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October 20, 2010

Losing faith

On the heels of last month’s “The religion lie and its consequences” column comes one of the strangest black-church sagas in recent memory — the case of Atlanta’s Bishop Eddie Long and the Longfellows (members of Long’s Longfellows Youth Academy).

The allegations against Long, who is accused of having coerced a number of teenage boys into sexual relationships, have been well reported, so I won’t recount them here. And though these are allegations right now, not facts, at this early stage there seems to be some damning evidence against one of Atlanta’s leading mega-church preachers.

B.J. Bernstein — the attorney for the young men — claims the publicly anti-gay Long began to cultivate relationships with the boys when they were as young as 14 or 15. Apparently, the sex didn’t start until they were at the legal age of consent — 16. Bernstein alleges the young men have proof in text messages, e-mails and pictures from Long. Some of the strange pictures have already been made public.

Beyond that, the plaintiffs have provided details of excursions the Bishop took them on, including hotel destinations and dates. They have even revealed that Long often used the alias “Dick Tracy” when traveling with them. Seriously? An alleged child molester (a 15- or 16-year-old is a child in my book) using the alias Dick Tracy with young men he calls “Longfellows”? The irony is sick, but sure enough, the online service Accurint reports that a “Dick Tracey Long” does live at the same address as Eddie Long. Maybe that’s just a coincidence. Right — and Sarah Palin is actually smart, too!

In the face of all this, Long’s members remain almost belligerently steadfast. The Kool-Aid is strong with them. Disturbingly, a few weeks ago a cadre of Atlanta’s black ministers met for lunch and held a press conference outside the historic Paschal’s restaurant, at which they voiced their unequivocal support for Long. Wow!

Long’s supporters are unwavering. Just as importantly, those of us who believe there’s a good chance he did it are not surprised. The world is just that sick now. We expect anything and have lost faith in everything and everyone.

This loss of faith in individuals and institutions has spread throughout our culture. As we approach midterm elections, many people are breaking under the weight of political apathy and disappointment. Here’s my take — there is no true Left, and the Right is energized for multiple reasons. One, the party out of power always fights harder. This is not new. Two, the radically conservative insurgent wing of the Republican Party sees an opportunity to push the GOP in a more regressive direction. They are dangerous, and they are winning — even with candidates who are witches (Christine O’Donnell) and wingnuts (the rest). Note to “fools” (not the intelligent people) who may be reading: I know O’Donnell isn’t really a witch … is she?

On the other side, Democrats and Obamaniacs (who are every bit as fanatical as Eddie Long’s Kool-Aid addicts) can’t see that some of us are suspicious of them because of their own failures and adherence to politics as usual even though they’ve preached “change” ad nauseam. Be clear, folks on the right are going to demonize Obama and the Dems no matter what, so they should be ignored. However, more legitimate critiques coming from people who want wholeheartedly to support them, but are tired of holding their noses and pulling the lever for the Dems, should be taken more seriously. We are not just impatient, unrealistic or unintelligent children who won’t “give Obama time.”

Bottom line: From the pulpits to the polls, we just don’t (and shouldn’t) trust any of these people and institutions right now. Even in this hellish socio-political environment, some predictions can be made. Here are a few of mine:

1) Eddie Long either settles or is found guilty. Most of his flock stays with him.

2) Locally, Greg Fischer becomes mayor in a closer-than-anticipated race. John Yarmuth is re-elected.

3) Statewide, Rand Paul beats Jack Conway.

4) Nationally, the Republicans retake the House. Democrats narrowly hold on to the Senate because, ultimately, a few Tea Partiers like Sharron Angle and O’Donnell are just too damn weird to elect.

You’d better fight, folks — ’cause we are already in the hands of fools!