(NNPA) – Not surprisingly, embattled Bishop Eddie Long turned to the Bible to defend himself against charges by four men who filed suit last week in which they charged that as teenagers, Long showered them with money, expensive gifts, cars, and international travel to entice them into having a sexual relationship with him.
On Sunday, Long told his parishioners at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in suburban Atlanta, “I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath. But, I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”
If the charges against Long are true, another passage in the Bible involving David might be more appropriate. David’s seduction of Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, is recounted in 2 Samuel 11. After seeing her naked while bathing, David sent for Bathsheba and he “lay with her…”
When Bathsheba sent word to David that she was “with child,” David tried to get Uriah to sleep with his wife so he would think he had impregnated her. When Uriah chose to remain on the battlefield, David arranged for him to be stranded in battle. After Uriah was killed, David married Bathsheba but was later punished by the Lord.
At this point, it is unclear which David story best fits Eddie Long. Serious questions have been raised about his actions and judgment. It will be fairly easy to corroborate whether the teenagers traveled to the places they say they went with Long, whether they received expensive gifts, and the number of times they talked to him on his cell phone.
In his suit, Jamal Parris, now 23, said Long insisted that he call him “Daddy” and coerced him into having sex with him. Two other plaintiffs, Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg, said on some trips Long registered under the pseudonym Dick Tracey.
Accurint, a database owned by LexisNexis, lists a Dick Tracey as living at the Lithonia, Ga. address of Eddie L. Long, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Initially, Long engaged in sexual touching during their encounters and then escalated the activity to oral sodomy and other acts of sexual gratification,” the Parris suit alleges. “Long would discuss the Holy Scripture to justify and support the sexual activity.”
If the allegations are true, it would represent the height of hypocrisy. Long has strongly and repeatedly denounced homosexuality. His church offers counseling to encourage homosexuals to go straight. And in 2004, he and one his associate pastors, Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., led a march to Dr. King’s grave to support a national constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and to protect marriage “between one man and one woman.”
When New Birth was chosen as the funeral site for Coretta Scott King, then-NAACP Chairman Julian Bond refused to attend the services because of Long’s anti-gay views.
If found guilty, Long would join a long list of prominent religious leaders who have engaged in sexual misconduct, including Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Jim Baker, Elijah Muhammad, and former National Baptist Convention President Henry J. Lyons. Institutions such as Boys Town, Congress, the Boy Scouts, and the Roman Catholic Church have also been rocked by sexual scandals.
Although Long did not directly deny the allegations against him while speaking at his church on Sunday, his attorney, Craig Gillen, earlier issued a statement saying Long “categorically denies the allegations.”
Long said twice during the sermon Sunday that he was not a perfect man, which wasn’t the perfect comment to make under the circumstances.
In addition to raising questions about how the Black church addresses homosexuality, the Long controversy will undoubtedly renew concerns about so-called prosperity preachers who seem to place acquiring material wealth ahead of spiritual development.
The opulent lifestyle of mega-church stars continues as the U.S. poverty rate increased to 14.3 percent in 2009, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. A quarter of all Blacks – 25.8 percent – live below the poverty line, which is defined as approximately $22,000 for a family of four. Proverbs 31:9 reads, “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
Bishop Eddie Long is entitled to the presumption of innocence as he prepares to defend himself in the judicial system. In the meantime, he and all other religious leaders should carry out the biblical admonition to place the plight of the poor and needy ahead of material extravagance and aberrant behavior.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of “Emerge” magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.