WHEN SCANDAL ROCKS YOUR WORLD
By Dr. Teresa Hairston
Bishop Eddie Longâ€”Embroiled in Controversy
On Tuesday, September 21, 2010, the allegations of two young men claiming that they were sexually abused by Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of the New Birth Baptist Church (Lithonia, GA) were made known to the public. The news spread like wildfire. On his behalf, Bishop Longâ€™s attorney â€œcategorically denied the allegations.â€ A few days later, however, another young man came forward and by the end of the week, there were a total of four with similar accusations.
The Internet was buzzing, the church world was buzzing, cell phones were blowing up and the mainstream media was in a feeding frenzy. This was a full blown scandal. Diane Sawyer reported it on the nightly news, CNN made it a headline item, AOL and other portals featured it on their login pages; in Atlanta, the local news was infatuated with the story, and sought to expose every detail. Beyond that, it was the talk at every beauty and barbershop and grocery store in the city.
For five days, the Eddie Long camp issued terse statements of denial. They also said that Bishop Long had decided to address his New Birth church family prior to speaking to mainstream press. On Sunday, September 26th, hereâ€™s what he said:
â€œI have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that is being portrayed on the television. Thatâ€™s not me. That is not me. By the counsel of my lawyers they have advised me not to try this case in the media. It still has to be tried in the court of justice and dealt with in the court of justice. And to be honest, I think thatâ€™s the only place Iâ€™ll get justice.
And I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath but I have five rocks and I havenâ€™t thrown the first one yet.â€
The statement went viral within seconds, and there were a myriad of responses.
As a journalist, I had questions: Was this statement an admission or denial of guilt; or neither? Did the statement contain the message that New Birth church members, Christians at large or the world needed to hear? What was Bishop Long saying? Why didnâ€™t he simply say, â€œIâ€™m INNOCENT!â€
As a member of New Birth (oh yes!) I found myself deeply conflicted. I was hurting and my spirit was crushed. How did we get â€œhereâ€? No! Not â€œmyâ€ pastor! Problem was, I didnâ€™t have time for a lot of wound licking, so I began to pray…really, really pray…about my attitude and my words.
The truth of the matter is, if you are a Christian, the situation surrounding Bishop Long has rocked your world, too. This is not just about him and these young men or New Birth Baptist Church; itâ€™s about the Body of Christ. Not a lot of people are looking at the collateral damage.
There was a movie made several years ago with that title. In the film, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as Gordon Brewer, a Los Angeles firefighter looking to avenge his son and wifeâ€™s murders. To make a long story short, Brewer goes to Colombia to find his fam- ilyâ€™s killers and basically blows up everything and kills just about everybody. Itâ€™s brutal and bloody and the destruction is catastrophic.
Although the allegations names Bishop Long, New Birth and Longfellows Academy, it really is a vicious, vengeful attackâ€”not from the four young men, but from Satanic forcesâ€”that threatens to cause collateral damage to the entire Body of Christ.
The reality of the situation is that none of us really â€œknowâ€ the truth. By now, weâ€™ve all formed our opinions and had our â€œtalksâ€ with whatever network weâ€™re in. However, in order to minimize the â€œcollateral damageâ€ there are a few things that I want to suggest.
In Galatians 6:1, Paul writes, â€œBrethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.â€
1. RESTORATION. Someone has sinned, whether Bishop Long or the young men. Sin has no levels. Sin is sin, but God promises to judge. And as much as we are tempted to become a judge and jury, we donâ€™t have the right to condemn. This scripture says that when we are aware of anotherâ€™s sin, we are supposed to â€œrestoreâ€â€”which means to â€œreinstateâ€ or â€œreturnâ€ someone or something back to its proper owner or condition. All these men belong to God. God will deal with them according to His justice system which is never wrong or erroneous.
2. MEEKNESS. We are not to just restore, but itâ€™s how we restore that is either in keep- ing with the scripture or not. The â€œspirit of meeknessâ€ involves humility mixed with strength. It is some- thing that only true believers can understand and exhibit, because meekness takes into account that â€œI am what I am [forgiven, whole, cleansed], because of Christ.â€ I have been redeemed, and because of that, my attitude toward others is one of humility and not hostility (toward all involved).
The reality of the situation is that none of us really â€œknowâ€ the truth. By now, weâ€™ve all formed our opinions and had our â€œtalksâ€ with whatever network weâ€™re in.
3. SELF-EXAMINATION. Ted Haggard, who described himself as a â€œheterosexual with issuesâ€ stated in a tele- vision interview, â€œEvery time a leader falls, itâ€™s an opportunity to show the love of Jesus.â€ Haggard stepped down as pastor of New Life Church of Colora- do Springs, CO, in 2006 after a male prostitute alleged that Haggard paid him for sex. Haggard initially denied the allegations but later admitted to sexual immorality.
Itâ€™s easy to point to others with disdain. â€œI canâ€™t believe he did that!â€ Or be- come disillusioned: â€œIâ€™ll never go back to that church!â€ Or â€œIâ€™ll never trust another Christian leader!â€ Or become cynical and skeptical: â€œAll these pas- tors are hypocrites!â€
The hard thing is to think about your own past and the â€œlittleâ€ things (or major things) that you didâ€”the little lies, the arrogant attitude, the affair, the cheating on your taxes…etc. Donâ€™t allow someone elseâ€™s public mess become your private nightmare.
The truth is, weâ€™ve all got issues!