Being the asshole that I am, I have cracked many, MANY jokes on Twitter about this whole Eddie Long scandal. I would be remiss to not mention that sometimes when I am having a bad day, I go look at him posing with his hip jutted out in his tangerine Under Armor shirt, and it makes me giggle. I have even commented in private about my recollections from attending his church as a child, recognizing even then the powerful, albeit it unnerving, adulation his members feel for him.
But really, I don't want any parts of this foolishness. I don’t want to comment on what it means for him, his marriage, his family and his ministry if these allegations are true. I don’t want to begin thinking about what the fall out will be if any of his four accusers are lying. I don’t even want to jump into the debate that some women are having, like over at Belle’s spot, about whether or not Mrs. Long should stand by her man.
But I will say what hardly any one is saying amidst the flashy, marquis catch phrases like “gay”, “pedophile”, “Christian”, etc; this is not a homosexual issue.
Sure, “Bishop”* Long may in fact be homosexual. His well documented hatred of gays and lesbians might be rooted in self hatred for his own sexual attractions. On an entirely personal note, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I have long maintained that NO ONE is that violently, vehemently homophobic without a deeply personal connection to homosexuality that goes far beyond not liking the social idea of same sex relationships.
But honestly, I don’t care about that. Who would be surprised? Who wouldn’t see “Anti-Gay Minister Outed as Homosexual” and think it’s a tired, old headline? It’s almost becoming cliché because it is happening all over the realm of religion, politics and everywhere else. And seriously, who looks at these cell phone pictures of the Tangerine Dream sent to young men and thinks he is sending it to them to, what, encourage their fitness goals?
Let’s be real.
My problem with this entire issue is the intrinsic way that homosexuality and pedophilia find themselves, once again, linked. For the longest, these two terms have been mutually exclusive, especially to those who rage against the “unnatural ways” of homosexuals and accuse them of molesting young people to “indoctrinate them to their gay way of life.” Molestation and pedophilia have long been touted as recruitment tools, or reasons why people have “turned gay”. Especially in many (not all) Christian settings, every “reformed” gay or lesbian has a story of how they were molested or raped as a child and thus they internalized their pain in such a way that manifested itself in homosexuality.
Don’t believe me? Look no further than “cured” gay Donnie McClurkin (who has long fought loud whispers of gay activity himself).
Even on the side of those trying to defend gay rights, some misguidedly suggest that if Catholic priests were allowed to marry, that maybe it would lessen their appetites for young altar boys.
To be fair, there have been plenty of pundants and writers who have taken care to make “Bishop” Long’s record of homophobia very separate from charges of sexual misconduct. (An aside; as a former resident of Georgia, I can tell you that the age of consent is 16 so really, aside from it being incredibly disgusting and seedy, by law if these allegations are true, Long is not a pedophile.) But that doesn’t make quite the same splash as calling him a hypocritical, homosexual pedophile, I suppose.
Make no mistake; if these allegations are true, “Bishop” Long manipulated these boys for a very specific reason. And it is not his, or the victims’ sexual preference.
Sexual assaults are not about sexual acts or gratification. In fact, many perpetrators gain their sexual gratification not through the physical act, but rather the power exerted over another.
And that is what is at the root of this entire scandal. Power.
The power of a charismatic leader preying on the naïveté of the young. The power of a church behind him able to blindly shape the narrative of the human deity they have lifted to insane heights. Power over someone younger, easily coerced by someone filling the void of a father figure, and then using the power of that intimate trust for his own gratification.
At no point there is sexuality an issue.
It is even likely, as is the case with some same sex predators, that Long himself isn’t even gay. Rather, it could be he saw easy victims. These were young men who were easily manipulated, and entrusted to his care on trips that took them far away from eyes that might catch his impropriety. It could simply be the case that the “Bishop” saw the opportunity to exploit their vulnerability, and take advantage of their blind trust in him as spiritual leader.
Despite how easy it is to be lazy and link pedophilia and homosexuality to create the best bang in an increasingly saturated 24 hour news cycle, the fact that more people aren’t taking the time to clearly highlight the behavioral differences and motivations in the two is alarming, and is in fact pandering to increased homophobia, consciously or subconsciously. It concerns me that coverage of this story in this manner gives even more ammo to people who cannot discern that a predator is not one in the same as someone who is attracted to a person of the same sex.
It’s clear that this scandal isn’t going to go away anytime soon. And surely the story of the powerful minister brought down by the very forces of “evil” he claims to be at spiritual war against is one too powerful to not continue to perpetuate. I just wish more people took care to separate a perfectly natural attraction from a psychological need for power through abuse.
*there are no bishops in the Baptist church. I dunno who got y'all black folk to declaring yourselves titles that don't exist, but please cease and desist.