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Monday, September 27, 2010

COMMENTARY: "The Devil Is Sitting On Ready" by Harold Michael Harvey

The Devil Is Sitting On Ready

 

By:  Harold Michael Harvey, Contributing Writer

 

 

           
Let me hasten to say, I am a homo sapiens male engaged in a 29 year heterosexual marriage with a homo sapiens female.  We were married in a church ceremony conducted by a male pastor from the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and a female pastor from the Unity Church.  I'm not certain the ceremony was necessary as each of us had married the other in our heart perhaps three years before we took that noon day vow in the Fall of 1981.

            I thought it best to clear the air before dashing headlong into a soliloquy on the allegations of sexual misconduct recently leveled at Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia and the universal church''s response to homosexuality in its midst.  We start with this confession in part for two reasons. 

First, other posts on this online magazine addressing this topic have been written by men, who as young boys have had unwanted homosexual contact from church and school elders. 

This, thank God, has not been my experience.  I came to the Christian experience on August 28, 1959.  I was roughly two months shy of my eighth birthday.  My Bishop was Peter Randolph Shy, the presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.  He was perhaps the age I am today when we first met.  He was ninety-six years of age in 1995 when he summoned me to his hospital bed and requested that I draw up a Last Will and Testament for him.   His mind was clear as a bell.  He recalled the first time he laid eyes on me at the Mount Zion Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in 1956, just prior to the governing body changing the name of the church.  Somehow I remembered that day too.  I knew I had shaken hands with an extraordinary man dressed in a black suit and white shirt.  In a spiritual sense he never took his hands off me.  He watched me grow up into adulthood and fought for me to become the first youth delegate to the Quadruple Conference of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, which was held in Memphis, Tennessee the Spring of 1970.  He was a Bishop's Bishop, a preacher's preacher, a model for the laity as well as for others wishing to enter the ministry.  He was a man like all other men who have walked the earth, save perhaps, One.  Surely he had his faults, but, neither I nor the public were privy to them.  We fought with him mostly over pastoral appointments.  Always thinking we should have gotten someone other than the person he had assigned.  The day before his transition he asked me to come back to see him again.  Following work that day I drove over to the hospital, he was alone in his room.  I stood over him praying until he open his eyes and greeted me.  "Lawyer, where is your preacher," Bishop Shy queried me in a faint voice.  I was somewhat taken aback by his query and stood speechless.  He repeated himself, and then he met my silence with a beaconing finger. I moved closer. "Lawyer, you are your preacher, keep the faith and put God first in all that you do."  His eyes drifted closed and I left the room with a pledge to return the next day.  He slipped away before I could return. 

Secondly, when I suggested caution in a seemingly uncontrollable rush to prejudge Bishop Long on a Face Book thread several days after news broke that four young men in his mentoring program had alleged sexual misconduct, a young man called me "an old fool."  He further stated he "did not know how you lived so long thinking like you do.  You can go to Hell with Eddie Long."

His barb harkened me back to the mid 1990s when I represented a Muslim merchant who was denied a city permit to bring Minister Louis Farrakhan to speak in a park in an east Atlanta neighborhood to students attending Freaknic. Talk about getting one's fifteen minutes of fame; for two solid weeks I was awakened each morning to the sound of my voice on WGST radio or the voice of a newscaster detailing what my day's activities would be in my efforts to secure a permit for Minister Farrakhan's visit.  One morning my wife woke me up at 6am and asked what would I be doing that day; before I could tell her, a newscaster informed the public that I would be in a hearing appealing the denial of this permit.  I was amazed at the number of people who questioned whether I was a Muslim and mocked me for agreeing with the views of Minister Farrakhan.  By 1996 I had been on the Christian path for 37 years, perhaps far longer than many of my distracters had been in the earth. Yet had anyone cared to ask, no one would have been swayed by the commitment I made during Summer Revival 1959.

