Eddie Long’s Gospel

Bishop Eddie Long

My post on Bishop Eddie Long has been raising eyebrows. Many readers agree with my critique of the “prosperity gospel”; others find it offensive. One reader, who asked to be taken off my distribution list, was horrified by my perceived willingness to throw Bishop Eddie to the wolves before he has his day in court.

A few words of clarification are in order.

Eddie Long’s guilt or innocence is not my primary concern. The state of Georgia has filed no charges against the Bishop; this is a civil case. When the weak find themselves on a collision course with the strong, my sympathies are with the weak (the strong can take care of themselves). Eddie Long has always been the man with all the power. Having transformed himself into an authority figure of superhuman stature, the pastor assumed the mantle of responsibility.

Pastor Long has compared to himself as David up against Goliath. That image should be reversed. Yesterday, thirty-two pastors came to Long’s church to commiserate with him and show their support. Goliath received that kind of encouragement from the Philistines; David was on his own.

Frankly, I find the accusations advanced by the young men more convincing than the Bishop’s denials. They report being groomed by Rev. Long when they were as young as fourteen; yet no one has accused Long of sexual molestation while they were still minors. If the accusers were out to damage the man’s reputation, they could have accused him of a crime. Since the alleged offences occurred after the young men were of legal age, this isn’t a criminal case.

Listen to the young men explaining why they felt it necessary to tell the world about the dark side of their relationship with Eddie Long. There is more pain than anger in their voices. They grew up without biological fathers. Their pastor filled a great aching void in their lives and they clearly loved him for that.

Remember also that these young men grew up believing that homosexual behavior is both sinful and unmanly. They have now admitted that they engaged in sexually intimate acts with the most prominent male figure in their social universe. Not only are they taking on a religious demi-god; they are exposing themselves as sinners and sissies.

I am willing to reserve judgment until all the facts are in, but even if the guilt-innocence issue is decided in Mr. Long’s favor, he will still be a symptom of everything wrong with American religion.

Guilty or innocent, Bishop Eddie Long bears all the earmarks of a narcissist. A Baptist bishop is an anomaly. Methodist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic and Pentecostal bishops are set apart by the larger body of believers to oversee a significant number of churches. Baptist churches are fully autonomous. Baptists have area ministers or area missionaries (depending on the denomination) but these men and women don’t serve individual congregations. If a Baptist pastor calls himself a bishop, he is hopping onto a pedestal that is alien to Baptist polity. Baptists don’t ordain bishops.

Eddie Long prides himself on his impressive physique and uses it as implicit evidence of his blessed state. I have nothing against preachers lifting weights. I pump a little iron myself; we middle aged men need to maintain our strength. We men are all vain (or envious) to a certain degree. Like most men, I would like to add a few inches to my height, delete a few inches from my waistline and add a little hair here and there. But Bishop Long dresses to accentuate his powerful upper body. He uses his imposing physique to intimidate and impress. The effect is over-the-top, unseemly and more than a little embarrassing.

Some have suggested that Bishop Long is under attack because he is a prominent black male. As a prominent black pastor, Eddie Long had a wonderful opportunity to advance the cause of civil rights, to speak as an advocate for the poor and to call attention to the madness of mass incarceration. Unfortunately, like all the other black prosperity preachers, Long has fumbled the civil rights ball.

And here’s why this poignant story concerns me. Martin Luther King served a God of love; a God with a passionate desire to heal the sick, bind up the broken hearted, and liberate the oppressed. In Dr. King’s theology, Jesus came into the world to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

This is the Jesus we encounter in the Bible. Consider this excerpt from the Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s Gospel:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.

Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

Eddie Long preaches a different God, a different gospel and a different Jesus. That’s his right, of course. In America, we can say whatever we wish when we stand in the pulpit. But when a man claims to speak for Jesus certain standards apply.

Rendered in the cadences of Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, prosperity doctrine sounds something like this:

Blessed are you who are rich, for yours is the kingdom of God,

Blessed are you who are full now, your ‘seed faith’ has been rewarded.

Blessed are you who laugh now, you get the joke.

Blessed are you when people love you, when they hire and promote you, give you raises and expense accounts and invite you to White House receptions. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy; for you stand are in the royal lineage of the wealthy, the wise and the blessed.

But woe to you who are poor; your faith has been weighed in the scales and found wanting.

Woe to you who are hungry now; you have slammed the door on God’s blessings.

Woe to you who weep now; you have only yourselves to blame.

Woe to you who are unemployed or homeless or incarcerated; you had it coming.

Is this a crude caricature of prosperity teaching? Listen to Eddie Long or Creflo Dollar sometime and see for yourself if this isn’t the upshot of their teaching. They don’t put it so crudely, of course; but the implication is always there.

