(Weekly Column)

Virulently homophobic mega-church pastor, Bishop Eddie Long, stands accused of coercing four young men at his church to have sex with him, while lavishing these victims with money, vacations and cars. An adherent of the “prosperity gospel”, we now know that Long was sincere when he preached that all one had to do to gain material blessings was get on bended hand and knee and summit to His will.

In fairness to Long, this case still has to be tried in a court of law and it remains possible that he is innocent of the lurid charges. Every day, good people are accused of crimes they did not commit. Opportunists try to take advantage of rich and powerful people for financial gain or for notoriety in the age of reality television.

So, it would be premature to say that Long is a hypocritical scoundrel who abused his pastoral authority to gain access to sex and used anti-gay rhetoric to obscure his own homosexuality.

However, Long’s rambling Sunday sermon addressing the salacious allegations did not help his cause. It appeared that he penned the precise speech one would write if he were guilty and trying to parse words to keep power, while avoiding legal trouble.

Prior to the speech, Long was already appearing quite gay. Sexy photos of the allegedly conservative pastor were released where he stood in front of a mirror posing and preening in what appears to be tight spandex clothing. The overly muscle-bound preacher looked like a cartoonish hybrid of Barry Bonds and Richard Simmons.

Anyone who took a cursory glance at these photos had to wonder if Long’s muscles were as phony as his heterosexuality. Is there anything real about this flashy preacher who presides over 25,000-strong New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Georgia, and is courted by America’s leading politicians?

Indeed, both his physique and family life appear to be pumped full of steroids. His bulging biceps are matched by his surreally inflated portrayal of himself as an alpha male, writing an egotistical, laughably subtitled book, “What a Woman Needs to Know, What a Man Needs to Understand.

If Long is found guilty it should surprise no one, and his flock, in my view, deserves to be fooled and fleeced. Time and again, these now “stunned” parishioners ignored the pertinent facts of Long’s sketchy life to buy into the fabulous fiction he peddled each Sunday.

Indeed, The New York Times reports that Long, “worked as a sales representative for the Ford Motor Company, but was fired over inaccuracies in his expense accounts. He moved to Atlanta to study theology.”

One would think that Long’s incongruous move from alleged criminal to high-flying clergy would have raised red flags. If his suspicious past were not enough, his present incarnation as Bishop Bling – with a Bentley, bodyguards, Gucci sunglasses, gold necklaces, diamond bracelets and Rolex watches, should have made his flock run the other way.

But, they stayed and had no problem with his lavish lifestyle that includes a 5,000-square-foot house. (Perhaps, a place with large walk-in closets and plenty of space to bury the skeletons was essential to maintaining what increasingly appears to be a façade.)

Not only did they accept the Bishop, they wanted in on his success. So, in terms of guilt, Long’s shallow church membership is at least as guilty as he is. The preacher’s entire theology, after all, is to remake the skinny, poor, Jesus Christ into a muscle-bound mogul, much like himself. And the greedy, self-serving, fake Christians at Long’s church ate up this false portrayal of Jesus Christ as the Lord of Luxury because it jibed with their solipsistic lifestyle.

Back to the self-serving speech – it was obvious that the goal of Bishop Bling was to create a smokescreen to obscure the alleged gay fling. His tactic was to cast himself as a victim of a cruel world that was out to get him. Predictably, the exceedingly powerful Long ended his speech by saying, “I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”

No doubt, if his accusers can be believed, Long will have no problem getting his rocks off.

Long also tried to portray himself as an innocent bystander overtaken by external events that he likened to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. No, if Long is guilty, he is entirely responsible for this man-made calamity.

In a mid-1990’s sermon revealed on The Michelangelo Signorile Show, Long advocated the death penalty for gay people. A 2007 Southern Poverty Law Center report described Long as, “One of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.”

Is it not obvious that the gayest thing one can do is be an anti-gay zealot? On the bright side, if Eddie Long comes out of the closet, at least his body is circuit party-ready!