Such strong words to be leveled when only one side of the story is known.  Yet this young man's thrust and much of what others posited on social networks throughout the country last week points out the depths of how far we have sunk as a Christian nation.   Much, if not all of this rush to judgment came from the African American community.   I've watched other ethnic groups the past two summers in political discourse act like anything but the Christians they portend to be.  Yet I had thought the African American community was upholding the "Blood Stained Banner" of Christ.

However, other ethnic groups have watched in amazement as members of Bishop Long's community jumped on the side of his accusers, without waiting the five days it took for him to address the matter.  

Who, after all, created this 48 hour rule in public relations to address bad publicity?  Must matters of the Spirit adhere to mortal constraints?  In the Christian Methodist Church on Communion Sunday you can hear the congregation sing:  "He never said a mumbling word, He never said a mumbling word." This song depicts Christ's silence at the accusations hurled his way; points out when it comes to matters of the Spirit one should answer to the Spirit and not say one "mumbling" word to the flesh.

The Complaint alleges Bishop Long abused his "Spiritual Authority" in his relationship with these four men.  One can only reasonably assume that a grant of Spiritual Authority comes from God.  Man, as I understand the Christian Gospel, can not confer Spiritual Authority on the flesh.  I would think this principal is true in all Spiritual thought.  Thus Bishop Long must discuss this issue with his maker while he is yet in the flesh. 

At the same time God has given humankind the authority to manifest rules for the orderly progression of society.  This the State of Georgia has done, thus the rule of law requires a certain procedure for deciding what happens once a civil law suit has been filed.  

A civil suit does not assign guilt or innocence to the parties.  This fact seems to be lost on the horde calling for Bishop Long to abdicate the pulpit.  A civil suit determines whether the defendant had a duty not to cause harm to another, whether there was a breach of that duty and whether there were damages as a result of the breach.  The standard of proof in a civil suit is the preponderance of the evidence.  This is a lesser standard than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard in a criminal case.  A preponderance of the evidence is where, given the evidence, it is more likely than not the defendant violated the standard of care owed to the plaintiffs. 

The plaintiffs first have to prove that the Codal provision they sued under has jurisdiction over Spiritual Authority.  Once getting over this bar, the plaintiffs must establish Bishop Long was negligent in the exercise of his Spiritual Authority.  Then the plaintiffs must prove they were harmed as a result of some negligence on the part of Bishop Long. 

On first blush it would appear the plaintiffs can easily prove damages.  However a careful reading of the Complaints show they are silent on any mental health treatment any of the plaintiffs have incurred because of any mental trauma associated with the alleged sexual contact with Bishop Long.

Thus I was not surprised to see Bishop Long pledge to fight the plaintiffs in court, while at the same time making his personal confession to his Spiritual Authority.

While the Church is confused and in disarray over "he said/ he did the unthinkable to me", the Devil is in the vestibule sitting on ready.

What then can be said about the church universal's approach to homosexuality in the body of Christ?  From what I have observed, homosexuals are tolerated in most churches, which is a far cry from acceptance.  When I was a child most homosexuals were in, as they say the "closet." I was not aware that there were any homosexuals in my church as a teenager.  Surely there must have been some who feared ostracism from the church and society if their secret became known. 

Although not blessed with a good voice, as a young man I sought to sing in the church choir.  When a gay member of the choir attempted to take me aside for special voice lessons, several women who knew what his proclivities were scorned him and told him in no uncertain terms that it was okay for him to engage in his lifestyle outside of the church, but he was not to attempt to recruit the men of the church.  They then followed up with me and told me how embarrassed for me they had been and how proud of me that I did not embarrass him in any faction by pretending that his advances were not in fact advances.  This is how many churches in the past treated the homosexual congregant.   I didn't call him out.  I pretended he was only interested in providing voice lessons.  The attitude of the church can be summed up thusly:  We know what you are.  We don't care what you do outside the church.  But we do not condone what you are.