Please understand, my intention is not to malign Bishop Eddie Long. He is the victim of a graceless theology; the precise antithesis of everything Jesus taught. If you believe that Jesus was a wealthy man who shares his prosperity secrets, you’re reading the wrong Bible.

If guys like Eddie Long and Creflo Dollar stood on the margins of black religion, I wouldn’t pay them any mind. Unfortunately, their religion has gone mainstream.

The civil rights movement was rooted in the life of the black church. True, the churches at the forefront of the movement were always in the minority. Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy would have remained in the National Baptist Convention had they received nominal support for their non-violent opposition to Jim Crow. The big problem isn’t that so many black preachers are trifling with prosperity dogma; it’s that so few are embracing Jesus’ liberating vision of the Kingdom of God.

If we are serious about ending mass incarceration, we cannot ignore the religious community. Movements need the spiritual sustenance that only faith communities can provide.

I realize there is something offensive about a white preacher telling black preachers what to preach. But I am not speaking primarily as a white preacher. The spirituality of the civil rights movement may not be the only authentic manifestation of the Christian gospel in the 20th century, but it is the only slice of twentieth century American religion that ever spoke to me. In this, I am not alone. I know there are plenty of progressive black preachers keeping the justice flame alive; but they are swimming against the tide, even in their own communities. If we want to see a justice movement in America we must rediscover the radical message of Jesus.

This has been an in-house discussion. I don’t mean to imply that only Christians have a role to play in the justice movement. But if America’s dominant religion can’t get on board, our chances for success are dismal. I’m not expecting most Christians to rally to the justice flag (I’m not naïve), and I welcome the participation of non-Christians. But there is a spiritual dimension to the fight we’re in. If we limit ourselves to graphs, statistics and discursive argument, we can’t make more than a dent in the problem. The ramparts defending mass incarceration are thick and high, seemingly impregnable. It will take a combination of good argument and good religion to bend the arc of the moral universe in the direction of justice.

14 thoughts on “Eddie Long’s Gospel

  1. The words of Eddie Long and Lucifer;

    “We’re not just a church, we’re an international corporation. We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I DEAL with the White House. I DEAL with Tony Blair. I DEAL with presidents around this world. I PASTOR a multimillion-dollar congregation. You’ve got to put me on a different scale than the little black preacher sitting over there that’s supposed to be just getting by because the people are suffering.”
    –Bishop Eddie Long, New Birth Missionary Church, August 2005.


    Isaiah 14:12-15: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I WILL ascend into heaven, I WILL exalt my throne above the stars of God I WILL : sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I WILL ascend above the heights of the clouds; I WILL be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”
    The pronoun “I” used in the context of Lucifer and Eddie Long is one of PRIDE!!!! “I will do such and such”, “I am such and such”, both are expressed with arrogance. They both boasted! They both fell!
    Notice how Eddie Long gives no credit to God or Jesus for being placed into such lofty heights in the ministry. Was is because the Holy God did NOT place him there? Or did God place Eddie Long there, but like Lucifer he decided to worship himself, put himself above God. put himself “in charge”. Nor does Eddie long describes himself as a humble servant, or steward. But he tells who who and what he is and does.

    Pride comes before fall!

    Eddie paraded ‘his’ accomplishment and rightfully so but the text that condemns him is the following:
    “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Deut.8: 11-14)

    Eddie and his followers should have heeded to this warning:
    “Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps.146: 3)

    Eddie made the terrible mistake of mocking and despising other preachers that do not follow in his footsteps, as well as belittling those who don’t/can’t attend his congregation (James 2: 6).
    Job best put it when he said: “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” (Job 4: 8). Hosea has the gut to say: “But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors…” (Hos.10: 13)

    “We’re not just a church, we’re an international corporation. We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I DEAL with the White House. I DEAL with Tony Blair. I DEAL with presidents around this world. I PASTOR a multimillion-dollar congregation. You’ve got to put me on a different scale than the little black preacher sitting over there that’s supposed to be just getting by because the people are suffering.”
    –Bishop Eddie Long, New Birth Missionary Church, August 2005.

  2. Your attempt to distinguish a criminal allegation from a civil allegation makes no sense. You say that if the State of Georgia was filing criminal charges you would stand up for the man. If these extorters had gone through the DA’s office instead of their personal injury attorney’s office, their allegegation are then LESS credible? The fact they are seeking money instead of punishment or protection of the public makes them MORE believable? That is absurd.
    I know you arent a player in this system, so I will let you in on a little technique weasels like this are hip to. They went this route because there are almost no repercussions for making a false allegation in a civil suit. Jury finds for the Defendant, Plaintiffs walk out. Perhaps a defemation suit is filed by the accused – but these punks are judgment proof, and it just extends the nightmare for the accused. They start making false statements to cops- well then you have a criminal offense that the DA takes seriously. They are careful and cunning.

