Eddie L. Long and the powers of religious insanity

In case you missed it, yesterday’s New York Times included a remarkable story about a Georgia bishop named Eddie L. Long, the megachurch he runs and the four former members of his youth group who have accused him of coercing them into homosexual acts (Trust me—read the story).

Long symbolizes everything I loathe about the megachurch movement (as seen on TV; as heard on AM radio every Sunday morning) and the men (it’s always men) who run it. In short, as the head of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church (Membership: 25,000 people), Long preaches the idea that God and Jesus want us all to be financially rich. Seriously, that’s one of his messages. And, boy, does he abide by it. To quote the piece, written by James C. McKinley and Robbie Brown: “Bishop Long cuts a flashy figure in Lithonia, the Atlanta suburb where he lives and has built his church. He is often seen in a Bentley attended by bodyguards. He tends to wear clothes that show off his muscular physique. He favors Gucci sunglasses, gold necklaces, diamond bracelets and Rolex watches. He lives in a 5,000-square-foot house with five bedrooms, which he bought for $1.1 million. … In 2005, for instance, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published tax records showing that from 1997 to 2000 Bishop Long had accepted $3 million in salary, housing, a car and other perks from a charity he controlled.”

My ultimate, all-time, 100-percent favorite thing about Long is that he hates those gays. Doesn’t think they should be allowed to marry; considers the lifestyle sinful and unholy; even holds seminars at his church promising to “cure” homosexuals.

What, specifically, is Long being accused of? According to the Times report, the four former youth group members say Long “repeatedly coerced them into homosexual acts and of abusing his considerable moral authority over them while plying them with cash, new cars, lodging and lavish trips.” The boys, according to the story, “went through a bonding ritual, known as a ‘covenant ceremony,’ in which Bishop Long gave them jewelry and exchanged vows with them while quoting from Scripture as ceremonial candles burned, according to court complaints filed against the pastor. Reciting Bible verses, the pastor promised to protect them from harm and called them ‘spiritual sons.’ But four former members of the group now say the real purpose of the academy was to provide Bishop Long with young men whom he could lure into sex.”

Predictably, Long gave a rousing sermon yesterday, denying the allegations while offering up one of the greatest means-more-than-it-seems lines of all time: “I am not a perfect man.” Uhm … yeah.

Where does this go? Having watched many anti-gay priests/public figures magically turn homosexual over the past couple of years, here’s my predicted order of events:

A. Long appears on Larry King Live, admits he has sinned, but says the accusations are completely false.

B. One of the boys releases an audio tape of Long screaming, “Rub it like that! Rub it like that!”

C. Long resigns in shame, but first asks Jesus for forgiveness.

D. Two years from now, Long is on Oprah’s couch. Sitting beside him is Serge, interior decorator/Long’s lover.

E. Eddie Long Decorating opens to rave reviews in Key West.

PS: It’s an old theme on this blog, but why do we continue to expect such great things of human beings? During sermons, Long walks through the church, touching people as they cry and weep. He’s not Jesus. He’s a man. With a Rolex.