Two NYU Press Authors Discuss the Black Church & Homosexuality

Two NYU Press authors weighed in at about accusations that Bishop Eddie Long sexually abused teenagers in his ministry.

First, Jonathan Walton, author of Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism:

Jonathan Walton was walking through Bishop Eddie Long’s church one day when he saw something that disturbed him.

He stared at a 30-foot banner draped behind the pulpit of New Birth Missionary Baptist. Church. It displayed a profile of a grinning Long with the caption: “What is God up to?”

“Everywhere you went in that church, his name and face was there,” says Walton, an assistant professor of religion at Harvard Divinity School in Massachusetts. “His image has replaced the cross.”

Then Shayne Lee, co-author of Holy Mavericks:

Shayne Lee, a sociology professor at Tulane University in Louisiana, says Long had to unequivocally deny the allegations from the pulpit to maintain New Birth’s support.

“His ministry is over,” says Lee, author of “Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace,” which looks at the appeal of celebrity preachers. Lee has written extensively about how big business has shaped megachurch pastors.

“What I saw was more lamb than lion,” Lee says. “I didn’t see the truculent, masculine preacher. There should have been some pent up sense of outrage.”

Long’s demise will take place over time, but it is inevitable, Lee says.

Lee also wrote an op-ed on “Why black church culture rejects homosexuality“:

But scholars often overlook that many black Christians pride themselves on a plain reading of Scripture, making it virtually impossible to foster an inclusive embrace or acceptance of homosexuality. As long as African-American Christians adhere to biblical mandates as authoritative prescriptions from God, they won’t be easily dissuaded from rejecting same-sex lifestyles as viable alternatives to heterosexual norms.

What this means for Long is that the walls of his spiritual empire will ostensibly crumble if he is unable to launch an aggressive and cogent defense against these allegations. If, indeed, as F. Scott Fitzgerald maintained, there really are no second acts in American lives, then how much narrower the space for the redemptive comeback of an evangelical spiritual leader who is abruptly tainted by the unyielding taboo of homosexual conduct?

Religious Economies, Spiritual Entrepreneurs, Evangelical Celebrities

Supply and demand, that delicate relationship between producers and consumers, is perhaps the central dynamic of a market economy. In an hour when all eyes are fixed on the shifting sands of the financial market, Tulane sociologist Shayne Lee has published a book that applies the economic model of supply and demand to a different kind of commerce.

A new book by Tulane sociologist Shayne Lee examines the success of five pastors who are influential leaders in American Protestantism. (Photo by Nick Marinello)

Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace examines the success of five pastors who are among the most influential contemporary leaders in American Protestantism.

“Our goal was not to provide an objective analysis of these five religious celebrities. Our goal was to explain their appeal,” says Lee, assistant professor of sociology, who co-wrote the book with historian Phillip Luke Sinitiere.

“We used the theory of religious economy to show why some religious suppliers are able to attract large followings while others are not,” says Lee, who in 2005 published T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher, a critical examination of the most influential African American preacher on the pulpit today.

Read the rest of the article at Tulane’s website.

Of Politicians, Pastors, and Prayer

Phillip Luke Sinitiere and Shayne Lee, authors of Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace (NYU Press 2009), discuss Rick Warren, Barack Obama and the issues surrounding the inaugural invocation.

Numerous journalists, political pundits, and scholars are discussing and debating Barack Obama’s decision to invite California pastor Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural prayer, particularly in the context of Warren’s support for California’s Proposition 8.

E.J. Dionne’s New Republic column, for example, titled “Big Tent,” (HT: John Fea) a thoughtful analysis of the Obama-Warren issue, reports that some wonder to what extent Obama has betrayed his liberal politics, while others embrace Obama’s decision and call for a more enlightened liberal politics. Christianity Today, the leading magazine of evangelical thought and culture, features some writers who are asking if Warren is the next Graham, or if he’s transcended the aged leader’s stature. Another voice of the religious right, Steve Brody’s blog at the Christian Broadcasting Network, “The Brody File,” (HT: Get Religion) features e-lamentations about Warren’s decision to pray at the inauguration. Alan Wolfe’s New Republic piece “Obama’s New Pastor Problem?,” (HT: John Fea) offers further contextualization about Warren and the religious right. And corroborating Steve Brody’s blog, Rachel Zoll’s article points out that some of Warren’s toughest critics are those on the religious right. Sociologist Gerardo Marti offers a brief history of Warren his Southern California context, what he calls “Warren-ology.” Religious studies scholar Anthony Pinn provides precise analysis of theology, political compromise, and the presidency, and historian of religion Anthea Butler contends that president-elect Obama misgauges Americans’ religious convictions.

Obama’s choice of Warren to pray at the inauguration—and in particular the range of responses this choice has elicited—gives us occasion to reflect on Protestant evangelical religious leaders we call “holy mavericks,” five of whom we discuss and analyze in our forthcoming Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace, due out in April with NYU Press.
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