Commentary: Am I Missing Something?

By Derrell Connor Special To Channel 3000

Maybe I?m missing something.

Maybe it?s possible that I?m not a very understanding and compassionate person, one that?s willing to overlook a man?s possible major transgressions because of all the great work that he?s done. Maybe I should just look the other way and not write on this topic, because by doing so I would be contributing to the demise of a so-called African-American role model and leader. Maybe I should just pretend that, if the stories are true, there aren?t any victim?s involved, young men whose trust and innocence were violated over and over again by a very sick, vile human being. Maybe I should just stop right here and write about something else.

I just can?t.

Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist megachurch in Atlanta, Ga., has been accused by four young black men of coercing them into sexual relationships. He allegedly preyed upon teenagers with single mothers to present himself as a father figure, and used his churches? funds to lure the young men with cars, clothes, jewelry, college tuition and electronics. Bishop Long has denied the charges, saying that he will vigorously fight the allegations against him, and compared himself to David in the story of David and Goliath. But so far he has not directly addressed the issue, or the young men in question, instead hiring a private investigator to help fight the charges. I?m sorry, who?s David again?

No, before you think that I?m being unfair, let me first say that I believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If these allegations are untrue, then Bishop Long should fight tooth and nail to clear his name, because these are very serious accusations. However, last week I watched an interview with one of the alleged victims, and he sounded very convincing. The hurt and pain in his eyes and in his voice suggested that either he was indeed abused by Long, or he?s a very good actor. Until we know all the facts, these young men should be taken seriously.

Which brings me to this: why does it seem like most of the members of the New Birth Missionary Baptist church are backing and supporting Bishop Long, and not giving these young men the help and support that they need? Is it because he?s a man of faith? Is it because he?s black, and has served as a role model in his congregation and community? Is it because people refuse to believe that he could possibly do these things? Or is it because they don?t care whether the allegations are true or false, because the good things that Bishop Long has done far outweigh the bad? Unfortunately, it?s all of the above. A female member of his congregation said recently that people shouldn?t disregard all of the good things that the pastor has done because he may have had an indiscretion.

I?m sorry, but I can. If these allegations are true, then Bishop Eddie Long is the worst kind of man. A selfish, self-serving, sick man who used his position as a pastor to prey upon young men and destroyed their childhood and innocence in the process. That?s not an indiscretion, that?s a crime. And as for some members of his congregation to act as if it doesn?t matter?either they don?t have children of their own (what would you do if this were your son or daughter?), or they may be just as selfish and self-serving as Bishop Eddie Long may be.

Some people may be upset that I would write something like this about another African American, or a member of the church, but I don?t care. This isn?t about color. This is about anyone who preys upon innocent young men, women, anyone. It doesn?t matter whether these allegations are true or not, the church has failed these young men by not standing up for and with them, and that?s a travesty.