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Wading in Denial

September 23, 2010

As allegations of sexual coercion build against Bishop Eddie Long, leader of one of the nation’s largest mega-churches, his supporters begin their crusade of support and denial.  Long, a pillar of both the African American and religious communities, has been accused by three young men of sexual coercion stemming from time spent as members of the Bishop’s Longfellow’s Youth Academy.  The scandal, while only a few days revealed, has already begun to make the rounds with major media outlets and draw comparisons to the Catholic Church’s priest controversy.

What has startled me most since the story broke is that an overwhelmingly large number of faith based supporters have sided immediately with the Bishop, digitally and verbally offering public prayers of support that in turn denies any inkling of recognition that the allegations may be true.  Pillars in the gospel music community have vehemently opposed the allegations without considering that they, too, may be subject to the façade that has plagued African American churches for years.

The conflict of homosexuality within black faith institutions is a question quickly dismissed within a church’s four walls.  For years, many of thee churches have come out in opposition of homosexual rights (Bishop Eddie Long included) and continue to preach against it while confusingly cultivating conflicted gay men and women, who are taught to repress their true selves, reform their lives and assimilate themselves into forced heterosexual lifestyles.

However, the religious prescription for “treatment” of this issue is in turn the reason for the issue’s perpetual affliction.  “Reformed” homosexual men, such as popular gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, have become examples of the “successful treatment” and subsequent dismissal of gay men in the church.  Questions of faith-based filmmaker Tyler Perry’s sexuality have yet to subside but are quick to be dismissed by his supporters.  Why dismiss gay men patronizing drag stars in their own discourse communities while Perry fans digest the same presented with a veil of faith as sheer as the start of RuPaul’s lace front?  Denying the existence of something will never make it go away.

There is only so much more avoiding that can be done before the choir director joins the advocate’s march.  Outsiders looking in are laughing at oblivious churchgoers and laugh harder as it becomes consistently more difficult to conceal the rainbows beaming from church steeples.  As the Long situation continues to unravel, take a moment to consider those who are, as of now considered, the victims.  Think about how much courage it would take for them to admit this.  Treat them as you would any man or woman admitting similar traumas.  Don’t cover your own eyes with tattered pastoral robes when you do not know what is going on underneath them.

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