Tucker continues by saying that there is a long history of closeted gay ministers, in black, white and mixed churches.
“But nowhere have those closeted gays — and their bigoted but straight brethren — done more harm than in the black church, where homophobia drives gays into the closet and fuels covert sexual activity. That, in turn, allows HIV/AIDS to thrive,” Tucker adds.
When the story broke last year about the lawsuits against Long, who led a march of thousands through the streets of Atlanta decrying same-sex marriage, local black gay pastors and activists said the scandal would “blow the hinges off church’s closet doors.”
“It’s an opportunity to examine why we continue to put blind faith in a charismatic figure and follow him/her even when there is suspect behavior,” Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, told the GA Voice last year. The NBJC is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“The black church has a dire need to learn more about human sexuality and not leave the human condition to dichotomies of good versus bad, saint versus sinner,” Lettman-Hicks added. “If we do not do this work, our most vulnerable populations, youth, will continue to fall prey to religious leaders who have essentially been given license to do whatever they want, in the name of God, unquestioned.”
But if we don’t know what happened, if the settlement is kept silent — which may imply guilt to some but still doesn’t answer the question if Long is guilty or not — will the mainstream black church have learned anything? Maybe.
“When a popular minister is charged with wrongdoing, he can always count on the unquestioning support of some. But many members will find that the spell has been broken; Long’s aura of invincibility has faded; his air of authority, once so powerful, is greatly diminished. And that’s a very good thing,” Tucker writes. “It’s unlikely he’d be able to draw such crowds to march under his banner again. And that, too, is a very good thing.”
Top photo: Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, is accused of sexually coercing four young men. Settlement talks are reportedly close to being finished. (publicity photo)