Bishop Eddie L. Long as David? Then Who is Goliath?!
Eddie L. Long, self-styled Bishop of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, has spoken. In his initial response to allegations of coerced sexual activity with teens, he casts himself as David v. Goliath.
Of course Long denies the allegations, as he stated on a radio show on September 23rd, “”Let me be clear: The charges against me and New Birth are false.”
Denying the allegations of four young males from his church, Long said in a brief Sunday sermon at his gargantuan church in Lithonia, GA, “I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven’t thrown one yet.”
Now the Biblical David, as you will recall, the future king of the Israelites, steps forward to volunteer to take on the giant, Goliath, armed only with his slingshot.
Are we to believe then, that the four young men, former teen acolytes who were allegedly initiated into an inner circle through a “covenant ceremony,” showered with gifts and perks, and then lured into granting Long sexual favors, are these young men—or boys—Goliath? Does Long have five stones, one for each boy, and one for their legal counsel? Is Long David?
Long’s accusers are Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris, and Spencer LeGrande. They filed separate civil suits accusing Long of a similar set of misdeeds committed when they were teens.
Here’s how a recent CNN article characterizes the content of Parris’ suit:
“The suit claims Long engaged in sexual acts with Parris. The young man eventually became a church employee and served as personal assistant to Long and traveled with him, the suit says. The pastor continued to engage in sexual activity with Parris and gave him money, trips and gifts.”
Let’s think about that for a moment. If these young men are, collectively, Long’s Goliath, then they are coming out in a community generally considered to be pretty homophobic—they are marking themselves for life in hostile circumstances—for what? Cash, according to a church spokesman. If they are collectively and independently lying, they are taking chances against impossibly long odds to shake down a very powerful bishop. Does that sound likely?
And how powerful is Long?
The public record shows that after being fired from the Ford Motor Company in the mid-80s for expense account shenanigans, Long attended divinity school and started his mega-church from nothing. Preaching an Afrocentric take on the gospel of wealth, he built the church into an empire boasting 25,000 congregants.
Given to lavish displays of wealth, Long sports diamond bracelets, Rolex watches, showy suits, and surrounds himself with bodyguards, according to the New York Times. He pulls down millions in cash and benefits each year.
His church has hosted four ex-presidents, Laura Bush, and the funeral of Coretta Scott King. He sits on boards of universities, including Emory.
His core message is that Christ wants you to be wealthy; that wealth is good, a rightful legacy to the righteous. And how righteous is he? Enough so that the Southern Poverty Law Center has called him, “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.”
Here’s Long some years ago, speaking in a “Back to the Future” sermon referenced in a 2007 article published by the SPLC:
“’It is the most unattractive thing I have ever seen, when I see women wearing uniforms that men would wear, and women fighting to get in the military!” Long shouted to his congregation then. “The woman gets perverted to turn towards woman … and everybody knows it’s dangerous to enter an exit! And everybody knows, lady, if you go to the store and buy these devices [marital aids], it’s Memorex! It ain’t real!”
The audience, seated in a congested sanctuary, erupts in laughter. But what Long says next is no joke.
“God says you deserve death!’”
Media as Goliath?
That is one ugly excerpt, but is the media Long’s Goliath? An insatiable, amoral beast, based in New York, with a need for fresh meat to sell ads no matter the cost? True, there are 2,390 fresh articles showing up on Google today, and that doesn’t include the blogosphere. Are the media out to get Eddie L. Long? The gist of the current coverage is “religious empire threatened,” and “Long vows to fight charges.” That hardly sounds like a liberal vendetta.
As far as the media is concerned, Long is just fodder. They don’t care. His story, true or false, fits the meme: rich, fundamentalist hypocrite is a predatory fruitcake.
No, what sells newspapers, and clicks, is profound hypocrisy, the hypocrisy of the powerful, the elite, that prey on the weak. This is a narrative that, while central to our times, especially in the sorry history of Catholic intransigence vis-à-vis -its never-ending sex scandal- never ceases to disgust the public.
Goliath as…Long’s Own Dark Side
I have another theory about Goliath. Long is Goliath. More to the point, in Long’s own narrative, and this is if the young men are telling the truth, Long’s own predatory, borderline pedophiliac, homosexuality is his Goliath.
Yes, the ugly specter—as heard in Long’s own narrative—of a predatory homosexuality, now there is giant worthy of the name. Our out-sized cultural lions of the cloth, the new avengers of the conservative church, preach a sometimes-debased scripture when it comes to their ungodly hatred of homosexuality. You know what they say, “sticks & stones…” but these accusations, if true, go way beyond words, way beyond the fantasies of Biblical gladiators.
Each day, for forty days, the story goes, Goliath vanquished another unlucky contender. In our strange cult of virulent homophobia and fundamentalism, Goliath may have a new name, and his name is Eddie L. Long.
David has a new name, too, or names: Maurice, Anthony, Jamal, and Spencer. And the bigger they are, the harder they fall.