The Scandal Is About More Than Bishop Eddie Long (The Root)

The Scandal Is About More Than Bishop Eddie LongShifting sexual mores, racial anxieties and unresolved issues of gender and power are what really drive our fascination with the Georgia mega-church crisis, says a professor of religion.

Roughly 20 years ago, Cornel West -- in his best-selling book Race Matters -- argued that "it is virtually impossible to talk candidly about race without talking about sex." So it remains today: When we chatter about sex, race is always already on the table.

At the center of the Bishop Eddie Long story is a civil suit against a preacher alleged to have violated the sacred trust between pastor and congregation. Long stands accused of coercing sexual favors from several young male mentees -- this after currying favor with them by using perks from his multimillion-dollar spiritual empire, which has more than 25,000 members.

The exposure of Long's alleged same-sex erotic activities has occasioned an act of collective catharsis in a shifting sexual landscape. Sadly, if not surprisingly, we seem more concerned with sex acts than actual sins. That the alleged victims are young men rather than young women should not matter -- abuse is abuse, end of story. But it does, especially in this moment, in this country.

Our concern with Long's sexual orientation obscures the larger issue of the relationship between gender and power, which is only magnified by religion. Our society takes for granted the exchange of sex acts, both coerced and seduced, between young women and older men -- from athletes to CEOs to clergy. Rather than deal with the issue of unchecked authority, we prefer to focus on who's touching whose … well, you get the picture.

The core of our attraction and repulsion to this affair -- what turned the event from pastoral scandal into public spectacle -- is about much more than Long...

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*A Quick Update: This story was also picked up the next day by the Washington Post's On Faith column, with a link back to the story's original home at The Root. To view it there, go to: On Faith