    Had Mr. Long been a trucker making $50,000.00 a year would he be worthy of your support. What if he was a preacher at a 100 member congregation? then is he presumed to have done no wrong? Since when do we attach such presumptions to certain salaries or manner of worship? You make no sense.

    Perhaps before one casts stones at the Mr. Long and his salary, one should take down their own donation solicitation link.

  3. I too will await whatever comes out in the trial but something tells me that the plaintiffs are right. One of them was caught unaware outside a grocery store by a reporter and you could just see the anguish on his face. It wasn’t calculated. This man was hurting.

    Aside from the court case, let me say something about this so-called Prosperity Gospel. I don’t pride myself on being a better than thou Christian, but know Christian theology and when I see preachers like Eddie Long with his Bentleys, diamond rings, etc. I almost get physically ill. I believe that he is an anathema and that the Prosperity Gospel is blasphemy. There are other “preachers” who don’t ostensibly preach this particular gospel but also make disgraceful amounts of money. One church outside of DC pays its pastor $800K a year.

    I feel sorry for the poor people who tithe to his church. Unfortunately, I don’t see a good outcome. There are too many piglets on the brood sow here to let this empire collapse. I think he will settle with these men under a non-disclosure agreement and that the church will continue on.

  4. Steve. I never said I would stand up for Long if he faced criminal charges; I said I would be more likely to reserve judgment if the state was filing the charges. Experience has taught me to regard criminal charges, at either the state or federal level, with suspicion. Why are you so certain that these men are “punks” and “extorters”? Everything we know about Rev. Long is consistent with these allegations. He’s a self-promoting salesman who tells pretty lies about God. That doesn’t make him guilty as charged; but the allegations certainly fit the pattern. This guy is a classic narcissist, which is a nice way of saying he lacks a conscience.

  5. Steve, you suggest that Alan take down the donations link in his website. As a board member and former Treasurer of Friends of Justice I can assure you Alan Bean is not in this for the money. If he is, he’s a fool. And I can assure you Alan Bean is no fool.

  6. Christ died for us for some certain reasons………… one of these is that we may obtain riches> If Bishop Long drives a bentley and has enough stash of cash, we should all be grateful to God, we are meant to resemble God and i’m sure He is not a pauper. Stop slandering> Bishop Long speaks out against homosexuality, he has being accused of homosexuality, isn’t it quite obvious that it is an attack. Please let us not loose track of the reason why we are on earth, it’s just a scheme of the devil>>>>>>>>

  7. Can someone point me to a preacher who is not a “self-promoting salesman who tells pretty lies about God”?

    Point is this- if you stand up for the “little guy” you will often be standing up for the person in the wrong. You stand up for “the powerful” you will also be in the wrong many times.

    The answer? Stand up for a principle. Whether its the Government, an accuser, or the accused, let us believe in a system of finding truth. Take your time NOT to rush to judgment based on what a man does for work, what he looks like, how often he works out or how he preaches. Friends of Justice sounds more like Fox News or Nancy Grace taking part of the story and condemning the man. Didn’t you just wage a war on that exact thing on behalf of Curtis Flowers?

    Just as the word of Jesus is the cornerstone of your beleif system, the concept of due process and reservation of judment are my cornerstone. I for one will not jump on any bandwagon and cast stones at a man because he is far wealthier than I will ever be, or because he uses the name of Jesus in a way I disagree with. I will leave that to you.

    That was my point.

  8. Actually, Clover, we are to resemble Christ, not God. That may sound like a distinction without a difference, but it matters. “Silver and gold have I none,” said the Apostle Peter. “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” said Jesus. The teaching of Jesus is shot through with warnings about greed. God may own the cattle on a thousand hills, but the goal of the Christian life isn’t to get us a couple of hills and a nice herd; the goal is to grow into the fullness of a Christ who eternally empties himself of devine perks. This point is so clear that it qualifies as one of the few non-negotiable elements in the Christian faith. We can disagree on many things; but this point is crucial. A misstep here and we’re walking in the wrong direction.

  9. Steve, if you’re really interested, I can point you to several preachers who are not self promoting salesmen who tell pretty lies about God.

    I would start with my current pastor of First United Methodist Church in small town Tulia, Texas. I would name several pastors from my youth who served the Vigo Park circuit in Swisher County, Texas, and drove around to several rural preaching stations and just barely got by financially, but were rich toward God. I could write a list that would take up more space than you want to read. And I doubt you’re really interested anyway.

  10. I will admit that I am ignorant regarding what constitutes a “pretty little lie” vs. that which does not.

    I am very interested in learning the difference if someone wants to sincerely tell me what I am missing.

  11. Steve, since you have inferred that all preachers tell pretty lies about God, I am putting the ball in your court to say how you define it.

