Eddie Long’s most notable sermon excerpt from Sunday, “I’m not a perfect man. But this thing, I’m gonna fight” left much room for interpretation amongst church members and media alike, as post-service interviews discovered that some members were unsure of his innocence due to his failure to proclaim it in front of the congregation.
Guilty or not, Eddie Long’s church and backyard are temporary campsites, the media circus having pitched a giant tent with no sign of dousing the campfire until a verdict is determined. And even then, a Winnebago or two is sure to circle back for an expose’ on the aftermath of whatever the verdict may be. Understanding the seriousness of the allegations, and how much of a distraction an accusation of sexual misconduct by a clergyman is, should the Bishop step down?
The dedicated members say no, claiming that the Bishop has changed their life or made them new and improved individuals in some way, shape, or form. I don’t doubt this to be true, as the guy is a well-accomplished motivator and public speaker.
But what about the reason for church attendance in the first place?
What about worship?
What about God?
The distractions will likely be abundant as the remainder of this scandal plays out for however many months. I doubt that anyone wants to walk out of a religious meeting and have to answer questions about their belief in their leader’s guilt or innocence to a Channel 10 news camera, though you can at least make sure they get your good side in the progress.
And what of the looming court case and court decision?
In case you didn’t know (and you did because you’re smart), the burden of proof is different in civil court than it is criminal court. In criminal court, the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. In civil court, the win simply goes to the side whose evidence outweighs the other side’s evidence. Why is this good and bad for the Bishop?
The bad is that the Bishop’s accusers only have to prove preponderance of the evidence, meaning that their evidence of the allegations’ occurrence must simply have greater weight than Long’s evidence of non-occurrence. Personally, any man taking pictures of himself flexing in muscle shirts is enough evidence for me, but I’m not the one banging the gavel.
The good (for Eddie Long) is that even if he loses the civil case, he can always claim innocence anyway and step back into the pulpit if an investigation doesn’t reveal any irrefutable evidence and he’s not brought up on criminal charges.
So step down Bishop, especially if you’re innocent. Spare your congregation the agony of being handcuffed to the front pew for your tightrope act. As you walk to the other end of the rope, unsure of your own balance and semi-conscious of your grudge with the guy that sets up the net, spare your most dedicated followers the chance to stand on your shoulders for additional effect. Allow your members the detachment that is necessary to focus on the real reason for their Sunday morning trips to Lithonia, GA.
And if you’re guilty, then at least go quietly into the night knowing that you cared more about the faith of New Birth’s members than you did about yourself, and stepped down, even if only temporarily, to make possible a preservation of their union.
UPDATE: Bishop Long's Accuser Speaks
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