Monday, October 04, 2010

Eddie Long Coverage Reveals Double Standard

Televangelist Eddie Long is vowing to fight allegations that he used his wealth and position of power to coerce young men into sexual relationships. Long is 57 years old, married, and head of a 26,000 member Baptist mega-church in Georgia.

So far, that seems to be the theme of the coverage. A focus on his flash and charisma more than the pain that his victims that have (allegedly) suffered. One article even used the tragedy to rave about his fashion sense and chiseled abs:

I'm just a fashion editor. And while we may not be the first to spot a good liar, we sure can spot good style. And no one, but no one, makes a stronger style statement than Bishop Eddie Long. The leader of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, an Atlanta-area mega-church with over 25,000 members, has a penchant for bad toupee's and good clothes. Really, really good clothes. He's also - allegedly - got a penchant for young men. At least that's what his accusers, all four of them (and counting) are saying. . .

If his wardrobe in the pulpit is predictable, his sartorial choices outside of it aren't. In the few photos of a more casual Long that litter the Internet, it is very apparent that he is an exercise buff. A news clip of him in a tracksuit hint that he might have a workout wardrobe as collated -- and curated -- as his preaching one.

That hint was proven true when suggestive, self-portraits of a remarkably buff Bishop surfaced. They showed Long, primping and preening in flimsy muscle shirts that hugged every ripple in the fifty-seven year-old's startlingly chiseled physique.

What this man is accused of doing is a disgrace and a tragedy. Unfortunately, the event has generated a sea of spin and gossip mongering.

I suppose that's all we can expect since prominent evangelical pastors crash and burn regularly. Ron Hart notes sarcastically, "By now we know how the redemptive process works for a televangelist accused of sexual relations with young males." So the story needs a new angle weather its race or fashion sense.

A few things about the story strike me:

First there just doesn't seem to be the same kind of anger directed toward this guy as toward the Catholic Church when allegations of abuse surface.

Second, in most accounts, including the article above, he is referred to as "Bishop Eddie Long," despite the fact that Baptists do not have a hierarchy. Strictly speaking a 'Baptist Bishop' is a misnomer. Including the title of Bishop in the story seems to be just another way to somehow transfer the tarnish of this man's sin onto the Catholic Church by association.

Most importantly, the fact that he is married apparently did nothing to stop his aggression or sexual appetite. This is very reminiscent of the charges brought against prominent evangelical Ted Haggard. Haggard was also married and sought homosexual relationships.

Whenever news of a scandal happens in the Catholic Church it is used as an argument against the vows of chastity that men and women consecrated to holy orders take. But stories like this make it clear that allowing priests to marry would not end abuse. Something else must be done. Fortunately, especially since the scandals in 2002, the Church has placed an emphasis on screening unfit candidates before they enter the priesthood, on proper formation of the men in seminary and on supporting priest's spiritual needs in order to prevent tragedies like this.

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