Monday, September 27, 2010

Eddie Long or Eddie Wrong?

This is a very difficult blog for me to write because religion is the most personal aspect of one’s life and I never want to get into anyone’s religion. “I am not perfect,” but I do have an opinion based upon what I know. Let me share it, but before I continue, I hold no man above my higher power, who I chose to call God. I also know that “religion” is a business and sometimes leaders tend to lose sight of the mission. However, my spiritual compass teaches me that what is done in the dark will come to light. For this reason, I reluctantly, offer a few thoughts concerning this mess Bishop Eddie L. Long has gotten himself into.

He came to national prominence in 2006, when his New Missionary Baptist Church hosted four U.S. presidents for the funeral of Coretta Scott King. The church sits on a 240-acre campus and has satellite churches in other cities. It is one of the largest venues in the state of Georgia. The church boasts a roster of parishioners that includes athletes, entertainers, politicians and many who are considered prominent within the African American community. Only TD Jakes is larger in terms of stature and prominence among black ministries.

Sunday morning B-Long took to the pulpit of his sprawling mega-church to address his 25,000 member congregation defiantly and confidently. “Please hear this: I have been accused. I’m under attack. I want you to know that I am not a perfect man but this thing I’m gon’ fight… I feel like David against Goliath but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”

Portraying himself as the Bible’s ultimate underdog, B-Long went before thousands of his faithful supporters and promised to fight accusations that he lured four young men into sexual relationships. However, it was significant to note that he stopped short of denying the allegations while implying he was wronged by them. Nor did B-Long address the allegations directly but spoke at length about enduring painful times. He used the word “painful” nearly 20 times and “difficult” came up seven times along with a lot of scripture.

Many lined up for hours before the start of service with some wearing t-shirts that said, “Love like him. Live like him. Lead like him”, while others stood in prayer circles, clutching Bibles and singing the hymn, “Wash Me White as Snow,” then as B-Long entered the cathedral, a group of people shouted, “We love you bishop!”

Some people in the church cried even before he took the stage to give his statement followed by a brief sermon on facing painful situations. His statement: “I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man but I am not the man that is being portrayed on the television. That’s not me. That is not me.” Members of the church appear to have closed ranks around B-Long. One member said as if he was on a war footing “The devil always tries to attack the Kingdom… We will fight it on our knees with prayer and fasting. He’s not a perfect man, but God will fight on his behalf”.

B-Long made it clear that he is determined to hold on to the religious empire he built and would the fight four lawsuits alleging he used his position to coerce young male members of his flock into sex acts. In their lawsuits, the young men, all over 16 at the time of the alleged incidents, say that B-Long instructed them to call him “Daddy” and moved to block their relationships with girls by “increased contact and spiritual talk as to the covenant between the Spiritual Son and himself.”

It has been rumored that some in B-Longs circle knew about his conduct but did nothing to warn the defendants. They allege that he “has a pattern and practice of singling out a select group of young male church members and using his authority as Bishop over them to ultimately bring them to the point of engaging in a sexual relationship.”

B-Long is a father of four, married, and has been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and his church has counseled gay members to become straight. Two of the young men say he groomed them for sexual relationships while enrolled in the church’s LongFellows Youth Academy, a program that taught teens about sexual and financial discipline. According to its Web site, it has also held weekly “out of the wilderness” counseling sessions for the “discipleship of men and women struggling with homosexuality.” The other two young men, one of whom attended a satellite church in Charlotte, N.C., have made similar claims. The men say they were 17 or 18 when the relationships began. Federal and state authorities have declined to investigate because Georgia’s age of consent is 16.

These four men, in their civil lawsuits, tell remarkably similar stories. They say that Long took a special interest in some of the young men who attended his church in Atlanta and a satellite church in Charlotte. They say he took them separately on trips to such destinations as Kenya, South Africa and New Zealand when they were teenagers -- but above the age of consent in Georgia, which is 16. David-Goliath, really, I think B-Long’s got that backward.

For years, B-Long has been either beloved or bemoaned for his glitzy lifestyle and politically connected mega-church. It has TV ministries, a fitness center, a school, and a program for the homeless and addicted. In 2004, Long and Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., led a march in downtown Atlanta calling for a “return to family values in the African American community” and opposing same-sex relationships, while demanding health-care and education reform. Long was a supporter of President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives.

