‘Baptist’ Bishop Eddie Long’s before-the-scandal $candal
When Independent Baptist Bishop Eddie Long declared “spiritual warfare” was at the center of his scandal, he inadvertently summarized arguments against his ministry and the ministries of others like him.
In Charisma magazine, J. Lee Grady wrote that a even before the Long scandal, he had noticed a “sinister spirit of perversion has invaded the ranks of charismatic churches.” While careful not to pre-convict Long, Grady offered examples:
- The leader of one supposedly Christian ministry encouraged the wives of two men to have adulterous affairs, and then asked the women to provide detailed descriptions of their activities
- A group of traveling ministers routinely met for weekend getaways that included wife-swapping
- The male leader of a “prophetic” church on the West Coast seduced several men in his core leadership team. (The church shut down after the sin was exposed.)
- A pastor learned that members of his staff were having sexual affairs in the sanctuary of his church, and he did nothing to stop the debauchery.
- A church in the Southeast hosted a marriage seminar in which Christian couples were encouraged to install poles in their bedrooms so wives could engage in pole dancing prior to sex. (Question: Didn’t pole dancing originate in strip clubs? Did someone visit a strip club to get this idea?)
But such power also has its financial uses.
Keith Burton, director of the Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks Leadership Center at Oakwood University, said there is an undeniably “spiritual warfare” swirling around Long:
Like many other mega-church moguls, Eddie Long’s empire was built like a massive pyramid scheme maintained by a host of tithe paying downliners – many of whom give sacrificially with the hope that next Sunday morning their spiritual lottery number would be called. This scandalous gospel of wealth with its “name it and claim it” heresy has the masses so mesmerized that – even now – they fail to hold their leader accountable. Together with the millions of gullible who contribute to similar clergy greed, they allowed him to build his kingdom on their unquestioned loyalty. They defended the right of the “man of God” to have a $350,000 Bentley, multiple items of jewelry, six to seven figure salary, and expensive suits; and gave no thought to the fact that excessive materialism has long been successful in transforming “men of God” into “men of gods.” This, my friends, is the undisputed scandal – a scandal for which neither the Bishop nor New Birth have a defense.
And as Wall Street bankers, megachurch preachers and other prosperity pimps live like lottery winners, people in America are suffering. The Census Bureau recently reported that poverty is higher than it was 10 years ago, with nearly 15 percent of Americans in poverty. The gap between rich and poor has tripled in three decades, and is the highest it has been since the 1920s. Meanwhile, unemployment is entrenched and not going anywhere anytime soon.
Surely, Bishop Long and his supporters would maintain that his reputation is being dragged through the mud. But his reputation was already muddied via his homophobia and corrupt bling theology. Rather, Long should worry far more about what Dr. King would say about him.
lthough King fought against and even disobeyed unjust laws, Long supports them. Dr. King decried the triple evils of racism, materialism and militarism, and called for a radical revolution of values, from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. Figures such as King and Malcolm X walked the talk by fighting for the people — and for causes greater than their personal bank account — through great personal sacrifice and a modest existence. Remember that Dr. King donated all of his $54,000 Nobel Peace Prize money to the civil rights movement.
Weigh Dr. King’s philanthropy against Rachel Tabachnick’s detailed account of how Long’s ministry is apparently structured to make him wealthy. It may indeed be a “pyramid scheme,” accumulating revenue from perhaps 275 churches in 38 states.
That self-serving corporate structure appears to be what the conundrum of being a Baptist bishop means to Long.
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