Lock Up Your Sons and Wallets: Eddie Long Calls For Men to Join Him for Monday Night Prayer Meetings
Hold your Holy Ghost fire. In a video message posted online earlier this week Bishop Eddie Long says that God has “mandated” him to gather men together three times a year to ”pray for this nation at such a time as this” from 10 PM until 12:30 AM.
He also requests that men who plan on being in attendance “bring an offering worthy of the Lord.”
I don’t think that he means flowers.
It does mean that he wants to feel the energy of men around him and focused towards him. I don’t think that he means just grey-haired men, either. I’m sure that he’s limited his dealings with the Long Fellows academicians and his young favorites since the revelations broke last fall, either permanently or for the time being. He must really miss being the center of men’s admiration. This way, with these prayer meetings, he probably thinks he can vicariously enjoy the company of men without inviting comment, but comment has been made anyway, and in some cases, rather salaciously. Long family life must be pretty empty these days; in some quarters, his second wife, Vanessa, is considered just as rapacious, acquisitive, grasping and only there for the bucks as he is. I don’t think they get around much; if they do, it’s on the quiet. But that’s not what I really want to talk about.
I mean, it’s not a bad thing by itself–having a prayer function. We Buddhists have weekly tosos (or prayers) each week for whatever purpose, including world peace. However, we don’t ask for offerings at every meeting. That’s a private matter, and it is voluntary, although offerings are encouraged at one special time in the calendar. With regards to this particular man having a prayer service, though, my antennae went up. But why just men? (Women helped to build and to lead this country, too.) And why the insistence on bringing an offering?
Let’s turn this around. Say that you are a minister, and you felt moved to gather people together for a special prayer service for this country. If the emphasis was truly on prayer, you don’t ask people for anything up front in a video. Once the men are gathered, and if they are feeling uplifted or inspired, refreshed or feeling focused, body and mind, on the divine, then you pass the basket near the close. They who are feeling thankful or strengthened to fight on for another day or another week because of how you led them and helped to direct their prayers will contribute. The offerings would definitely come from one heart to another heart.
It’s almost like you are asking them to pay you to pray at your house (New Birth), when frankly, congregants can pray anywhere because the Universe is listening. Always. Furthermore, this video tells me that the emphasis of this series of prayer meetings is not necessarily on prayer, but fundraising. That ATM machine at New Birth must be accumulating dust from non-use.
New Birth won’t return to the Dome because of “economic conditions,” said Jason Kirksey, a Georgia Dome spokesman, who couldn’t provide further details. However, Kirksey said the church had engaged in talks about holding an Easter service there.
The Georgia Dome website actually lists a New Birth Easter service for April 24, which Kirksey said should have been taken down. The spokesman couldn’t say whether there was a New Birth booking at any point for this Easter.
New Birth, in a statement released by the church, offered the following: “It’s been three years since New Birth has held Resurrection Services at the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta. New Birth resumed its Resurrection Services at the New Birth Cathedral in Lithonia, in April of 2009, due to the state of the economy. Services will remain at the New Birth Cathedral this year with sunrise service at 6 a.m., followed by two services at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.”
The church statement said its 2011 Resurrection Celebration “Rise Up” will offer a community outreach ministry, which includes a job fair, free health and dental screenings, and feeding and clothing the homeless.
Now this is a switch, especially since New Birth’s previous Easter celebrations at the Dome were massive, drawing tens of thousands of Atlanta area worshippers from New Birth and other black churches. Plus the celebration also attracted entertainers like singer-actress Jennifer Hudson and hip-hop artists like T.I.–even while he was in jail–to the stage. All of this allowed Eddie Long to bask in his reflected glory, popularity and power, a power that was less and less about J.C., and more about himself. And frankly, Long’s prosperity gospel was never about economic (as well as social) justice.
Now, finally, the focus has had to return to the congregants, and what temporal, as well as spiritual needs they have. Especially since Long bears responsibility for their comedowns. No doubt, the job fair, the screenings, and feeding the homeless is going to be good PR for the beleaguered bishop, but it’s mighty late in the day.
Mighty late in the day, and not quite enough in repaying and apologizing to his flock, each of whom must have the forbearance of Job.
I really do wonder about the state of New Birth’s–and of Long’s–financial footing in light of all of these scandals and reverses. How have contributions to the church dried up in light of the congregants losing life savings and homes because Long’s bringing the shysters into the temple, and because of continuing unemployment in the Atlanta area? And Long himself–no financial wizard–may have suffered some other reverses in his own portfolio. We’re not going to know any time soon, that’s for sure, but as I said before, it really is interesting that Long is pointedly asking for offerings at a special prayer service. A much humbler (and wiser) man wouldn’t have dared.