B-Long became one of the country’s most powerful independent church leaders over the last 20 years, turning a suburban Atlanta congregation of 150 to a 25,000 member powerhouse with a $50 million cathedral. I’m sure as a result B-Long felt he, too, should be prosperous. In 2005, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published tax records from the church showing that, from 1997 to 2000; B-Long had accepted $3 million in salary, housing and other perks from a charity he controlled. He told the newspaper: “We’re not just a church, we’re an international corporation. We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I deal with the White House. . . . I pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation.”

Now my questions: What if it ends up being true? Has it tarnished the good work it is said that he has done? Or does this scandal, such as the cases of child sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church and the revelations that Ted Haggard, the former leader of the National Evangelical Association, allegedly engaged in sex acts with a male prostitute, prove that he is a hypocrite. I was disappointed for this reason, from what I saw I did not see a man that was innocent.

He said this is not him. Well who is Eddie Long? The upstanding father of four who came to the pulpit hand-in-hand with his wife and denounced but did not deny the allegations against him? Or the manipulative sexual con artist who, according to his four accusers, does not remotely practice what he preaches? Saint or sinner, preacher or hustler, or maybe he’s just on the “Down Low”.

Nonetheless, there were almost no sign Sunday that his flock wanted to turn him away. However, it was reported that one young man during the second service in a blue shirt stood up and shouted: “We want to know the truth, man!” He was quickly escorted out and did not return. As for B-Long he said, “I love you, New Birth… I’m not leaving you if you don’t leave me.” When he finished, the sanctuary roared with applause as B-Long dropped the microphone, took his wife Vanessa’s hand and left the stage. I hope that we will believe in God and not the goods, as that is where our salvation comes.

Stay Tuned!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Happened to the BLACK FAMILY? CONTINUED…

A few weeks ago, I posted the first part of this commentary where I provided excerpts from some research papers submitted by a group of students I once taught. As powerful as the dozen points listed where they did not fully address, what I believe is the real issue and that is the root cause is mental conditioning. I believe that this conditioning was handed down from America’s forefathers. Black men MUST step up and be the head of the family, which is a necessary component to the whole concept family. Moreover, he must be allowed to guide, direct, and lead. Therefore, lets step into “the now” and realize that we are (ourselves) huge contributors to the demise.

I think we can all agree that there is no one, 5, or 12 reasons but there is one more significant and should be at the top of the list. The dynamics between black men and women, full of anger and resentment, continue to weaken our families. Of course, the centuries of mistreatment has had a lethal impact on the health of our people, and it would take books and books to list everything that we've survived. I don’t need to retell the story; we all know that since 1619 Black people have been in this land, now the USA, for centuries as indentured servants, property, 2nd class "citizens", the list goes on.

Generational transference of tactics from slavery that indirectly taught our children to suppress or minimize personality traits not conducive to survival in a society aimed at their destruction. Traits like compromise, trust, acceptance, conflict resolution, pride in accomplishment is communally absent. During slavery, we were taught thru examples of violence to downplay our children's accomplishments for fear of calling attention to them and thus making them a target for racial discrimination. For example knowing how to read was shrouded in secrecy, which had validity to some degree and a dramatic effect on self-confidence that we are still paying the price for today.

We have created a form of mental slavery whereby reason is of the abstract. We know slavery was horrible but we are taught and perpetuate everyday in subtle and not so subtle ways that somehow slavery was not as horrible as the conditions we now face. They say segregation has ended, which means the horrors of Black Wall Street, American before Brown v Board of Education, Rosewood and frankly, anywhere south of Canada caused a separation of unity within the family unit. Let me be clear, integration was necessary to short circuit the INSTITUTIONALIZED system of “separate but equal” but it diluted the focus on economic independence in our communities. Therefore, the unintended consequence of this was to further separate our people.

Cognitive dissonance is the root of all of this, in my opinion. This conflict with reality and what we are taught causes far reaching mental and emotional issues that we do not deal with as a country. We fight, blame and mistrust each other because of this nor do we focus on the true issues. We don't fight for proper condolences, recognition or respect for those who died and fought for our rights to be "human" in America. It is obvious because we can see the impact and the symptoms as we point the collective finger at each other when the big pink elephant of our denial is in the room.
The end of this has to start with the complete acceptance of the facts and until we are all ready to look to each other and seek viable resolutions. The solution will continue to elude us. I attribute this to the extreme stresses of an oppressive social system that keeps large numbers of people in poverty or near-poverty conditions, and to the widespread ghetto mentality, which all stem from trying to cope with those oppressive living conditions.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you are one who believes black families are "broken"; implying that they weren't before. We then have to first identify the time(s) when these families were "whole". Was it during slavery, when a child could be ripped from its mother's arms and sold to another owner in the same manner as dairy calves and their mothers? Was it during the era of lynching, when a successful business owner could be dragged from his home and hung from a tree, leaving behind a family? Perhaps it was soon after desegregation, when Blacks were no longer forced to support the local black-owned business in the community and could shop at the better, whiter stores, so long as it wasn't their shop that went under with the exodus of patronage?