Then I had a preacher who went on what we would call today a  "homophobic rant".  Several Sundays in a row he called not for the homosexual element to repent, but to leave the church.  The assault was so strong I felt as uncomfortable for the object of his sermons as I had felt the night the male choir member made his advances.  Ironically, the preacher's son, who at the time of the rants was perhaps the age I was when I joined the Church, later took a baseball bat to a man who made homosexual advances towards him. How much of that behavior was a product of the sermons he had heard as a small child, I have often wondered in the years since this happened.

I do not believe homosexuals can expect to find acceptance in the traditional Christian Church and will have to form their own congregations to be able to worship in peace and with the feeling of acceptance each congregant comes to expect to feel in the place they worship.

This all leads us back to Bishop Long's address to his 25,000 strong congregation at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.  While others outside of the congregation urged him to step down, his flock said fight.  There is more at stake in this issue than the reputation of one man.  There is the mental health of four young men who have alleged Bishop Long has engaged in sexual conduct with them, there is the mental health of 25,000 people who have pledged their fidelity to Bishop Long, there are the outreach ministries of the church which are significant and then there is the prime interest:  The body of Christ must be exalted.  "We war not," the scriptures warn, "against powers and principalities, but against a dark Spirit."

Thus a civil complaint which sounds in the flesh gives new birth to the devil who is sitting on ready waiting for the doors of the church to open.


Harold Michael Harvey is the author of the novel PAPER PUZZLE. You can find out more information about him and his literary works at www.paperpuzzle.net.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed here are the thoughts and feelings of the author of the article and are not necessarily those of Shadow Play Entertainment or Conversations Magazine.

10 comments:

  1. Mr Harvey, I am in total agreement with your editorial and I'll leave this for all to ponder " YOU CAN'T MAKE AN EDUCATED JUDGEMENT WITHOUT ALL THE FACTS."


    Alabama State University

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  2. "Only the mediocre are always at their best.”
    Jean Giraudoux

    exceptional people have exceptional temptation
    which is to say
    that whether true or not
    people should also show exceptional compassion
    as Christ also did.
    -fred-

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  3. Follow the money! A church of 20,000 has assets and so does its Senior Bishop! What we have is a he said/they said situation! How can Bishop Long prove his innocences or how can the 4 prove his guilt. I have seen a number of these types of accusations defeated when the accused provided a detailed record including dates and times of his or hers activities during the period when the incidents were alleged to have occurred. These details were filed with the court and sealed. The accusers were then required to provide dates and times when the incidents occurred. When these dates conflicted with the sealed itinerary on file with the court, the case blew up. It was shown that there was no occasion for the alleged incidents to have taken place.

    Of course, I do not know the facts, but a number of these types of accusations have been made against innocent people to both discredit and to fleece money. If they are true, Bishop Long should have been charged criminally, tried, and punished. Why the civil case? As Attorney Harvey has stated, the burden of proof for the Plaintiff is lighter and I say money is involved. Need I say more?

    By @Lmack49

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  4. Harold...good editorial! I am lifted up and enlightened by your views in this article! Nothing will surprise me as this wind blows out of control! I have friends and one family member who is homosexual, and I would like nothing more for them to find out one day that it was the wrong thing to do, or just an experiment! It is wrong, no matter how some people try to twist the scriptures! It is wrong for 2 people of the same sex to get married. Wrong is Wrong! And for this reason only, do I wish they had stayed in the closet! Some people say adultery and fornication is wrong also, but we don't condemn these sinners the way we condemn gays! My take on that is that there use to be a time when someone was sleeping with a married man or woman, they tried to hide ie from society and from that's person's spouse! Now people don't care if the husband or wife knows that you're having an affair with their spouse. They boast and brag about it and often will get crazy with the other person and boldly confront them. Now they have more nerve and are just crazy! You going to confront me about my husband! Fornicators also use to be ashamed of having someone find out that there were engaged in sexual activity and not married. Now it makes no difference to them! All of these things are "Signs of the times." Regretfully! But...I cannot live other people's lives for them, so I hate the Sin and love the Sinner! I previously have said that whereas God gave man dominion and rule over all other living things...he gave us the mind and sense to think, teach, learn, to be intelligent human beings, to have emotions. No other species have most of these capabilities! Yet, it is man who lies down and have sex with another human being of the same sex! My argument was that you don't see 2 male cats , 2 female cats or 2 dogs of the same sex having sex together. Low and behold I was wrong! They are documented cases of animals being gay! A lesson for me! Judging is not my calling! I have one other thing to say in regards to Bishop Long! NOTHING ABOUT THE OUTCOME OF THIS SCANDAL WILL SURPRISE ME! I'm not about putting human beings on pedestals, because I don't want to have to look down on them or at them...should they fall off!

