The sad, quick col­lapse of an anti-LGBT gi­ant

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“His bur­dens were un­set­tling to wit­ness, and so among my ini­tial thoughts upon hear­ing about his death was re­lief he was no longer suf­fer­ing. If only Long’s vic­tims could at­tain such peace with­out hav­ing to die first.”

I was plan­ning to write about Ed­die Long this week, but then he up and died, so I’m forced to con­sider whether it’s ap­pro­pri­ate to in­dict his char­ac­ter with crit­i­cisms that were en­tirely le­git­i­mate just a few days ago. Our so­ci­ety treats death like an iron­clad non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment, where all points of con­tention are muted in def­er­ence to the press re­lease ver­sion of what oc­curred.

How­ever, Bishop Long’s legacy en­dures, as does the spir­i­tual suf­fer­ing he in­flicted on thou­sands of black LGBT Chris­tians, far be­yond the aisles of his New Birth Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Su­per­center. Suf­fer­ing was go­ing to be the dom­i­nant theme of my ini­tial col­umn on Long, as his most re­cent pub­lic ap­pear­ances re­vealed the phys­i­cal and emo­tional tri­als he was los­ing – his once mus­cu­lar physique col­laps­ing on his bones, his will to live with­er­ing down to thoughts of sui­cide.

His bur­dens were un­set­tling to wit­ness, and so among my ini­tial thoughts upon hear­ing about his death was re­lief he was no longer suf­fer­ing. If only Long’s vic­tims could at­tain such peace with­out hav­ing to die first.

There are the afore­men­tioned LGBT Chris­tians, whom Long re­ferred to as “filth,” “spir­i­tual abor­tions” and the anti-Christ, and whom he at­tempted to sever from the larger black com­mu­nity, us­ing Je­sus as a saw. Now, by merely ac­knowl­edg­ing the scars Long left on their faith, they are ac­cused of be­ing dis­re­spect­ful by many of the same peo­ple who shouted “Amen!” while Long was dis­re­spect­ing their ex­is­tence.

The most no­table of those ag­grieved by Long are the young men who in 2010 ac­cused the bishop of be­ing a sex­ual preda­tor, groom­ing them with gifts, trips and stature, only to se­duce them once they reached the age of con­sent. Long’s death, along with a 2011 le­gal set­tle­ment, might of­fer some type of clo­sure, but try­ing to heal their trauma is the life’s work of the sur­vivors of his al­leged sins.

The set­tle­ment the par­ties reached in­cluded no ad­mis­sion of guilt, and the ac­cusa- tions against Long have never been ver­i­fied. True or not, it’s re­mark­able how be­liev­able the sce­nar­ios were as soon as they were al­leged, as in-char­ac­ter as Don­ald Trump hav­ing hook­ers piss on each other for his en­ter­tain­ment and arousal.

When Long or­ga­nized a 2004 march through At­lanta op­pos­ing same-sex mar­riage, I wrote how the bishop “led a river of Chris­tians as wide as [Auburn Av­enue] that flowed rapidly for 23 min­utes be­fore all of the marchers passed the [start­ing point].”

“I’m look­ing at the peo­ple just stream, and stream and stream down the side­walk, and it amazes me how many peo­ple will wake up so early in the morn­ing to sup­port such a hate­ful mes­sage,” said a les­bian who was protest­ing Long’s march.

The 25,000 peo­ple who walked be­hind Long that cold De­cem­ber morn­ing are his most pitiable vic­tims, led to the wrong side of the Ed­mund Pet­tus Bridge by a Cap­i­tal­is­tian who sac­ri­ficed his flock to the judg­ment of his­tory, while he sa­vored the fi­nan­cial fruits of be­ing a cov­eted black fig­ure­head for a pre­dom­i­nantly white anti-LGBT move­ment will­ing to pay for the per­cep­tion that they weren’t big­ots.

The be­liev­ers may be for­given for know­ing not what they did, but I hope the bishop had a stronger de­fense pre­pared. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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