Segregation was really an impetus to support Black communities (schools, residences, economies, etc.). Once Blacks were no longer forced to support each other…we didn't; and why should we? Blackness was/is considered other, ugly, and less than, something one did not willingly associate with. It's no coincidence that the mantras "Black is beautiful" and “I'm Black and Proud” were coined soon segregation ended. We needed to be convinced that we were indeed beautiful and worthy of pride, and continue to be.
I also want to say, since the Civil Rights movement, the only tie left that connects black folks to each other are our collective experiences with present-day racism.

The very thing that plagues us is the one thing that we can all still identify with on some level. We don't listen to each other long enough to determine or recognize what is necessary for us to survive. We base our perception on what our peers and mass media says as opposed to the issues concerning our collective salvation. In an ideal world, Blacks shouldn't be forced to, or even need to "stick together" to make our families stable, loving, and satisfying. But we've been broken down, systematically, as an entire race, so I believe we have to build ourselves back up as an entire race.

At the end of the day, regardless of how we choose to identify ourselves, we are not afforded all of the privileges to which we are entitled in this country simply because it is the color of our skin, which is used as the power to divide and compartmentalize people. Therefore, it requires action from the person you see in the mirror to understand that it requires responsibility and unity to do what our forefathers did, which was to continue the species.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Absurd Antics of Yosemite Sam

I’ve watched this sad saga of insanity that has played out, in the name of “so called religion”, down in Gainesville, Fla. that can only be described as mean and surly. This so called pastor with the handlebar mustache, who reminds me of the cartoon character Yosemite Sam, may or not go forward with his plan to burn the Koran on September 11th. I suppose only he and/or His God knows for sure. This madness has caused international outrage that extent from Ocean to Ocean reverberating around the world as a result of his posturing in front of this building he calls a church, and I use that loosely.

This group, maybe even a cult, boasts a membership of less than fifty members. It’s not clear what goes on inside prior to the repeated posturing. I can only guess what is being taught behind the glass doors that are covered with dark fabric, but we have seen the likes of Jones's son Luke who occasionally steps outside to give distorted interviews, as if he was sent from on high. Other church members like Stephanie Sapp has come out wearing shiny black heels, tight jeans, purple polish on her toes and a gun in a holster on her hip. Others in the church have displayed weapons at recent news events.

These folks have made local news before for posting signs saying "Islam is of the Devil." Children of church members appeared in public schools last year wearing the slogan on T-shirts. The group’s leader has a checkered past with many unchristian encounters. He once ran a church in Germany, to which Emma Jones, the pastor's daughter, told the Gainesville Sun that her father and his wife left Cologne after being confronted by church members about financial abuse, including using church money to purchase a car for their son.

Jones runs a eBay furniture business housed on the nonprofit church's property that was investigated earlier this year after "somebody called in and complained" that a for-profit business was being run there, said Sheila Crapo, administrative analyst for the Alachua County property appraiser's office.

Jones graduated from Cape Central High School in Cape Girardeau, Mo., in 1969. A classmate of Rush Limbaugh, which might explain some of his demons, although he says he believes in salvation, in Jesus Christ, and has a personal experience with him. If true, I wonder what Jesus thinks of him as a result of this sad commentary. At best, a Zealot and at worst a Bigot.

The Rev. Earl D. Trent Jr., a Real Pastor from DC, wrote to the editor of the Washington Post with remarks that I think is appropriate. “For the past few weeks, the media have treated us to live theater of the absurd… He belongs to no denomination, has held no regional or national office for any church organization and has never held an academic position at a seminary or Bible college. His only book is self-published. Yet, because of a single posting on Facebook, he is treated as a major spokesman and representative of the Christian faith by every news organization on the planet. Heads of State, Military Commanders, Diplomats and even the Vatican have responded to a man whose credibility is no more than that of a person walking the street with a sign saying "Repent: The world is coming to an end." On second thought, the world of credible sourcing and journalism standards has come to an end.”

Don’t misinterpret my words as preaching: I have said, via Thought Provoking Perspectives many times, in order to live and walk in faith we must be mindful that everyone who say the word “God” may not necessarily be his messenger. Americans believe that we are one nation under God, regardless of which God you chose, but we are one nation.



Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Happened to the BLACK FAMILY?