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  5. Thank you Attorney Harvey for sharing your perception about this unfortunate scenario in reference to the Bishop Eddie Long pending litigation. I sincerley appreciate you educating us, the public, on the legal aspects/possibilities, as well as the Spiritual side of the matter. Obviously, you have some life experiences and knowledge in the areas of concern with others. I was taught by my parents, both Doctorates of Divinity, Professors of Theology and Pastors for many years that you hate the sin but you love the sinner. In essence, I personally do not believe in the homosexual lifestyle because of what the bible teaches us about it. However, I don't hate the person living in that lifestyle. I'm sure that I'd be correct in saying that most of us either have family members, friends, colleagues or know someone living the lifestyle. What really concerns me more than ever is the person "on the down low" who is married and dealing with both male and female. Prior to getting married a few years ago, as a single woman residing in the Atlanta metro area that was a great concern because of the unfortunate dishonesty of some men. However, I had to pray and trust in the Lord as never before to allow the right man to come into my life that would not be in that realm.

    My heart and spirit, as you know, has been grieved over this entire scenario regarding the allegations and pending litigation against Bishop Eddie Long. For the record, I am not a member nor have I ever been a member of New Birth but I've known many friends and family members who have been members. I'm just looking from the outside as a child of God saying to myself, "what is the world thinking about what's going on in the church world?" I believe there are only 6 people that know the truth about this matter and that's the four litigants, Bishop Long and God almighty. Whether we'll ever know the entire truth and facts thereof, I don't know. Sadly, there are no winners in this scenario. My prayers are that the body of Christ is not destroyed over this matter. I've been praying daily for ALL parties and interceding that God will provide deliverance and inner healing of the mind, body and souls of the parties in question. I pray that this matter is tried in the courts expeditiously so that all parties can move on with their respective lives and begin the healing process.

    We are living in perilous times and these are the last and evil days. Somehow I am confident in knowing that God will get the victory and glory out of such a dark event. He is a loving and forgiving God and so should all of his children exemplify this same trait. That is why I look to the hills from whence cometh my help for my help cometh from the Lord. I don't put my eyes/trust in man or woman because they/we are human and can fall. If that should happen, we have to be careful not to fall right along with them or as a result of their alleged behavior. Once again, thank you for an excellent job in writing this article and providing us with your personal opinion of which I wholeheartedly agree. God bless you!!!

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  6. I have seen similar cases brought up against pentecostal priests in my own district over the years and it always results in a split within the congregation no matter how small it is. Isn't it odd though that so many people talk about the evils of pedophilia yet view anybody working towards prevention with suspicion? There are groups, church-based and otherwise, that are working with individuals to try to prevent this destructive behavior with little in the way of support by the community. Instead of so many churches focusing on "removing the evils of homosexuality", they should turn towards preventing breaking the cycle of abuse. Save a victim and you prevent an offender.
    I don't know the specifics of the case, but I can only hope that the man is innocent. And if he isn't, that he gets the psychological support that he needs. As a victim of pedophilia myself, I have made my peace with the crime. I know longer hold any anger towards the individual that did it, but I am saddened that he never got the treatment he needed in his youth to prevent these acts.
    As for homosexuality, it is one of those topics that will remain a major issue between congregants for decades to come. However, we can move towards not isolating these individuals by not discrediting them unjustly. Praise a person on their merits not their imagined faults or stereotypes. Most would see this as a no brainer, but it so often falls down in the execution.

