Eddie Long and Civil Rights

Hitchens on "Bishop" Long:


What concerns me isn't even the laughable obviousness of his cupidity: the jewels and gold chains and limos and bodyguards. This is all a familiar part of the tawdry business of "Churchianity" now finding loopholes for the rich and venal at a well-upholstered religious establishment somewhere near you. No, what offends me is that Long was able to get four presidents of the United States to attend his opulent circus for the funeral of Coretta Scott King in 2006. What a steep and awful decline from the mule cart that carried her husband's coffin in 1968. And the decline can be measured out in dog collars, from the Rev. Jesse Jackson all the way down to the Rev. Al Sharpton and the venomous Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Many other charlatans have benefited from the clerical racket, and the most notorious of them--Jerry Falwell, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart--have been white. But there is something especially horrible about the way in which the black pulpit gets a sort of free pass, almost as if white society has assured itself that black Americans just love them some preaching. In this fog of ethnic condescension, it is much easier for mountebanks and demagogues to get away with it...

The day can't be far off when Long follows the traditional script and starts to yowl for prayer and repentance. And this would all be the greatest fun if it didn't also involve the degradation of the King family and the steady erosion of the real memory of the civil rights movement, which is not safe when left in the keeping of God's bigmouths and tree-shakers.

"Yowl" is a great word, but I don't get this at all. Eddie Long's tie to the Civil Rights movement seems to mostly be really thin. From what I can tell, holding a service for King's widow, and joining King's daughter in bigotry toward gays. Leaving aside the fact that Coretta Scott King supported gay marriage, the whole thing feels really vague. 

What, specifically, does it mean to say "the pulpit has been given a free pass?" What is the actual evidence that demagogues in the white church communities are somehow dealt with more harshly than demagogues in the black community? What is the logic that asserts that Eddie Long represents "the steady erosion of the civil rights movement"? Why? Because Eddie Long happens to be black?

The thinking here just feels sloppy.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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