what is wrong with Eddie Long…

Posted on Thursday 30 September 2010

    Galatians 6
    7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
    For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
    And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
My childhood was unusual for a Southerner, I think. My Dad was from the immigrant coal mining belt, an Italian Catholic family. When he came South, he wanted to leave it all behind. My mother was from a vaudeville family in rural Georgia who was, I think, one of those 1930’s intellectual agnostics recovering from the camp meeting/revival version of religion. So, we neither had nor went to a church. I was ‘taken’ to Sunday School and vacation Bible School. It was taught in public school. And I went to a military christian school for longer than I wanted to, where Bible was taught with the same valence as Math and English [five days a week]. So my Christian days were only the teen years when I [sort of] joined up on my own. I left under the same power at eighteen.

Oral RobertsWith the coming of television, came Oral Roberts – healing the sick every Sunday Morning. A friend and I gathered to watch faithfully – not as religion, but as entertainment – rolling on the floor in laughter as Oral would put on his show shouting "Heal!". It wasn’t lost on us that he would quote Galations 6 at the end in his appeal for donations, but it didn’t register on me that he was implying that if you "sowed" to his ministry, you would "specifically" "reap." I missed that part.

While my family was not "religious," it was sensibly moral, and those verses up there obviously informed the morality – all parts. How you behave towards the world is how the world will behave towards you. And "good things come to he who waits." It was a good morality, one that I still adhere to. I remember those verses from my bible days. They impressed me and articulated the very morality I was being taught.

Robert TiltonMany years later, I had an impossible "bad back" period with prolonged insomnia. So I started watching late night television and was awed with the rise of the televangelists. So I’d watch Jimmy Bakker and Tammy Fay as late night comedy. I enjoyed Jimmy Swaggart too, as the roots of Rock and Roll. But there was another one, Robert Tilton, who had a Late Night Show. He had testimonials, spoke in tongues, and pitched the reap/sow message to the tune of $80M a year. If you sent him money [sow], you would receive a miracle [reap]. He was the first solid example of "Prosperity Gospel" in my awareness. In spite of innumerable exposes, he’s still at it. Robert Tilton was [and is] simply a flim-flam artist extraordinaire…
    Tilton was particularly influenced by Dave Del Dotto, a real estate promoter who produced hour-long infomercials showing his glamorous life in Hawaii [which he constantly stressed anyone could achieve just by following the principles set up in his many "get rich quick" books], as well as "interviews" with students who were brought out to his Hawaiian villa for said interviews, specifically for their on-camera testimonials about the success in life they were now enjoying thanks to his teachings. Upon his return from Hawaii in 1981, Tilton — with the help of a US$1.3M loan from Dallas banker Herman Beebe — revamped Daystar into an hour-long "religious infomercial" with the title Success-N-Life.

My insomnia finally cleared, and I lost track of these yokels. I didn’t know Eddie Long was a Prosperity Gospel guy, but…
Bishop Eddie Long’s long reach
The global network of prosperity preachers Long has built up has turned the gospel into a capitalist endeavour
by Anthea Butler
30 September 2010

… Long’s troubles are not simply about his potential hypocrisy in preaching against homosexuality while allegedly engaging in same-sex acts; it is also about money. Theologically, Long and his church are rooted in the prosperity gospel, a belief that promotes giving tithes and offerings to God in a covenantal relationship. A church member gives, and God enters into a covenant with the believer that prospers them financially, physically and spiritually…

For Long’s members, financial blessings are a sign of God’s favour. So it should come as no surprise then, that the bishop lives a lavish lifestyle, replete with a private jet, a mansion on the church property and flashy jewellery accentuating his form-fitting clothing. Long’s conspicuous prosperity garnered the attention of a US senator, Chuck Grassley, who attempted to scrutinise Long and other prosperity televangelists with a summons to show their financial records. Long refused. Now that lawsuits have been filed outlining how Long spent money on these men, Long finds himself as he phrased it in his Sunday sermon, "like David against Goliath"…

Long’s story, however it may turn out, has implications for not only American Christianity, but Christianity worldwide. The prosperity gospel and its purveyors are worldwide, and account for the rapid growth of Pentecostalism, the global religious movement prosperity preachers come from. Long has associates in the UK such as Matthew Ashimolowo, pastor of Kingsway International Christian Centre. Ashimolowo hosts a conference called the International Gathering of Champions, a conference for prosperity preachers, and Long spoke at the gathering this year. Long also is associated with a controversial New Zealand pastor, Brian Tamaki, who considers Long to be his spiritual father. One of the claimants in the case stated that Long took him to New Zealand and had sexual relations with him there. Tamaki is also anti-gay and his emphasis on male headship and leadership comes from Long’s belief system.

Conferences and technology link these preachers, and their members not only gain access to their pastor but to a network of pastors who espouse the same teachings and offer a myriad of study materials and media that support the prosperity gospel. Long’s story may be a local nightmare, but it lights up a global religious movement that has turned the gospel into a capitalist endeavour. I am not quite sure that is what Max Weber [The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism] had in mind, but even in the midst of a potentially ministry-ending scandal, Long is generating media attention and making money for advertisers…
How does such foolishness work? The essential message is that "God wants you to be rich." That notion is backed up by scriptural cherry-picking, testimonials, stories, sermons, and self-help inspirational books. That’s an odd interpretation of Christianity at best. But then there’s a piece of logic that’s entirely skipped. How does the ministry of some televangelist like Robert Tilton or a megachurch pastor like Eddie Long become the recipient of all these donations being sowed for the anticipated later harvest? Well that’s the skipped logic – that part is unexplained. Why God is going to send you a miracle because you donated to Eddie Long is a complete mystery to me, but the donations just keep pouring in. What is wrong with Eddie Long? Among other things, he’s a crook, a Bernie Madoff who skips the complexities of the Stock Market. Just send him money and you’ll be rewarded. I guess he missed this part, "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption."

Robert Tilton speaking in tongues
    September 30, 2010 | 1:12 PM

    It’s about time for a modern-day Jesus to deploy his righteous indignation and drive these money-grubbers out of the temple. I wonder what Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer or, for that matter, Jesus himself, would think about the “bishop?”

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