A few years ago I taught a college course called the Psychology of the Black Family. Recently, I was looking through some of the term papers from that class to which I became enthralled by the content. The assignment: each student was asked to write a term paper on “The Breakdown of the African American Family”. As I read through some of the thirty or so papers I found several very significant points and a common theme throughout the papers. I decided to capture some of the key points from those research papers to share with you.

I know this “Thought Provoking Perspective” may cause some controversy and maybe some hate mail. Nonetheless, my intent is to, maybe, create some dialog within our consciousness as to why the black family, our community, and black people are the least likely to work together as a solid unit to the benefit of each other as other ethnic groups do.

During slavery, and from the 1800's through the 1980's, the concept of family was tight knit, strongly woven, and the envy of most cultures. The African American family unit survived in spite of unimaginable cruelty and adversity. It is only recently, during the last thirty years, that the African American family became dysfunctional and lost its direction. One has to think for some twisted reason we do not feel whole because in many cases we allow others define us.

One of the students expressed that she thinks the different social pressures on black men and women have contributed to the weak traditional family structure. Black women have been able to achieve more economic and educational success than black men, leading to them being higher wage earners. This inequality has eroded black women's reliance on men and their willingness to compromise on their needs or expectations, which in turn has led to resentment and disappointment on both sides.

Black women raise children, too often alone, and the bitterness that difficult task creates causes some women to make derogatory complaints against men in general, tainting their daughters and shaming their sons. Also, it seems that black women do not often hold their sons to as high a standard as their daughters, making them further vulnerable. If proper behavior is not modeled for young people, they have difficulty fulfilling those expectations. This creates the perfect ingredients for the dismal situations to occur in our community. She went on to add that a lot of that has to do with our values, and the lack of knowing the importance of loving our communities, our families, and ourselves.

These are 12 key factors expressed from the student’s outstanding research papers:
1. The Vietnam War: Hundreds of thousands of strong, intelligent, hardworking black men were shipped abroad to be murdered, returned home shell shocked, severely damaged, or addicted. Many of which were unable to get back on track after returning from war because the government abandoned them.

2. COINTELPRO: The covert actions of J. Edgar Hoover in the wake of the Civil Rights Era and the Black Power Movements all but insured that anyone speaking out against the governments wrong doings would receive either long prison sentences or bullets. This fear silenced our forward progression, fueling distrust, and removing many of our leaders as well as potential future leaders.

3. The Assassinations of the 1960’s: Left a huge void in leadership that has yet to be filled, particularly within the Civil Rights Movement to include within the community. Instead, a universal acceptance of the pimp/hustler image in popular culture that presented alternative heroes to black youth, which resonant in the form of Gangster Rap. This genre leads to the glorification of the criminal element amidst immature minds that lack familial structure. In addition to black on black crime and staying silent while black youth are murdered by other black youth.

4. The Feminist Movement: Backed by liberal white women to fight for the equal rights of women; the same rights most black men had yet to fully be granted. A lot of black women got lost in the rhetoric of how men were keeping them down, losing sight of the fact that black men were down there with them. To this day, the power exchange and infighting among black men and women, is sadly considered the norm, a tool enumerated by Willie Lynch.

5. Oliver North & the Contras: The volume of drugs, mainly crack cocaine that flooded the black community during the 80 to which most of the drugs came in on U.S. ships with the support of the Government. The CRACK era escalated death and incarceration rates, unwanted pregnancies, neighborhood prostitution and a culture of violence. Folks were selling their kids to hit the pipe, and selling their souls to sell what went in that pipe. This epidemic destroyed our community in ways slavery could never have done. This form of contemporary was the cruelest type of slavery imposed upon our communities.

6. Mass media brainwashing & mind control: The influences of propaganda and distorted images of beauty and male/female roles. Shows like Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, Dynasty, Different Strokes, and the Jeffersons for example. The American conscious during the 80's was money driven. Materialism became the idea that stuff defines you and others.

7. Education: The lack of proper education, financing support, and knowledge being taught by African American professionals. In addition our leaders and academics failed us as they fled the hood in droves for the suburbs during those crazy 80's. Prior to this period, kids saw on a daily basis married couples that looked like them, even if they didn’t live in their households. Yet the great migration to greener pastures left a void in the community leaving it to be filled by the image of the hustler-pimp-thug, ruthlessness, and violence.

8. Communication: This speaks to education of self and listening to the wrong messengers. The communication of values - parents became unavailable to hand down family legacies, traditions and value systems. We're like POW's locked in the same building for 20 years, unable to converse thru cement walls confined by our personas, egos, insecurities, isms etc.

