It’s six in the morning and I am asking myself the question, “How do you have a more nuanced conversation about Eddie Long’s sexual indiscretions and misuse of power without demonizing the Black Church or silencing the three young men’s stories by wholeheartedly denying the acts ever happened?” Honestly, it appears as if the conversation is either two extremes.
The first being: “[Most scholarly tone] See, Eddie Long is why I left the church . . . I told you the Black Church was homophobic . . . I don’t do organized religion,” and the second conversation being: “[the voice of my grandmother] We all have our Crosses to bare and just like Brother Paul thorns in our flesh . . . we will pray for Eddie Long.” On a whole, I am trying to figure out what is gained by such a conversation besides hurt feelings and thrown liberal and fundamentalist daggers of self-righteousness.
How do we have a more nuanced conversation that entail all of this—the politics of sexual abuse by leaders (in general), the homophobia in churches and in the military, the current media (i.e. CNN) demonization of black church heavily supplied by black theologians commentaries (i.e. won’t name no names but we know who they are), the marginalizing and oppressive belief, “Love the Sinner hate the Sin,” diatribes, the issues of class and privilege that rears its ugly head when critiquing people’s religious and spiritual beliefs, and the accountability of being a father or mother figure to at risk youth. For me, all of this comes up as I read about Long’s misuse of power and contradictions.
Initially, I was not going to write about the Eddie Long’s situation because I felt as if much had been written on the internet either in support of him or against him. And plus, I had hoped to be Oscar the Grouch and write about how lackluster liberals and democrats are in reframing the Tea Party’s message of social and fiscal conservatism wrapped in a big Jesus’ bow. However, over the last several days, I have had not stop discussions at coffee shops and in blogosphere about Long’s misuse of power and have come to the realization that the conversation has only two arguments (i.e. Liberal vs. Christian Fundamentalist) either you believe he did it and he’s a bonafide hypocrite or you believe he did not do it and blame it on the media.
Yet, again, I ask what is gained from such a conversation? Well, some have said, “It presents a great opportunity to talk about homophobia in the Black Church.” And to this I say, “Yes, you are right, but why is it that we—radicals, liberals, feminists, agnostic folks—wait for such things to happen before we think it is an opportunity to begin another discussion about the homophobia and hyper hetero-masculinity in religious practices.” Yes, I think we are often reactionary and deconstructionist in our commentary and approach because either we have stop going to church all together or we are on our way out.
Don’t get me wrong, I know how marginalizing religious space can be and how real and palpable discrimination is, however, if we walk away from such places (often aided by class privilege) and only return when such “opportunities” present themselves than somehow we are complicit in the act too. Because at the end of the day there are 25,000 people at New Birth both LGBTQ and heterosexual who believe in the Christian God and his earthly vessel, Eddie Long, and who are at a critical juncture of belief and disbelief. But, because we, progressively-minded people, have left the church we lack the relationships (i.e. social capital) to make this would be opportunity (i.e. homophobia is wrong) a hallmark realization, hence, aiding another cycle of silencing LGBTQ parishioners and their allies.
I know some of you are thinking at this very moment, “I know she ain’t blaming us for Eddie Long’s issues.” No, I am not, but I am saying that this issue is more complex than the current polarizing arguments suggest. Honestly, I just need a more nuanced understanding of this situation and a “constructive” critical thinking process and strategy because at the end of the day we are all responsible both progressives and fundamentalist alike for the ability of the Eddie Longs of the world to abuse their followers.