By admin on Oct 29, 2010 | In Leaders & Decision-Making
Ta'Shia Asanti On Bishop Eddie Long: State of the Black Church, Bishop's Lesson & Our Evolution
By Ifalade Ta'Shia Asanti (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED @ 2010, NO PORTION MAY BE PRINTED OR DISTRIBUTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR)
Please note that Bishop Long's (alleged) actions do not represent the totality of the Christian faith, nor are they a representation of the thousands of Christian ministers and Christian people who are doing good work, who have powerful ministries that are healing and uplifting communities across the country. Let us separate the man from the religion, the religion from the institution, at least as it relates to the alleged crimes committed.
While I have never met Bishop Eddie Long and make it a practice NOT to judge anyone I haven't sat down with or spent time getting to know, I am deeply disturbed by some of the Christian responses to the horrific acts of deception alleged by four former members of Bishop Long's church.
For the record, Bishop Eddie Long is the Pastor who not only vehemently condemns same sex marriage--he's the minister that allowed the Bush administration to use him as a pawn to further conservative Republican interests by calling for a national ban on same sex marriage. This was followed by a march and massive protest through the streets of Atlanta organized by Bishop Long and supported by his followers. This march alienated and humiliated same gender loving citizens of Georgia and forced some back into shame-ridden closets. All in the name of Jesus...
Bishop Eddie Long is the Pastor who said on video that it is a man's job to heal "weak" women and that women could only be made strong through marrying the right man (according to B.E.L. only a man can be healed, strengthened and uplifted by God Himself).
Bishop Eddie Long is a Pastor with a history of devastating statements and divisive activism grounded in patriarchy, sexism & homophobia. Bishop Long's actions have supported millions of same gender loving couples and families being denied health, retirement and tax benefits and legal rights due to them as part of their constitutional rights as tax-paying American citizens.
In Africa, the rippling effects of American homophobia promoted and taught by Pastors like Bishop Long have resulted in the murder and mayhem of same gender loving people who live on the Continent. In America, yet another Black youth took his life a few days ago as a result of "gay-bullying." Bishop Long's hate campaigns have played a significant role in promoting the brand of theology that supports the growing number of violent hate crimes in this country, increasing numbers of youth suicides and incidents of gay bashing/bullying.
Some feel sorry for him. I am sorry but I do not. I do feel sorry for his wife, children and church members. I feel deeply sorry for the alleged victims.
And speaking of the victims....
Bishop Eddie Long is accused of preying on young Black men who were seeking a father figure. Black boys who came from broken homes. The unrehearsed, unplanned testimony of Jamal Parris broke the silence of four Black men who were seeking spiritual empowerment and healing through the church but instead were systematically abused mentally, emotionally, sexually and spiritually through money, fame and power until they were unable to turn down the sexual advances of their spiritual leader.
And while these young men were being psychologically raped by an alleged down-low minister, their alleged rapist was on TV and in the pulpit talking about how homosexuality was a sin. Imagine for a minute, what it was like mentally and emotionally for those young men to walk around with a secret like that, for them to be tossed to the curb after being subjected to sexual abuse by the leader of their church--a man of God. And then to see him on TV and in the pulpit condemning people who were engaged in consensual, loving, committed relationships with same sex partners. What a slap in the face that must've been.
And finally, imagine the inner hatred and spiritual sickness Bishop Long has to be walking in to allegedly pull off a performance of this magnitude. This is a man who, if found guilty, needs serious prayer and psychological help. And I'll be praying for him to get that help once he is no longer in a position to hurt young men in his church.
It is critical that we examine the State of the Black church, the social positioning it provides for some African Americans who join it, its political power and financial prowess--all factors that have made it "the in thing" to be a part of instead of a place for healing, evolution and empowerment. This, in conjunction with religious teachings that support institutional cover-ups of ill behavior, gender and sexual oppression, reveal a faulty power structure that is sustained by teachers of the doctrine who promote a religious brand that demands conformity all all costs.
Whether Bishop Long is innoocent or not I submit: The Black community and the Black church itself must reevaluate the theology being taught at Mega congregations. When women (and men) are taught to bascially believe a woman is NOTHING without a man, unable to "repair" herself through her own faith and connection to and with her own God (according to Bishop Long, his female members can only access God's healing through their man) it leaves them and their children open to all kinds of abuses.
This case prompted me to think about the Mothers of the four young men. Are they still with the church? Did they think anything was strange with the relationship between Bishop and their sons? Since Bishop Long's female members are taught to be submissive and silent, did that weigh in on the length of time the abuses went on?
I submit too that: it is time for a complete overhaul of the inner workings of the Black church including its leadership, supporters and members. If it is finally determined that the allegations are true, there is no WAY somebody in Bishop Long's leadership didn't know something was going on between Bishop and his "spiritual sons." There is always somebody who knows...there is always somebody who stays silent.
