How does one begin to discuss such a difficult and public topic that has not only the tongues of the LGBT community wagging but those of the most people in this country? Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church located in Atlanta, Georgia was recently charged with sexual coercion by four young men who were members of his church as well as his LongFellow program which was setup to mentor young men. It is alleged that the Bishop seduced the young men as well as supplied them with material items. Bishop Long has a lengthy history of taking a very vocal stance against same gender loving (SGL) men and women from the pulpit of his 25,000-member church. In 2004 on a cold and rainy day in Atlanta when the country was seeing a surge in the interest for marriage equality from the SGL community, Bishop Long organized a march in support of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Bishop Long has not been shy about his very vocal stance against the SGL community. Therefore, when the first lawsuit hit the newswires the SGL community was buzzing. I first read about it as a posting from one of my Facebook friends. While I could not say that I doubted the allegations, I wanted to remain neutral beause I believe in innocent until proven guilty. As the days continued there were two additional lawsuits filed against Bishop Long with similiar allegations as the first two litigants. One might find it strange that I wanted to give Bishop Long any slack and not immediately convict him.
As the week passed, I began to hear more about the allegations and it became clear that Bishop Long had a lot of explaining to do. I watched a newsclip of his Sunday morning service because he promised to address the allegations. It was very telling as he stood very self-assured nothing that “I am like Goliath and I have five rocks and have not thrown one yet”. What was evident about his statement was the fact that he did not state that he was innocent.
At the end of the day, the chickens have come home to roost regarding this very hipocritcal existense that Bishop Long has lived. Just last night I watched a brief interview of one of the litigants and he spoke with intelligence and conviction. After listening to the young man that was tracked down and was surprised with a camera in his face, I concluded that these were not young men out to bring down a powerful minister. These men had been emotionally manipulated and then discarded when their usefulness had expired. However, it appears that this young man in the interview was speaking from a place of hurt and rejection. This young man had evidently developed deep feeling for the Bishop and was now disappointed with the way he was discarded. While this may be the case, the use of his power and authority over these men that were of age was orchestrated with the hope that it would remain their little secret. What makes all of this so sick is the fact that Bishop Long used his pulpit to demean SGL men and women while “allegedly” coercing young men for personal sexual and emotional gratification. My fear with all of the activities regarding this matter is that the public will look Bishop Long as a homosexual and only classified as such. He is a sexual predator engaged in same sex activity. This does not automatically make him a SGL man.
Closets are for clothes and shoes. When we try to shield who we really are from the world we are setting ourselves up for years of therapy. However, for many opening that door and coming out of that closet can cause much agony and constination, which can lead to self destructive and detrimental behavior. Society has pulled a cruel game by telling us that they just want SGL men and women to be honest and stop hiding. However, telling stating that we all should live an authentic life does not lend itself to what most SGL men and women have had to deal with. Why would anyone live authentically with the possibility of being ridiculed, thought of as “less than”, unworthy of equal rights, God’s love, etc? Society has made the closet comfortable because celebrating those living an authentic life does not lend itself to what we truly want to embrace. Therefore, on some minor level of understanding I can see why Bishop Long decided to stay in the closet. Being accepted is a drug that we all want to get high on. Once you have that acceptance it is next to impossible to show yourself as a person that the world has defined as unacceptable.