Hat tip to my Twitter follower @Shugah for sending me this clip of Eddie Long being crowned King at New Birth on Sunday, January 29, 2012.
While most Christians were having regular Sunday services, over at Eddie Long’s New Birth Church in Lithonia, Ga, Ralph Messer, who is part of the Hebrew Roots movement, was crowning Eddie Long King in an elaborate ceremony that included wrapping Long in a Torah Scroll purported to be found at Auschwitz and Birkenau.
In case you’re unable or unwilling to watch: the video shows Messer giving Long the Torah scroll declaring that he is the first man to look upon the scroll after 3000 years. Long is “wrapped in the scroll” and prayed over. Messer asks Long to take a seat, and declares that God gave Long a position of power and authority. He is given the constitution of God as a king (6:49), the Torah, and then, Messer has four men representing the four corners of the earth, (7:04) pick the chair up. Messer then declares that Eddie Long is raised up from a commoner to a King, replete with music, cheers, and a poorly executed blessing in Hebrew. If it weren’t so offensive to Christian and Jewish sensibilities (and so utterly in error in terms of tradition, as Wil Gafney points out at HuffPo) it would be laughable.
I wish I could say I was surprised by Long’s latest antics, but I’m not. Actually, I am surprised he stayed away from the church this long. After declaring in December that he was taking a hiatus to work on the problems in his marriage, Long has returned with a new lacefront and a defiant attitude. Having a fake rabbi declare him “King” of a fading, dying mega-church is a joke, but what is not are the deluded New Birth Members cheering him on.
Clearly they have drunk the “Kool Aid” and I don’t use that term lightly. I’ve believed since my trip to New Birth back in 2010, when Long promised to fight his civil case, that New Birth was a cult-like organization. Long’s hold over his congregation reminds me of Jim Jones. That may sound harsh, but Jim Jones slept with his members too, before leading the People’s Temple into the jungles of Guyana.
Long however, is in interesting historical company. After all, Father Divine called himself God on Earth, and so did Yahweh Ben Yahweh, but Long is taking his “kingdom” to the next level of church pimping. His adaptation of the conservative Christian penchant for all things “Jewish”—being anointed by a fake Rabbi—is a new twist in the prosperity game.
Make no mistake it is the same practices of control that Sarah Posner documented in her book God’s Profits. Eddie Long learned from the best, Earl Paulk and others, who were deft at fleecing congregations with spiritual sleight of hand. The video of Long’s coronation is just one more chapter in his quest to remain in a dead pulpit attached to a dying megachurch.
I spoke with the Rev Dr. Wil Gafney, Hebrew Bible Professor at Lutheran Seminary about the video, and she responded that Long’s “rabbi” Messner is not a member of any traditional Jewish movement, he did not represent any recognizable Jewish thought or practice in his misrepresentations of the Torah. Moreover, she remarked, “it is unfortunate that the speaker chose to plunder the sacred traditions of Judaism as he invented novel interpretations of biblical texts and imagery to affirm and elevate a leader who had admittedly broken the sacred trust between pastor and congregant.”
Very true. Eddie Long’s continued pandering to keep the remnants of his deluded flock intact has no bounds. In fact, Long is King of his Lithonia Campus, subject to no authority. There is no church hierarchy to sit him down, no one to tell him that he is theologically incorrect. I hope that the full story of what he did to the young men he paid off will come out, and others will begin to share the whispers of inappropriate behavior that have been hinted at by those in leadership at New Birth.
People, break your silence. At the rate Eddie Long is going, it may literally save lives.