And so I submit again: what manner of doctrine and religious programming supported their silence?
And as we engage in this proposed overhaul of the Black church, perhaps it is also time we do a thorough evaluation of the doctrine and scriptural wisdom that guides it. It is no secret that the bible was altered to keep a certain segment of the population in a position of power.
It is also no secret that the bible was used by European missionaries who were major players in the institution of slavery to further enslave African people. Christian missionaries presented the image of God in a European context and told Africans that their ancestral faiths, which predated Christianity by thousands of years, were "of the devil." Many still pray to an image of Christ that excludes every race except for the White race--an image (and religion) that was FORCED upon Blacks during slavery.
The unwillingness to acknowledge truths like this--perhaps that is what is at the heart of the successful deception by Bishop Long of his followers and the deception of the Black church as a whole.
This is not to say that Bishop Long and other ministers have not done good things through the ministry. Clearly, Long and his leadership have built an incredible legacy through which thousands of lives have been touched. I am sure many people's lives are better as a result of some part of his work and church. As we begin to explore redemption, if in fact the Bishop is found guilty, perhaps we can build on this good....
However, as we acknowledge the good we must also talk about what is not so good as it relates to the Black church and Christianity. Through this brand of honesty, maybe, just maybe, the Black church as an institution could be strengthened and protected from those that seek to use the faith to divide, deceive and destroy. Perhaps an inclusive spirituality can be birthed that welcomes all of God's followers, whereever they are, however they identify.
We must begin with education or re-education as I call it.
I have a test I give my Christian sisters and brothers. So far, not one has been able to answer these questions in their entirety. To the dedicated believers of this powerful faith I ask:
1. What was the name of the first Christian church?
2. Who was Serapis and what was his role in developing Christianity as a mainstream religion in the world?
3. From what people and from what spirituality were the teachings of Christianity drawn from?
And if that's too hard, I tell them to Google "Serapis." Again, most are afraid to see the truth....just as they are now afraid of and running from the truth about Bishop Long and the truth about the twisting of the doctrine to condemn SGLBT people.
But if we dare to know the truth, here are some links to begin with...
I ask too, how many Christians know who King James was, historically speaking? He was one of the editors of the version of the bible that is used in almost every Black church in the country. Yet most know NOTHING about him.
Again, here's a link if we dare to educate ourselves in the wake of this spiritual, cultural and religious crisis...
And after we click on this link, we will surely think hard, really hard, before we condemn our SGL sister or brother. Because the ugly truth is, we've been studying from and teaching with a bible co-written by a man who was part of the community that Bishop Long condemned.
Again, I say, perhaps our ignorance about King James is a symbol of how 25,000 people could be deceived by a man who some members are saying even now that, "they believe everything he says." In fact, 3000+ of those members have launched a web page on Facebook titled, "Bishop Long is Innocent."
I will never forget Jamal Parris' eyes when he told his part of the story. The hurt that shined from his soul through his pupils, the shame he wore on his skin like a cloak as a result of being victimized by his Pastor--anyone with a spiritual grounding can see there is some truth to what he is saying. And if you haven't seen the video yet, here's the link.
Even with the deception, the homophobia, the sexism and more--this is bigger than defrocking Bishop Long. There is one final piece I want to leave with readers of this editorial.
As we approach a major election, there are some who are celebrating, even hoping for, the dismantling of an institution that played a major role in electing President Obama. And I do know this, there are organized measures being orchestrated behind the scenes as it relates to making sure Pres. Obama is not re-elected.
From Maxine Waters to the sistah from the Department of Labor to Bishop Long, there seems to be a political trend of disempowering Black power structures right now....I don't know, maybe its just me who sees it. But we have to admit, the timing of this is quite interesting....
I am not saying the four boys are being used by opponents of re-electing Pres. Obama but I am saying that their confession can be used...Thus, we must begin to think about new social and political structures to support a candidate who (including Pres. Obama):
A. Has a real chance of winning and;
B. Whose work and ideals are a doorway for the continued building of a society that supports equal opportunity, sustainable living and social justice.
In closing, I pray that this crisis be a catalyst for evolution within the Black church, that we continue the work of fostering a society that allows members and leaders of the Christian movement to be who they are--whether that is Same Gender Loving or heterosexual. I pray too that Bishop Long learns his lessons and gets his healing from what has to be one of the most harrowing experiences of his life. The bible says, "Judge not, lest you be judged." Somebody has put Bishop's judgemental actions on the Karmic speed dial and all I can say is, I hope his slate is washed clean....
Ifalade Ta'Shia Asanti is an award-winning journalist, poet, TV producer and author of two books. She was one of the first Black columnists for the LN, editor of GBF Magazine and is a freelance writer and blogger for DenverUrbanSpectrum.com More about her work can be found at www.tashiaasanti.com
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