fries when you consider the fact that the adorable kid you don’t know will never get to date or drive or graduate.
But unfortunately, I haven’t been as lucky about avoiding this Eddie Long scandal. I wrote about it once, furious that people STILL couldn’t write about this scandal and separate the implication that he might be gay with the fact that if the allegations are true, he is a child predator. After that, I largely tried to ignore it, even when he was going to court, then not going to court, and then when word got out of his $15 million payout. When I read that, I retweeted a comment that a friend made on Twitter;
“Eddie Long has $15 million to offer in a settlement?!?! While you Christians are scrimping your shepherds are living good.”
That comment pretty accurately summed up my feelings about mega churches, their pastors, and this entire thing. And I tried to largely stay away from it. Until this morning.
My friend Michael writes for various sites around the web, and when I saw this article pop up with his byline, I clicked on it to read it despite my news aversion because I read everything he writes. He offers a really good take on not only the scandal but of the loud way that another prominent minister in Atlanta, Creflo Dollar, has come out reprimanding the parishioners who have left his church. You should go read it.
What bothers me about this whole situation is not that Bishop Long might be gay. Not that homophobia in the Christian church and African American community as a whole is still so rampant that it makes me wanna weep. Not even that another over-the-top, flashy minister came to the defense of a friend and peer. All of this just seems par for the course.
What bothers me is that no one seems to be shouting as loudly for the victims.
There is some sort of double standard going on here, though I am not sure if it is because it is young men accusing another man or because they are accusing a minister.
It’s no secret that the molestation of children is thought to be widely underreported, with abuse targeting young men believed to be the largest of group refusing to name their abusers. It would be naïve of me to think that the factors that often lead to men not bothering to report abuse (the general shame of abuse compounded by the possibility of being looked at as “less of a man”, having a harder time “justifying” or proving their complaint, the wrongheaded opinion that they could have somehow just stopped the abuse) don’t weigh heavily in the public perception of these victims and how people react to the scandal. But there is another, far more disturbing level nonchalance about what they have suffered when the accused is a man of the cloth.
Being from Atlanta, and having more than a few ties to many churches, big and small, in the city, hearing the opinions from the people who live there is astounding. Some are rightfully indignant, and refuse to support Long, his church, or his ministerial endeavors anymore.
Some, like the irresponsible spouting of Creflo Dollar, are treating this entire thing with kid gloves. Dollar himself has harshly criticized the members of the New Birth flock who are flocking away from Long and the church in record numbers following the settlement. It’s his opinion that they shouldn’t turn their back on someone who had a “wreck” when they have had “even more wrecks” themselves. In essence he feels that because these Christians aren’t willing to forgive a man who may or may not have coerced underage boys into sexual acts, then they arent’f fit to be called Christians.
I am pretty sure that the when the bible said “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” they didn’t mean forgive him, continue to line his pockets with millions and support his ministry while ignoring the implications of what kind of man you might be following. But I suppose this too is just another case of selective reading from the bible. Anyone remember the one about “blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly”?
I suppose not.
Make no mistake about it; if Bishop Long is guilty of these accusations, he is a pedophile. Plain and simple. And I hardly see what is un-Christian about not wanting to support such behavior or not desiring to sit in a pew every Sunday and receive spiritual guidance from such a person.
This is not simply a “mistake”. He didn’t just cheat on his wife or pick up a gambling or porn addiction. This isn’t even as simple as the possibility of Bishop Long being gay; as far as I am concerned he can be forgiven for being a self-hating gay man who has a long history of preaching the prosecution of gays. Though, I wouldn’t be shocked if his well-known pastor friends weren’t so quick to come to his defense about that particular kind of “wreck.”
I hardly think that people should be condemned for not wanting to support someone who preys on children. And certainly they shouldn’t be turned away from Long’s church because it’s not where they’re “supposed to be.”
If he weren’t a minister, if he were just a man who had been accused of taking advantage of children and refused to fight for his innocence in court, would he keep his multimillion dollar position? Would he be above reproach? Would he not lose support? Would people be so vehemently defending him then?
So why the hell is it any different because he has placed Bishop in front of his name, despite the fact there are no bishops in the Baptist church?
Maybe people are less sympathetic because the victims are male and it’s an ugly but undeniable truth that we are not nearly as well versed in handling the victims of sexual abuse when they are male. But I am fairly certain that the bulk of the support Long is still receiving is based solely on him being a minister, and not based on the facts.
As far as I’m concerned, he was a man accused of a crime and because he settled and the case will never be heard in open court which means it is left to be tried in the court of public opinion. So he brought this on himself.
Personally, I would never pay $15 million for my innocence. But what do I know? I like older men, so I guess I am good.