Sunday, August 28, 2005

WWJD, Part II? Buy a Bentley!


That's what Bishop Eddie Long of Atlanta did with the proceeds from a charity, aptly named for himself. Seemingly indisputable evidence lists Long as the primary recepient of the fund, obtaining at least $3.07 million during a four year period, nearly as much as was given to those in need, according to the AJC.

With the money, Long, a rising star among black religious conservatives and pastor of a 25,000 member megachurch in suburban Atlanta, purchased a $350,000 Bentley and a $1.4 million six-bedroom, nine-bath home, located on 20 acres of land. Of course he's done this in part through taxpayer charity, since, as a church, New Birth Missionary Baptist is tax-exempt. The government won't get a dime of the three million plus Long accrued.

I'm not a religious person, but I spent enough involuntary time in the Baptist church to be quite familiar with the Bible, in particular the teachings of Jesus. You know, that homeless guy so many Christians like to ignore (since his approach doesn't quite jibe with the condemnation and wrath the Falwells of the world prefer).

Wasn't it Jesus who said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God?" Yep, the very same guy who instructed his followers to "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." The very one who fashioned a whip to chase merchants from the temple: "My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers."

Somehow, Long has a different take. "I would love to sit with you and walk with you through the Bible to show that Jesus wasn't poor," he told an AJC reporter. Those verses must be found in the book of Pastor Delusion.

Long is not alone in preaching this warped ideology that rationalizes the unbridled pursuit of prosperity. Here in Atlanta, I know of two megachurch ministers living in million dollar homes (presumably there's many more). The pastor of Atlanta's First Baptist Church used to tool around town in a brand new Mercedes, accompanied by bodyguards. And the children of Dr. Martin Luther King, sadly, have traded on the sacred name of their father in favor of commercial dollars (selling the "I Have a Dream" speech to the highest bidder).

And of course there's the televangelists, standing behind pulpits in crystal cathedrals and traveling to highly paid speaking gigs in private planes. You think Jesus would ever sit in coach?

Beyond the peverse betrayl of their faith, these religious "leaders" are also ripping off taxpayers. The government needs to investigate, but likely won't since this crooked cabal would, in all likelihood, counter with the "religious persecution" card. Their followers already seem to buy that lie, standing behind Long, according to the AJC article. And the bishop claims his congregation is inspired by seeing its pastor do well.

"I'm not going to apologize for anything ..." he says.

To quote Max Van Sydow's character in "Hannah and Her Sisters": "If Jesus saw what people were doing in his name, he'd never stop throwing up." Or maybe He's just sick from drinking one of Pat Robertson's diet shakes.

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