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?

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