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  7. Mr.Harvey I agree with you and I have a question,If these young man were all adults
    did Bishop long commit a crime? If Bishop Long would of said I am gay and yes I had sex with those young man, would it be a crime?

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  8. I read my friend Michael Harvey’s comments with great interest. And Michael, I must tell you have been divided, not on the issue, but as to my response. I questioned whether I should respond and as to how measured I should be in my response. I stopped to ask God’s wise counsel before proceeding further.

    I agree with Michael, the devil is sitting ready to see what we will do because this is as much a referendum on the Christian community as it is a referendum on what Bishop Long may or may not have done. I don’t know what private demons were or are at war within him, nor am I in a position to know…only God knows and as a spiritual matter, this is as it should be. With regard to his actions within the church, that is a church matter for the church to decide as God leads and their conscious dictates. With regard to any legal damages, that is a matter for the secular courts, not the court of public opinion. So what does that leave me to say on the subject?

    Only this: I am a sinner saved by the grace of God. As such, I am striving to take hold of all that for which Christ took hold of me. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on. (Philippians 3:12) Although I am filled with the spirit of God, I still have a flesh nature that is at constant war with my spirit. (Galatians 5:17) As a result, I fall daily and daily approach the throne of mercy asking for forgiveness. God is so merciful as to pick me up and minster to me through his word and the encouragement of other Christians. As a result I press on to the mark. What I do, I do not do because I am good, but I do it because of the goodness of the Holy Spirit within me.

    I thank God for the good Samaritans who travel the same road, who when they see a brother or sister, or even one who is not of their fold, faith or belief, they pick him up and minister to them rather than stepping over him and judging. Not only is Bishop Long a church leader, he is also a church member and a fellow traveler…always standing in need of prayer.

    As Christians, are our hands too filled with stones to pick this man up and minister to him? Are our mouths too filled with words of condemnation to speak of God’s truth in love and words of Christian encouragement to him? Are our hearts too filled with pride in our own perceived moral perfection to recognize that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God and but for grace and mercy we would remain fallen on the road to Jericho.

    Fallen, stripped, and beat down, the good Samaritan did not see a man half dead as the scriptures report, he saw a fellow traveler half alive, tended to his wounds, took him to an inn where he could be “hospitalized,” and continued on his journey. (Churches are those spiritual hospitals. Amen?)

    A priest and Levite, in their moral perfection, passed this man by, but the good Samaritan pitied him and demonstrating love --picked him up.

    “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." Luke 10:36-37

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  9. Thank you Mr.Harvey, for addressing this issue from a legal standpoint. I often wonder if people remember, that we are not placed here to be judgemental upon one another. Jesus died on the cross because we are all earthly sinners; no one is without sin.

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  10. 1 Cor 6:9-20
    9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
    10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

    12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

    14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. 15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

    16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. 17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

    18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

    19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. KJV

    Dear Michael,

    I think your deft circumlocution of the issue of homosexuality was artful. I did enjoy your thoughts. Laying aside all accusation against the preacher, for I certainly do not know the truth in that matter, I note that you did not condemn the deleterious effects of untoward behaviors in and about the church both on the Church as the Body of Christ and on the members. Not only is my body and yours the temple of the Holy Ghost but the Church was purchased with Christ’s own blood (Acts 20:28)! As a minister of the Gospel I must never cause a “spot or wrinkle.”(Eph 5:27) We are members of His body. (Eph 5:30) Never should I bring reproach on His Body whether I am a minister or a member of the Body. There is no equivocation in Paul’s letters; homosexuality is a sin that must not be practiced in or out of the church by those calling themselves Christian. Note in 1 Corinthians 6:11 Paul states that some were such (homosexuals) but had been cleansed and cannot continue in that sin. Christ died for homosexuals (and for all of us who sin) to wash away our sins and to free us from the bondage of sin. This is not meant to allow us to continue in sin; “God forbid” as Paul put it!

    I remain,

    Your devoted brother in Christ,

    David Israel

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