“Bishop” Eddie Long in Atlanta is making news today not for pastoring an independent mega-church of 25,000 (hence his self-appointed status as bishop), and not for wearing expensive jewelry and claiming that God wants such wealth for his followers, but because of allegations from some young men in his congregation that he seduced them into sexual acts. As of this afternoon, four men have stepped forward, and I think each of them was 18 or younger at the time the sexual incidents took place. As of today, two lawsuits have been filed against him.
According to the Associated Press coverage, Long has preached against same-sex marriage and prodded his youth to be sexually responsible. If the allegations are true, the word hypocrisy comes to mind once again.
These particular religious leaders who turn out to be closeted homosexuals or bisexuals “on the down low” may feel compelled to preach the evangelical, right-wing party line about homosexuality, and preach it more loudly to keep the veil of respectability pulled taught over internal conflicts which are badly frayed.
But if I am loving toward others, and do not “gloat over” their sins, yet delight in the truth, how should I or any other thoughtful LGBT Christian react to this? (It would be easy to ignore; Georgia is a long way from Los Angeles.) What is truth, spiritually, when it can be manipulated by respectable appearances? When it can be “handled” through publicists and attorneys? When it can be explained away, as Ted Haggard tried to do when his homosexual hypocrisy was exposed?
Most important, as I raised on February 2, is the palpable lack of accountability in many “indynondy” (yes, I coined this for independent non-denominational) churches the first slip on the slippery slope of truth?
Long is not the first indynondy pastor who has lived lavishly without the financial accountability of a parent denomination or a genuine bishop overseeing what the congregation and its leaders are up to.
The bigger problemobfuscating the truthis when clergy found and cultivate a personality cult. Rev. Long must have some strong personality traits to take a congregation from a few hundred to 25,000 in two decades. But when you have a significant following which hangs on your magnetic personality, then almost anything you seek to do will get an enthusiastic “yes” out of your fan club. After all, you built your congregation out of those who admire or are drawn to your personality.
But this is where truth becomes difficult to discern. Longs parishioners who really support him are now questioning what is the real truth of his personality. charges of hypocrisy is only one facet of these questions. It is one thing to set high values and then fail to achieve them, such as preaching generosity and then being greedy. It is quite another to preach heterosexuality and sexual responsibility and then live a secret life. That is more than mere hypocrisy, it is a Lie. Who is the real Rev. Eddie Long?
One AP news story quotes someone from Longs church:
Pastor Dan Hooper