I was planning to write about Eddie Long this week, but then he up and died, so I’m forced to consider whether it’s appropriate to indict his character with criticisms that were entirely legitimate just a few days ago. Our society treats death like an ironclad non-disclosure agreement, where all points of contention are muted in deference to the press release version of what occurred.
However, Bishop Long’s legacy endures, as does the spiritual suffering he inflicted on thousands of black LGBT Christians, far beyond the aisles of his New Birth Missionary Baptist Supercenter. Suffering was going to be the dominant theme of my initial column on Long, as his most recent public appearances revealed the physical and emotional trials he was losing – his once muscular physique collapsing on his bones, his will to live withering down to thoughts of suicide.
His burdens were unsettling to witness, and so among my initial thoughts upon hearing about his death was relief he was no longer suffering. If only Long’s victims could attain such peace without having to die first.
There are the aforementioned LGBT Christians, whom Long referred to as “filth,” “spiritual abortions” and the anti-Christ, and whom he attempted to sever from the larger black community, using Jesus as a saw. Now, by merely acknowledging the scars Long left on their faith, they are accused of being disrespectful by many of the same people who shouted “Amen!” while Long was disrespecting their existence.
The most notable of those aggrieved by Long are the young men who in 2010 accused the bishop of being a sexual predator, grooming them with gifts, trips and stature, only to seduce them once they reached the age of consent. Long’s death, along with a 2011 legal settlement, might offer some type of closure, but trying to heal their trauma is the life’s work of the survivors of his alleged sins.
The settlement the parties reached included no admission of guilt, and the accusations against Long have never been verified. True or not, it’s remarkable how believable the scenarios were as soon as they were alleged, as in-character as Donald Trump having hookers piss on each other for his entertainment and arousal.
When Long organized a 2004 march through Atlanta opposing same-sex marriage, I wrote how the bishop “led a river of Christians as wide as [Auburn Avenue] that flowed rapidly for 23 minutes before all of the marchers passed the [starting point].”
“I’m looking at the people just stream, and stream and stream down the sidewalk, and it amazes me how many people will wake up so early in the morning to support such a hateful message,” said a lesbian who was protesting Long’s march.
The 25,000 people who walked behind Long that cold December morning are his most pitiable victims, led to the wrong side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge by a Capitalistian who sacrificed his flock to the judgment of history, while he savored the financial fruits of being a coveted black figurehead for a predominantly white anti-LGBT movement willing to pay for the perception that they weren’t bigots.
The believers may be forgiven for knowing not what they did, but I hope the bishop had a stronger defense prepared.