9. The Black Church: Many churches have lost their way. The business of religion is bankrupting our communities. Many churches are not touching the lives of those outside of the church most in need. Just like back in the day when it was the design of slave masters, who did so much wickedness to use this as a tactic by offering a bible and in most instances nothing more than pain and a promise of a better life to keep us in line. This is not the same as faith which was necessary to survive our struggles.

10. Urbanization - work and home were once connected. Parents were near their families and children understood work as a way of life. Urbanization helped create “latch key" kids and images of hard work disappeared while replacing it with material objects.

11. Social Services: The advent of the system of welfare that demanded the absence of the influence of the black man in the home. Before Claudine during the early 50's welfare was a Midwestern farmer hook up and back then you HAD to be a complete family to apply. So the laws for welfare changed in the inner-city while many in the farm lands of Mid America started to change in culture to fit the application for welfare. For decades to follow, trillions of dollars in government spending on ineffective social programs in our cities have not by enlarge benefited the mobility of the family.

12. Segregation: Jim Crow Laws and Black Codes that prevented legal marriages, dehumanized people, and discriminatory practices in work/education left many African Americans unable to access resources necessary to build strong family bases causing disillusioned men/husbands/fathers to abandonment rather than face daily reminder of their "failure".

In the next post I will provide my “Thought Provoking Perspective” concerning the topic. Don’t miss it. You are welcome to add your comments, views, and perspectives.


Just a Season

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Game Knows Game

Hi. My name is Glenn B. I'm an Alcoholic, and confused. This may have been a more appropriate greeting as he walked to the podium at the rally Saturday. However, I will say he was honest enough to say, "You know, we all have our inner demons. I, for one -- I can't speak for you, but I'm on the verge of moral collapse at any time. It can happen by the end of the show."

He was right it was a show much like an old-time revival, viewed by some as a resurrection. It fact, it was more like the merging of the right-wing “Christian Conservative” movement with other conservative ideological groups who are feuding within the Grand Ol Party. God and country was the theme, which always works. Throw in some Mom and apple pie, and you've got a picnic of patriotism and worship. Less we not forget adding Caribou Barbie was the icing on the cake - God Bless America.

History tells us that in times of despair people reach for God. So the question is: who’s God? Beck’s God, Billy Graham’s God, Martin Luther King’s God, your God or my God. Let’s just say, if you believe in someone or something greater that yourself, unlike the rally’s host. Do you really believe that your higher power channels through this guy? I suppose, whatever they were honoring was necessary because there is evil and darkness in the land. Creeping communism brought to us by President you-know-who. Conspiracy theories and paranoia abound, be afraid people be very afraid was the rallying cry.

Sister Sarah preached "We don't want to transform America… We just want to restore America." Was she saying restoring the country back to the time of segregation? Beck would say, that time was before the "progressive movement" began to destroy the country, which was surely in that era, about a hundred years ago. Or maybe further back, as far back as post-Reconstruction. If this is the case, the rally was a giant step in the direction of all but recasting civil rights as a thing of the past, or at least the King message, by standing on the spot where he gave his speech 47 years ago to the day.

They, the faithful, came, they saw, and with the one or two Black faces onstage with Beck, they left "colorblind" feeling as if they have a greater claim to King's legacy. Well, that was just what the rally was intended to do; scaring white folk with end-time tunes about "reverse racism." The frightened believers will then blame who else but the man they view as the “Prince of Darkness”.

Let’s compare this to Biblical times when people prayed and waited for a savor to appear. In Beck mind, it was him and he brought a message from God to "chart a course to a new world". Never mind that it sounds eerily similar to the "one world" satanic kingdom that he often accuses President Obama of trying to create. It is important to note that this Beck, a self admitted alcoholic with a history of alcoholism and addiction, who makes no secret of his past, would cause a reasonable person to question his judgment or perception depending upon the damage caused by his admission.

With a message of self-help, fortified by a hefty dose of patriotism garbed in religious imagery; it was almost believable, but within twenty-four hours he was back to dismissing President Obama's religious views. "People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity," Beck told Fox News' Chris Wallace on Sunday. This would be insulting from any leader, but it is particularly audacious coming from Beck, whose own faith -- Mormonism -- is viewed as a cult by some Christian leaders.

So it came to pass that signs of the end times are near and an apocalypse is on the horizon. The Beckster in Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s clothing warned of the rapture in his own twisted dreams. In what looked to be more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing and certainly Anti-King. He told the crowd that "Something beyond imagination is happening; something that is beyond man is happening”. Where I am from there is a saying “Game knows Game”; so let’s give devil his due.