"I've got five rocks and I haven't thrown one yet." - Bishop Eddie Long
"With little fanfare or news coverage, the four sexual coercion lawsuits confronting Bishop Eddie Long had the first hearing recently, with both sides opting for mediation to avoid a trial." - Huffington Post- Advertisement -
HYPE AND HYPOCRISY
One primary fault of America's Christian community: it never properly vets its leaders. Anyone can add a title or a degree to their name and get away with it. And in the case of "Bishop" Eddie Long, taking advantage of this fault has received a royal treatment.
I've always been wary of "honorary" degrees; you can buy one with a hefty donation to a college. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and leading homophobe has 19 of them (prominently displayed under glass in one of Focus' vast hallways, of course). Sometimes I wonder just how many boxes of Cracker Jack one has to eat to get one.* But today's Christian community has to look even deeper into the credentials of someone they automatically ascribe respect to: those "Master of Divinity" and "Ph.D." sobriquets might have come from an oddball bible-thumper school or an unaccredited seminary.
The Eddie Long scandal made me look past his titles of "Bishop" and "Ph.D": I found out just how warranted those titles are.
Not much. Long's title of "Bishop" comes from a break-away Baptist organization founded by - of course - self-appointed "bishops": the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. He separated from this "heretical" group back in 1998, but has conveniently kept the title. His "Ph.D." is from the unaccredited International College of Excellence. So the protracted name of Bishop Eddie Long, Ph.D. is pretty shallow. All shallowness aside, however, it may be the only thing standing between him and total disaster, because the news of the day is that "Bishop" Eddie Long has agreed to enter into mediation:
Bishop Eddie Long agreeing to mediation of sexual coercion charges is an end-run around the universally accepted moral and ethical responsibilities of any ecumenical leader. Mediation of sexual allegation grievances is tantamount to an admission of "some" guilt, "some" form of ministerial misconduct. Innocent folk don't make deals if the claims against them are baseless and untrue. Mediation for the accused is a forfeiture of the right to ever claim innocence, and readers should be absolutely clear on this point.
"I've got five rocks." As David, however, Long's first "rock" is more like a custard cream pie that boomeranged back into his face: so what is he going to tell his congregation? For now he's staying mum. But a brave, stalwart sermon is due. Is he going to cry and beg forgiveness ala Jimmy Swaggart? No. Let his mascara drip like Tammy Faye? No. Shed his jewelry, houses and cars and wear sackcloth and ashes? No. Tell everyone he just had the four young men around to carry his luggage? Aaah...no. Whatever the plan, whatever the speech, it will have to be unsurpassed entertainment, for that is what his flock and the rest of the country will demand.
And he will give a speech. He can't slither silently away from anyone much less tens of thousands of people who entrusted him with their money and their souls.
And speaking of his flock of sheep(le), how will they react on that momentous occasion? Cry? Moan? Scream? Deafen us with silence? I would hope for the silence, but a flock like Eddie Long's, a flock that cheers an insipid "David and Goliath" speech, will doubtless shed tears for a tragic leader who needs to be forgiven. They will become part of that spectacle.
Therein lies the real tragedy of this massive hypocrisy.
*Unfortunately, I've never really been fond of Cracker Jack, so I guess I'll just have to save up one or two million for endowing some terribly obscure college.