By now the entire free world knows about the allegations against Atlanta-area mega church pastor, Bishop Eddie Long. Even our friend Christopher Hitchens weighed in on it, and his article in Slate magazine is worth a read. I won’t bore you with the details, as there are literally hundreds of venues that will provide you with running commentaries and the details of the four lawsuits filed by his former “LongFellows”. There have been enough homophobic ministers, preachers and pastors in the news lately that when we hear one of these sinister ministers rail against homosexuality we find it hard to resist the urge to attach a cartoon balloon over their heads and type in the comedic caption “Wait for it…” and the ever-popular adolescent “whoever smelt it, dealt it” cliché is never far behind, because the whole situation just plain stinks.
We have come to the point where anti-homosexual pastors caught with homosexual partners are no more surprising to us than the stories of bank executives stealing money from their own till. And it is not going to get any better, that I can promise you. Sexual misconduct amongst the clergy appears to be increasing exponentially and I have a sneaky suspicion that it is not the rate that has increased, but the instances of them getting exposed, for lack of a better word. It used to be, “back in the day”, that being sexually abused was something that was just not talked about. It was an embarrassment and somehow the victims were seen as part of the problem. Especially in religious circles, where all forms of sexuality outside of the “good old-fashioned man on top get it over with quick” between two married members of the opposite sex is prohibited and continued, unrepentant participation will get you a one-way ticket to an eternity in hell.
As much disdain as I have for daytime talk show hosts, we can credit them with removing much of the stigma surrounding sexual abuse, making it easier for victims to come forward. Thus, as I stated, it is not the frequency of action, but the frequency of revelation that I believe to be the reason why this problem appears to be on the rise. Be that as it may, the end result is the same; a growing distrust by almost everyone outside of the faith toward anyone who is a member of the clergy that is vocal in their opposition to homosexuality.
The premise that we have in this country for being presumed innocent until proven guilty is admirable, but it comes with the responsibility of either reserving commentary or at least stating that you believe a person to be innocent, one must acknowledging that the findings of a jury is the final decision. Jurisprudence, prior to either conviction or aquittal, must remain agnostic, but we all know the propensity that the religious have for “knowing” something without the benefit of evidence. This fact is wholly exemplified in their definition of their entire system of belief, neatly wrapped in Hebrews 11:1, which states:
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”
Denial is a close cousin of delusion, and religious belief being a form of delusion, it was not unexpected to see hundreds of people in the congregation last Sunday when Bishop Long made his rather arrogant speech that was neither denial or admission who were holding up signs proclaiming the innocence of the Pastor. Various news agencies interviewed congregants after the service and the general consensus of almost all of them could be summed up as “I just KNOW he is innocent”. Really? How can they know that? They may want to believe it, just as they may want to believe any of their dogmas and doctrines, but they cannot know it. As Frank Readick, Jr. was so apt at telling us, “Nobody knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men”… And there is no “Shadow”…
The fact remains that it is not uncommon for the accused to portray themselves as victims, particularly if they are narcissistic, which is quite obvious in the case of Bishop Long. His demeanor and the statements that he had made regarding the charges that were levied against him in these lawsuits, as well as his final statement where he said he felt like David in the face of Goliath is classic textbook behavior for an abuser. Many abusers are skilled at portraying themselves as victims. They are also very adept at building support networks of people who believe their lies. If you combine the charisma of the narcissist, the propensity for Christians to see themselves as martyrs and the authority and power that comes with being a religious leader, it is not difficult to understand why so many of these ministers end up behaving in a way that is exactly the opposite of what they are most vocally against. When dug into, it is not uncommon to discover that there was sexual abuse in their childhood, and while some of these abusers may exhibit visible scars, most are not easily identified, as their scars are deep inside. This results in skilled manipulation of others with little, if any, remorse for doing so.
We may not know if he is guilty or innocent at the time of this writing, but given the facts, it is likely. Speaking as a former Pastor myself, the right thing for him to have done if he is innocent was to have stepped down until he was cleared of these allegations. Instead, he chose arrogance. I expected nothing less.