The death of Bishop Eddie Long struck a nerve with me that I would have never imaged. Perhaps it was the hypocrisy found in Kim Burrell’s anti-LGBT remarks earlier this month or the fact that I now see more Black clergyman popping up to support President-Elect Donald Trump — who also has a VP that believes in LGBTQ conversion therapy. Maybe it's the deep distrust with faith communities that have given me a bittersweet reaction to Long’s passing.
When I saw the news break on social media, I automatically took to Twitter to see the reactions. Many were celebrating Long as a “spiritual warrior,” a “mentor,” and a “church leader.” No one, in the first few moments his death became public, would dare speak on the allegations surrounding him reportedly coercing young adult men for sex. No one would speak on the congregation members who would denounced and publically attacked these men for speaking to the media. And nobody would talk about the hypocrisy of his church and how they defended a man who has held anti-LGBTQ positions while seemingly living a double life.
This morning, I had enough with allowing church folks on my Facebook timeline and Twitter feed fail to recognize their double standards at the expense of my emotional tillage. I called it out, all of it. I went off about the Black church and how it likes to erase LGBTQ folks and our trauma out of the narrative. I explained how “love, grace, and mercy” is only given to those who preach hetrosexism, but not for the same-gender loving and those afflicted by sexual abuse. It was a Sunday, so I gave a social media sermon that went viral. Enough was enough and I wasn’t having it.
The reactions I received online ranged from those saying they were going to “pray for me,” telling me I was “disrespectful” for “speaking ill of the dead” and victim-blaming of Long’s accusers by saying “they only wanted money.” And despite all of the church folks judging me severely for my “abomination lifestyle,” it only furthered my point that the Black church is still a hostile environment that isn’t inclusive or honest about the members of its congregation and what “love, grace, and mercy” truly looks like.
I grew up in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Houston, Texas. Every summer, grandmother used to take my brother and I down to Moro Temple in Marianna, Arkansas. There were no Wal-Marts, CVS, or McDonald’s in Marianna — just gas stations, churches, and folks who were raised in houses in the same zip codes as their great grandparents lived. We went to church every Sunday, Wednesday, and sometimes Saturday. I knew I was gay my entire life — I believe my whole family knew as well. Every Sunday, the pastor would lay hands on me and tell me to keep a prayer in my head of something I wanted “healed.” And each week, it would be the same thing — “Gay heal me of being gay.” Another Sunday, another fail. Eventually, I realized that nothing was wrong with me and that what actually needed to be healed were my finances, friendships, and family. But for many of the other boys in that church — they weren’t as resilient.
I’ve spent a great deal away from the church and it’s men like Bishop Eddie Long that was responsible for that. Long was notorious for leading anti-LGBTQ marches in the name of the Lord and he preached bigotry in the name of Jesus. His congregation backed him every step of the way. I grew up seeing black queer people being told they were not worthy. A pastor once told me that my “lifestyle” would send me straight to hell.
And yet, I also would see the ministers in the pulpit prey — not pray — on the vulnerability of queer men. I had friends who privately dated the pastor’s son or tell me how they met a deacon on a same-sex dating app. The allusion of the closeted man wasn’t just proliferated in the church, but flourishes there. Why would anyone want to live their truth in a space that condemns it? Why would anyone feel safe in a sacred territory that will cast the first stone while saving another one to throw later?
The silence of those who have had those conversations for years was shattered with the death of Bishop Eddie Long died. I was one of those individuals who often keep to myself on matters of the Black church as a way to show solidarity. But when will the church ever have my back? When will those who say they love me actually defend my existence? “Hate the sin, not the sinner,” is a condescending way of passing hate and isn’t anything worthy of acceptance. I am a child of God. I am not an abomination, but another example of the creator’s divine intervention.
I send my condolences to Bishop Long’s family, but I also mourn those impacted by his bigotry, hypocrisy, and discrimination. I pray that Long had a change in his heart before his passing — but I also pray for the victimization of those still living in a church that has wanting of the “love, grace, and mercy.” May their hearts and minds change as the world begins to as well.
For more info about homophobia in the Black church, watch the BET.com original documentary above, Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church.
The views expressed here are solely of the author and not BET.com.