Bishop Eddie Long, one of the Black Church’s prominent pastors of "prosperity gospel" and bling-bling theology in the Southeast, is flashing neither his gold nor silver these days.
The embattled pastor had hoped that settling a sex scandal lawsuit for an undisclosed amount against allegations that he used influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce young males into sexual relations would close the lid on the matter.
But the mess won’t subside and trouble keeps on coming: Long’s wife has just filed for divorce, the church coffers and membership keep shrinking, and he’s now stepping down temporarily from his bully pulpit.
Casting himself as the underdog: first as the biblical David up against the Goliath, and now as Moses who had to keep his hands raised against the iniquities of his adversaries, Long would have done better to cast himself as an unregistered and unrepentant pedophile.
Who among us would not flinch at the thought of a "holy man" preying on children instead of praying with them?
And what faith can anyone have in a Church that says it stands on the teachings of Jesus yet violates his biblical mandate stated in Mark 10:14: "Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
But for those inside of Long’s stained-glass closet at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, many have known of the bishop’s pedophilic penchant for pubescent boys, whom he calls "spiritual sons."
And, sadly, some parishioners just didn’t care. "What he does in his personal time, he does," said Adrian Jackson, a New Birth member for 21 years. "As long as he’s in there preaching, that’s what matters to me."
Long, like too many African-American ministers on the "down low," has erected his bully pulpit denouncing gays while using his clerical authority to court and to covet vulnerable young fatherless males.
During his infamous anti-gay march in December 2004 titled "Stop the Silence," which denounced same-sex marriage, Long stated, "In essence, God made Eve to help Adam replenish the Earth. Woman has the canal ... everything else is an exit. ...Cloning, homosexuality and lesbianism are spiritual abortions. Homosexuality is a manifestation of the fallen man."
The pressure for Long to step down at New Birth, some would argue, has been more about the church losing money than its loose morals concerning the safety of children.
And in tackling the moral aspect of Long’s transgression, too many black Christian conservatives, have confused same-gender sexual violence with homosexuality, thinking purging the pulpit of homosexual preachers will resolve the problem.
"Bishop Eddie Long must Go! End the awful ’Sodom and Gomorrah’ practices in he Black Pulpit!," stated a protest flyer the Commission Holding Religious Institutions to Sacred Trust (CHRIST) located in Memphis, Tenn., disturbed outside of the church.
"End the rising epidemic feminization of young black males! For his sins, crimes against black male humanity, obstruction of justice, and for using $25 million dollars of tithe-money to pay off an attempted cover-up of his practices of pederasty -- Sodom and Gomorrah from the pulpit of the Full Gospel New Birth Missionary Church, where he perpetrated it against young vulnerable, impressionistic black males."
I know from personal experience that disclosing sexual misconduct by members of the clergy not only shakes one’s faith, but it also shakes the very foundation where ones faith is housed -- the church. But make no mistake, here, pedophilic preachers, like Long, are criminals whose victims are innocent children.
As an institution that vows to protect the old, the sick, the downtrodden and all of God’s children, New Birth has not only failed at its earthly mission, but it has also failed at recognizing one of the places where it needs healing -- sexual violence.
One of the reasons many churches -- Protestant and Catholic -- avoid implementing a zero-tolerance policy for its pedophilic clerics is because the church neither sees nor understands pedophilia as a form of sexual violence. Its pervasiveness within the church, from its seminarians to its bishops, has anesthetized church officials to the severity of the crime and its effects, both on the victims and their families. Therefore, churches -- like the Catholic Church and New Birth -- close their eyes in taking full responsibility and accountability for the abuse.
Some, in the church, deflect attention from this issue by raising fallacious questions about causality between pedophilia and homosexuality. However, in the face of overwhelming evidence by behavioral scientists to refute such a harmful and homophobic claim, the belief persists.
Pedophilia is a form of sexual violence. And as such, pedophilia is the expression of anger through sexual exploitation. It is the abuse of power and the use of force, such as manipulation, physical violence, emotional coercion and extortion, which is expressed through sexual acts. Pedophilia is a violation to one’s sense of bodily integrity, and it is maintained itself within ecclesiastical institutions when an ongoing cycle of abuse goes on unexamined and unaccounted for.
While the commonly held belief these days, given the media frenzy, is that gay Catholic priests and closeted Protestant clerics have a patent on this form of sexual violence, pedophilia is not specific to one’s gender, race, class, sexual orientation, vocation or religion. Viewed as a sin and not a crime by most clerics, pedophilia maintains itself in ecclesiastical institutions in our churches through a culture of silence, deception and shame. And pedophilia is also believed to be overcome by daily offerings of prayers and penance -- but not prosecution.
And while pedophilia is a sin within a theological view because it is an ongoing act that exercises control in the life of the pedophile to the point that it enslaves the person and relegates him to a fallen state, pedophilia is also a crime within a legal view.
After all, these men are sex offenders like any other sex offenders. If found guilty, they should be placed on sex offender registries as the law requires. And Long’s name should be added to it.
The Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist who appears in SDGLN, The Huffington Post and other media. She was chosen in October 2009 by MSNBC as one of "10 black women you should know." Monroe has been profiled in O, The Oprah Magazine and in the Gay Pride episode of “In the Life" TV, a segment that was nominated for an educational Emmy. Several times she has received the Harvard University certificate of distinction in teaching. She is in the film, "For the Bible Tells Me So," and is profiled in "CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America." Visit her website here .