Eddie Long: “I am not the man portrayed”

Symbols of Christianity
Image by JL Outdoor Photography via Flickr

Via CNN:

Baptist TV preacher, Eddie Long, finally addressed the sexual allegations by four young men today on his TV show. I have followed this through CNN by default since CNN is my default homepage. I’ve also followed it because I do stop by TBN and watch snippets of many of these shows and it just so happened that I caught Bishop Long a few weeks ago. I have watched his work for a while and was impressed with the social aspect of his ministry, but the flashiness always bothered me–tight shirts, the buffiness, ultra cool wardrobe and I’ve even seen him in a matrix-like trench coat. So I was very, very curious to hear his response.

Somehow I forgot to turn to his show at 8:30 but I caught an excerpt on CNN.

Lithonia, Georgia (CNN) — Baptist televangelist Eddie Long said Sunday he will fight allegations that he coerced young male church members into having sex with him.

“I am not the man that has been portrayed on television,” he told his congregation.

Speaking publicly about the accusations for the first time, Long did not address the specific allegations contained in four lawsuits filed against him earlier this week.

“I’ve been accused, I’m under attack,” he said, lowering his head and softening his voice behind the pulpit at the New Birth Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta.

“I want you to know, as I said earlier, that I am not a perfect man. But this thing, I’m going to fight,” he said. “I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”

With that, the 57-year-old pastor put down his microphone and walked off stage, receiving deafening applause from the thousands who had come to hear him.

To be honest, I did not hear what I needed to hear. I needed to hear a clear-cut denial. Something to the effect of “I categorically deny . . ..” or “I never engaged in any of the alleged acts . . .” or “I have been faithful to my wife and never  . . .” something along that line. In effect, what we got was that he is not the man portrayed in the media. That could be and in fact probably is very true, but not to the point at all. The media does paint televangelists in a certain light and he is saying he is not what he has been made out to be. But, he still has not addressed the specific allegations.

While Eddie Long is not T. D. Jakes, if this thing drags out and it does turn out that there is merit to the allegations, it could do some damage in the community.

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Sarrazin–Germany being “dumbed down” by Turks and Kurds

Via WaPo:

BERLIN – The most talked about man in Germany is a 65-year-old economist whose hot new book and sudden groundswell of popular support have the media dubbing him a folk hero. But that is not the only thing they are calling Thilo Sarrazin these days.

Some are also calling him dangerous. Sarrazin, a board member of the German Central Bank until he resigned under pressure Thursday, has divided the nation by postulating the theory that Germany is being “dumbed down” by Muslim immigrants and their children. Wielding statistics and scientific arguments both in his book and in public comments, he delves into territory largely taboo here since the Holocaust, suggesting that “hereditary factors” are at least partly to blame. Turks and Kurdish immigrants, he asserts, are genetically predisposed to lower intelligence than Germans and other ethnic groups, including Jews.

His statements have shocked many in Germany not only because of a national sensitivity to anything remotely smacking of genetic superiority claims in the post-World War II era. What has also shocked many is that so many Germans have rallied to his side as the central bank and his political party have sought to oust him for his pronouncements.

The article says most of his backers are distancing themselves from the heredity statement, but they love the other part, as though there is a fine demarcation between the racist aspect of this and the non-racist part, if there is one.

The sickening part is that this guy is being embraced as a “folk hero” for saying things people want to say but are afraid to.

The story gets weirder:

German-Jewish groups, for instance, are among Sarrazin’s staunchest critics, calling him a dangerous racist. Though Sarrazin has spoken positively of Jews, saying they have “high IQs,” he courted controversy after declaring in an Aug. 29 interview that “all Jews share a certain gene.” In fact, observers here say that the official outcry against Sarrazin – including the move to expel him from the board of the central bank – would have been far more muted had he simply stuck to his generalizations about Muslims.

But by generalizing about Jewish genetics, albeit positively, Sarrazin also “crossed a red line,” said Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable with the history here that such a large amount of people follow what he says,” Kramer said. “The lesson of the Holocaust is not just about Jews, but that human dignity is indivisible. Yet now, they react if there is a genetic comment about Jews, but not if it’s about the Roma or the Turks. We obviously still have some homework to do.”

Part of the propaganda against the Jews in the early Nazi years was the fact that their “hairsplitting” distinction making in academic matters was problematic. While much of the propaganda was dehumanizing, the success of Jews as prominent thinkers was also held against them. So saying the Jews have a high IQ does not erase the problem of this sort of ethnic categorization. This whole thing is downright creepy.

Churches and Sunday Morning Race Relations

Time has a story on Sunday morning and race called Can Megachurches Heal the Racial Divide? They seem to be making the case that it can.

One Sunday last fall, Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor at the Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, was preaching on the logic and power of Jesus’ words “Love thine enemy.” As is his custom, Hybels was working a small semicircle of easels arrayed behind his lectern, reinforcing key phrases. Hybels’ preaching is economical, precise of tone and gesture. Again by custom, he was dressed in black, which accentuated his pale complexion, blue eyes and hair, once Dutch-boy blond but now white. Indeed, if there is a whiter preacher currently running a megachurch, that man must glow.

Yet neither Hybels’ sermon, nor his 23,400-person congregation, is as white as he is. Along with Jesus, he invoked Martin Luther King Jr. Then he introduced Shawn Christopher, a former backup singer for Chaka Khan, who offered a powerhouse rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” As the music swelled, Larry and Renetta Butler, an African-American couple in their usual section in the 7,800-seat sanctuary, exchanged glances. Since Hybels decided 10 years ago to aggressively welcome minorities to his lily-white congregation, Renetta says, few sermons pass without a cue that he is still at it. “He always throws in something,” she says. She’s been around long enough to recall when this wasn’t the case.

On occasion I flip to TBN which is the Trinity Broadcasting Network, a Christian channel. I do get to see megachurches in action and I take particular interest when they pan across the congregation. With pastor Hybel and also with folks like Joel Osteen, who is white, you do have to commend them for the aggresive steps they’ve taken to make their congregations look more like what the body of Christ should be.

Where I would take issue with the thrust of this article is that they are considering Megachurches with white pastors and leadership that have taken steps to incorporate black, latino, and asian members and cultures. When I scan audiences in Megachurches like a T. D. Jakes, I don’t see any significant diversity. There are a sprinkling of non-blacks here and there, but no significant percentages.

Now, my hunch is that a T D Jakes and similar black megachurch leaders do not see it as a major priority to diversify in the face of many other issues that face their churches and the local communities. It would be interesting, very fascinating in fact, if black Megachurch leaders made a concerted effort to diversify their congregations–just to see what the results would be. I suppose the question would be “to what end?” Maybe diversity can be an end in itself. The perception of the unity of faith is as powerful an evangelistic tool as anything.