“Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” Psalm 105:15 (KJV)
Eddie Long might have invoked a David versus Goliath battle in his much-awaited appearance in the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church pulpit this morning, but it’s another piece of scripture that is driving his reaction—and that of his congregants—to the sex abuse scandal embroiling him.
Anthea was there, and wrote about it here, but Long’s self-portrayal as a victim of an “attack” is evidence that he views himself as untouchable, and the allegations against him driven by forces bent on taking him down—forces he won’t hesitate to attack himself. In both the early morning service and in remarks to the media afterwards, Long spoke but took no questions. That’s because he can’t be questioned—he’s God’s anointed one.
What the media is missing in the frenzy of the sex abuse allegations is how Long allegedly coerced these young men into sexual acts with him. They were under his “spiritual authority.” They were his “spiritual sons.” They had to call him “Dad.” They had “covenant” ceremonies with him. They were told that sex with Long was ordained by God. The sex isn’t the story—the spiritual authoritarianism is.
Flanked by a young man wearing a t-shirt that read, “We Support Bishop Long” (the O in “support” was in the shape of a heart) Long feigned surprise this morning that so much attention was focused on his church. “I didn’t realize how important this church was,” he maintained to the media, even though he has worked assiduously over the years to be the sort of pastor who got invited to the White House or hosted the funeral service for Coretta Scott King. He vowed to emphasize what he characterized as the church’s charitable and missionary work.
That’s not just a way of diverting attention from the lawsuits. It’s how he portrays his godliness to the rest of the world.
But in the charismatic world, Long’s trump card is his anointing—which can’t be challenged.
To his congregation, he was both a victim and a warrior. He was David under attack from Goliath. He was a victim of the earthly world, and its civil justice system, and he just wants to put himself in God’s hands, the only place he claims he can get justice. (Only God, after all, knows the truth, and if Long is God’s anointed one—well, he knows the truth, too.)
“There have been allegations and attacks made on me,” Long told his flock, “I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man.” I’ve seen Long preach, and he revelled in how the people introducing him described him as speaking for God; he revelled in how his own wealth could be used to convince his far less fortunate audience to part with their money. He repeatedly asserted his warrior status to take dominion over everything. He displayed a shocking sense of entitlement. The woman sitting next to me, a member of his congregation, could think of only one way to describe him: “he pushes you into obedience. It’s all about obedience.”
As I discussed in my first post about this scandal, in previous sex scandals involving Long’s mentor Earl Paulk, a circle of charismatic pastors closed ranks around him. In my reporting on that scandal, I discovered how congregants were so in the thrall of the pastor that they believed his every word, even when their own friends said that he had sexually abused them. They so believed he spoke for God, they were terrified of questioning God’s “anointed.”
This morning at his chruch, T.D. Jakes, who Long has called his spiritual father, said nothing specific — such as perhaps Long’s church needed an independent investigation — in vaguely urging his congregation to pray for everyone at New Birth.
In the charismatic world, there is hellfire to pay for going against God’s “anointed” one. For the anointed one, there’s no accountability.