    I have known many preachers. I’m a retired one myself. I will readily admit that I do not know everything about God, so whenever I speak of God, I may be in error. Most of the preachers I have known are/were sincere in their desire to serve God, and would not intentionally deal in falsehoods in order to promote themselves. Evidently you have known (of?) that kind of preacher, but to assume that all preachers are that way is to assume a falsehood.

  12. I think by definition, preacher is a man simply interpreting the writings of another man, who was given some sort of information about Jesus.

    Since no preachers have met Jesus (obviously), nor have they met the men that wrote the story of Jesus, nor met the people that relayed the stories to that writer, what makes us think that anything we have read about Jesus is true?

    The “word” of Jesus is one of kindness and compassion, I get that. But in reality it was the word of some guy hundreds of years after Jesus left us.

    So really, every time anyone “preaches” that they know the word of God, they are conciously telling their congregation an untruth (the pretty little lie) Fortruneately, the vast majority do so to promote peace and harmony. However, no one can say that Jesus was not a capitalist. It is not YOUR intepretation of the words of some men. Perhaps the Jesus actually preached that all men should do whatever than can do do acquire as many oxen and chickens as possible so one could be prosperous. That language would never make it into the Bible because if everyone is out for themselves, the church would have had no power. Therefore the word is be humble, be meek, do what we say, and you wont burn in hell.

    I will admit, I have never heard Mr. Long preach, nor have I heard you or Dr. Bean either.

  13. Steve, you might visit some churches. You probably could find one or two who preach a message at least similar to what Dr. Bean or Dr. Kiker might preach.

    Let’s do a little logic here, applying your “truth” methodology.

    No historians have met the people who wrote the Constitution. Nor have they met anyone who has met those who wrote the Constitution. Therefore the constitution is not a reliable document. The same sort of logic could be applied to all the writings of ancient history, philosophy etc. Methinks you’re grasping at straws.

    You say, “The ‘word’ of Jesus is one of kindness and compassion, I get that. But in reality it was the word of some guy hundreds of years after Jesus left us.” You need to do a little study into Biblical history. New Testament scholars are in wide agreement that the gospel of Mark is the earliest of the four gospels, probably written sometime in the 70’s A. D. Matthew and Luke followed in the late 70’s or early 80’s, and John about 100 A. D. From about 40 to about 70 years after Jesus. The earliest of the letters of Paul was probably written in the 40’s A. D., only 10 years or so after Jesus was crucified.

    The ministry and teachings of Jesus, as we get them from the New Testament, are subversive to the Roman Empire. To write them down and preach them was subversive. Hardly the kinds of things people would make up in order to get themselves a reserved ticket to a Roman cross.

    I don’t know about the accusations against Bishop Long re: sexual improprieties, not crimes since his accusers were of the age of consent. To be convicted of a crime a jury must be convinced of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, not beyond the shadow of a doubt as you stated. But if this goes to trial it will be a civil trial, which requires only preponderance of the evidence. And, if I were sitting on that jury (which I will not be since I don’t live anywhere near Atlanta), I would be mindful of possible financial motives of his accusers, and would have to see evidence other than what they say before I would vote in favor of the plaintiffs.

    I have never heard Bishop Long preach. But what he is represented as proclaiming is not in accordance with the gospel as we have learned it. Ask yourself who fares better in self promotion. Prosperity gospelers, or preachers of self-sacrifice and following the Way? I know the answer to this question from experience. You can discover the answer by observation, and by becoming a follower of the Way.

    If you are among the “least of these” who have been harassed and persecuted by the powers of this age, be assured. Jesus is on your side.

  14. Charles,
    Thank you for proving my point.

    The Constititon purports to be the “intent” of the founding fathers of this nation. While i have never heard any serious debate whether the the document which is claimed to be the original actually was written by the framers, I will assume it was.

    Since the days of Marbury v. Madison we have been fighting over “what did they mean by that??” in every line of every article of the constitution. We all know that the SCOTUS has the final word- and what they say is “law”. The question really is- does that make it true? Do I think that every Constitutional issue ever decided by the Court is exactly the intent of the framers? of course not.

    So, MEN (and three women) interpet and apply the word of the constitution. They interpret it freely, and in whatever manner best serves their purpose at the moment.

    Isnt that what preachers do? Interpret a set of theories and values and advise how they think they should be applied?

    If we stripped the silly mythology and stories from the bible, and viewed it like the constituion, a set of principles to conform society (not necessarily in a bad way), then we are on the same page. Justice Long interprests it in one way, Justice Charles in another. Neither is wrong, just in disagreement.

    Of course you will fight like Scalia and Ginsburg over whos right- and, like the Courts- the power will go to whomever has the most people on their side.

    I still have issues with the fact that it took anywhere from 10-80 years (relying on your count) for anyone to think (im going to write that down). Perhaps thats for another day.

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