The Real Problem of Eddie Long and the Black Church

| 09/30/2010 | Comments (6)

The Bishop Eddie Long scandal is aiming a searing spotlight on black churches whose pastors seem to be more interested in saving up treasure troves of personal wealth than they are at saving souls from hell.  Bishop Long, who pastors a 25,000 member mega-church, is equally famous for his high-spirited sermons as he is for soaring the friendly skies in a private jet, traversing the Georgian roads in a $300,000 set of wheels, and for using his body as diamond studded billboard for DeBoers.

If we add all this to the fact that Bishop Long is widely known for his uncompromising opposition to gay sex but is being accused of coercing sex from young boys under his “spiritual” guidance, then we have all the makings of a Goliath who will certainly fall harder because of his sizable influence in not only the Atlanta area community, but also because of his vast presence in national and international politics and affairs.

And because most Americans love to see their “stars” plummet and crash to the ground, the Eddie Long saga is dominating the national media, the blogosphere, and social network sites such as facebook where several status updates reflect a “what’s Eddie Long done lately” motif.  Some are shaking their heads at Long’s apparent hypocrisy while others are maintaining a tenuous “innocent until proven guilty” stance.  Still others sadly comment on how this latest addition to a long line of scandals concerning black churches again places the oldest and most enduring African American institution in the cross-hairs of ridicule and derision.  But of course, even most of those who make this observation still vehemently defend the institution by suggesting that Eddie Long is just one man who does not represent the entire spectrum of the black church, and that the church and its membership should not be judged solely on the flamboyant and immoral behavior of one of its most “successful” and popular leaders.

But perhaps the media, the blogosphere, the Twitter and Facebook folks, and Long supporters are neglecting to backdrop this scandal in a context that reveals something even more troubling about the Long sex scandal and the black church’s role in the African American community–namely, that most African Americans, laymen and scholars alike, consider the black church as not only the oldest African American institution, but they also consider it the most viable and functioning institution.  It doesn’t take a panel of historians to point out what most people know about the black church—that it was key in securing civil rights for African American people, that several segments of the movement emanated directly from church leadership, and that since that time many black churches have been instrumental in initiatives that help to promote and stabilize black communities and black families.

But this is the problem–that the key institution to help promote African American people is the black church is one of the main reasons why so much of the momentum we accomplished during the civil rights movement has been squandered. Now I am not blaming all the ills of the black community on black churches, nor am I accusing the black church of being worthless as an instrument to be used for social progress and change (it’s obvious that it can be used to enact political gains via its record during the civil rights era).  But I am saying that it is not the IDEAL or PREFERRED choice for being the prime institution for black people and it can, and often does, hinder black success.

And why is this?

Because unlike other institutions such as schools, hospitals, political parties, business organizations, labor unions, etc., the black church is much more highly susceptible to abuse and manipulation.  True, all institutions are vulnerable to abuse by its leadership or members, but the black church, by its very nature,  has an astronomically high rate of being preyed upon by leaders such as Eddie Long.

And what makes the black church so radically assailable? The black church, like all churches, is based on BELIEVING IN THINGS WITHOUT PROOF.

No other institution has as its cornerstone the prerequisite that its members must surrender logic and reason and believe ideas and notions on mere assertion alone.  If one has attended a black church long enough, he or she has surely heard the often quoted Hebrews 11:1 which says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  So what African Americans have selected as their prime institution is an organization that allows invisible evidence to go unchallenged as truth.

(continued on page two)

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D. Eric Harmon

D. Eric Harmon teaches African American Cultural Perspectives at Century Community and Technical College in Saint Paul, MN and is the director and producer of the documentaries "Bondage and the Bible" and "The Science of Race."

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Category: Guest Posts, Society and Culture, The Black Church

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  1. Bklyn Steve says:

    Wish I had seen this when it was first published.
    Well said how many black folks surrender all reason to faith when it comes to their religious/spiritual beliefs. Also too, how we have warped our history to credit an institution with shaping the course of American history during the modern civil rights era when the truth is only a small number of clergy supported MLK and his efforts and methods which were taught to him by Bayard Rustin, a black gay, a Quaker, pacifist, and follower of Mahatma Ghandi. King believed in a moral obligation uniquely held by African Americans to bring forth “a radical revolution of values” none of which has anything to do with a church but everything to do with a faith in human capacity to do good by all.
    I’m an atheist who believes that reason, logic, and common sense are not enemies of faith. Faith requires belief that individuals have an obligation to think critically, uphold justice, and act with compassion. None of these things seem present in mega churches and their leaders. Who in their right mind would demand members of their congregation go hungry so that they can own a jet?
    Shame on those who condemned those young men who spoke out against Long. They have given up logic, reason, and compassion which to me is Hell.

  2. Pat says:

    He will. Power corrupts and it’s not anyone who can be a pastor. Read the wisdom of Proverbs. His booty needs to be kicked out of any Christ beliving church. I don’t know about their ‘religion’ but the interest of the body of a Christian church is the gospels, to promote what Christ did when he was on earth, not making the pastor rich. Even more important to especially not let any pastor promote immorality.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great post Deborrah! Thanks for this thought-provoking article. Unfortunately most of our people will continue to give their money and intellectual freedom away to the church. If for no other reason than that’s what they’ve been doing their whole life and people are scared of change. Our people have been indoctrinated for so long to believe in everything the black church and its leaders dictate that we cannot imagine living life any other way. It’s pathetic, really.

  4. blackcp1 says:

    Deborrah, you have most certainly hit the nail on the head again. I would take it a couple of steps further and include ALL organized religions. George Carlin had a wonderful funny skit called Religion is bullshit- you can look it up on youtube. There is also a black feminist that put out some very interesting videos on youtube, her name is blackgodessnetwork. She really breaks it down- patriarcal religion( which is most organized religions )is harmful to black women, children and the community at whole.
    Thank all of you for opening my eyes !!!!

  5. sisterlocgirl says:

    You Heathen! You are OBVIOUSLY not a saved/sanctified/blessed/Godly person/one of the chosen for opting to continue to THINK and use that God given brain and the reasoning apparatus for the betterment of your ethnic group.

    It drives me absolutely crazy that the BC didn’t choose to model our communities on the Jewish model. You want to exclude us? Okay, no problem. We will support our own businesses, champion strong education and higher learning, use our house of worship as a true storehouse of the community to care for those unable to care for themselves and 150 years later,we run a sizeable portion of the countries we reside in.

    The BC? We take pride in handing over cash we don’t have to subsidize the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Religious” with Bentleys, Gulfstreams, and $2000.00 dollar suits with the ‘gators to match. Last time I checked, Jesus didn’t ask folks for money, and God CERTAINLY doesn’t need a checking account.

    Your $420 billion comment took my breath away. Where has the wealth of our community gone? To Arabs, Koreans, Africans and any one else who has come to the black communities and started gas stations, hair supply store, braid shops and take our money with a minimal attempt to disguise the contempt they have for African Americans. We have had the financial means to resolve many of the problems in the BC if only we could get past the colorism, self hatred, and general self loathing we heap upon one another. Alas, a fool and his enormous sums of money are indeed soon parted.

    • Raz says:

      Sisterlocgirl: “Alas, a fool and his enormous sums of money are indeed soon parted.”

      Hahahahaha! And Eddie Long is about to be parted with his, I hope a huge chunk!

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