This morning, I woke to a text from a friend that read, “You should do a piece on Eddie Long. He dead, girl, and on a Sunday, too!” She told me to check Facebook, “SoB specifically.” I checked my favorite social media personality, Son of Baldwin’s, page per her suggestion. He quoted Moms Mabley, “They say you shouldn’t say nothin’ about the dead unless it’s good. He’s dead. Good!”
News sites have stuck to the facts easiest to swallow. Long was 63 and headed an Atlanta-area mega church, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. He is survived by his wife and four children. The cause of death was cancer.
Well I’m not as evolved. My mother always said, “If you ain’t got nothing nice to say, tell the truth.” And since it’s Sunday, I have a little truth for y’all. We’ll call it my Sunday sermon.
I don’t mourn Eddie Long. I mourn the the peace of the men who were teenagers, some still legal minors, when he used the fortune amassed from his flock to woo the vulnerable boys and young “trips around the world, travel in private planes and stays in luxury hotels.” If I were a praying woman, I’d pray for them. I’d pray they were finally able to make peace with the fact that a man they trusted, one who everyone told them was there to guide, teach and protect them from harm, had violated their trust and bodies in the ultimate way. I’d pray that his victims were finally able to forget “the sound of his voice” or “the smell of his cologne.”
I’d pray that they never had to relive the horror of discovering that a man who had gained their trust “under the guise of providing a fatherly influence” had been nothing more than a sexual predator, sending them suggestive pictures of him clad in spandex and expecting them to “return the favor.” I’d pray that they understood that though Georgia law considers them able to consent to sex with adults at age 16, they were still victims, manipulated and coerced into sex by a man old enough to be their father who had been billed as a messenger of the Father. I’d pray that they understand that though their bodies were used and defiled, it is no reflection of their own worth and value. I’d pray they know they were victims, and not the opportunist liars they’ve been painted as.
I’d pray that the members of Long’s congregation, who sat in agreement with his condemnation of homosexuality for years, stop billing their endorsement and peddling of violent homophobia as the Lord’s work. I’d pray that they know that they’re no different than those in the Catholic church who looked the other way when victims of priests came forward detailing the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of men of the cloth. I’d pray they realize the march against gay marriage lead by their beloved bishop was nothing more than the obligatory show of hypocritical bigotry they expect and demand. I’d pray that they know his public denouncement of homosexuality was to mask his private indulgence in it.
I’d pray that they remember that Long bragged about paddling “wayward boys” in an admission that reveals itself as disgusting and predatory, saying, “When I say bend over, even on Sunday, they bend over. Why? Because they respect me.” I’d pray they become sick to their stomachs at the thought that a man who had called himself a “spiritual daddy” to many boys and young men had perverted their revered text to defend taking his victims on “overnight trips where they shared a bedroom and engaged in kissing, masturbation and ‘oral sexual contact’.” I’d pray they never have a restful night of sleep, wrestling with how they were able to accept whatever explanation they gave themselves for why a middle-aged man would be sending 17-year-old boys private messages of him flexing in front of the mirror.
I’d pray they realize how they put their faith in a man, disobeying the orders they say were decreed by the God they claim to serve and memorialized in their sacred text, as 1 Corinthians 10:14 instructs them to “flee from idolatry.” I’d pray they feel as used and fleeced as they should for financing the “$350,000 Bentley” Long cruised around in and the “$1.4 million home” he lived in, while long justified his lavish life by saying, “You’ve got to put me on a different scale than the little black preacher sitting over there that’s supposed to be just getting by because the people are suffering.” I’d pray whatever sanctimonious satisfaction they feel from knowing they tithe their 10% regularly is pierced by the reality that their money was used as a ransom for Long’s reputation. I’d pray they know that bankrolling a “ministry” headed by a man who chose to pay for the silence of his accusers rather than fight is anything but Christian-like, but like their beloved leader said, “You’ve got to know when to hold it, know when to fold it, know when to walk away.”
But that would be if I were a praying woman. I’m not though. So forgive me if I don’t grant Long the reverence in death that he didn’t deserve in life. Pardon if I’m less than concerned with the feelings of the friends and family who stood behind him while the evidence of his perversions from behind the pulpit stacked up. You’ll have to excuse my refusal to indulge in empty shows of humanity for a man who sexually violated young men while simultaneously preaching that very homosexual acts that he climaxed from were sins.
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