|Why No Prayers for Bishop Long's Accusers?
By LZ Granderson
October 1, 2010
Editor's note: LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, and has contributed to ESPN's Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) award for online journalism, and a 2010 and 2008 honoree of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) for column writing.
Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- Long before Focus on the Family, the 700 Club or even the Bible, there was a basic spiritual hunger: A hunger to know where we came from, a hunger to know what happens when we leave, a hunger to know if there is a God.
And somewhere along the line, that hunger was spun into religion, and soon the desire to find God became mutated by the desire to protect a particular belief system about God. Religion became monetized, politicized and militarized as the hunger to know the meaning of life slowly was replaced by rules by which we are to live our lives.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not anti-religion. In fact, I love my church. But as Sen. John Danforth said in his book "Faith and Politics," "If Christianity is supposed to be a ministry of reconciliation, and has become instead a divisive force in American political life, something is terribly wrong, and we should correct it."
Indeed, sometimes Christians get so caught up in the business of being Christians that we lose track of Christ. This was the case in The Crusades. This was the case when the Roman Catholic Church transferred pedophiles from city to city. And this is the case involving the Christian community's response to the allegations surrounding Bishop Eddie Long.
More than 20 pastors in Atlanta, Georgia, got together to pray for Long recently, but I have yet to hear about an organized prayer group for the four men accusing Long of using his position as their spiritual adviser to coerce them into sexual relationships.
"Be quiet and pray for Bishop Eddie Long" tweeted Grammy-winning gospel act Mary Mary, as if the soul of the man who took the picture of himself wearing what looks like a black sleeveless cat suit is in more need of prayer than the person who might have received the picture. The duo could've easily asked their followers to support all involved in 140 characters or less, but instead only mentioned the pastor.
Very few people know what, if any, aspects of the accusations are true. But what we do know is the song suggests God has the whole world, and not just embattled preachers and his followers, in his hands. Praying for Long does not negate a person's ability to pray for his accusers, not if being Christ-like truly is that person's desire.
For if Jesus can find it in his heart to pray for Judas, those who claim to be his followers should be able to look inside their own hearts and do the same -- regardless of their view of homosexuality, regardless of how the truth may affect their church, regardless if no one else joins them in such a prayer.
Yes, it would be terribly disappointing if Long is indeed guilty of abusing his power. But what I also find disappointing is the desire to pray that the allegations are not true seems to be equal to, if not greater than, the desire to find out the truth. This hope for Long's innocence is just another example of how people are more comfortable choosing religion -- or in this case, a religious figure -- over the spiritual hunger and desire for truth that supposedly prompted religion to be formed in the first place.
But more damaging to the Christian Church is that this response also communicates a complete lack of compassion for the young people who may have come to Long for help and ended up manipulated, confused and alone.
Again, we don't know if what they say is true, but if you look at the example of Christ's life as it is illustrated in the Bible, when it comes to showing compassion, that's irrelevant. And any church that cares so little about people who might be victims of sexual coercion, regardless of the nature of that coercion, should probably re-evaluate its mission statement.
In the film "Dead Man Walking," the faith of Susan Sarandon's character, Sister Helen Prejean, is pushed to the limit when a death row inmate asks her character to be his spiritual adviser at the same time she's attempting to minister to the needs of the families of his victims. When the father of one of the victims asks Prejean how could she "sit with that scum," she replies "I'm trying to follow the example of Jesus ..." Sister Helen Prejean is a real person. Amen sister.
Now, if only more Christians were willing to do the same ...
The opinions in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.