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Obituary: Eddie Long (1953-2017)

Posted in: Features
By Craig Young - 16th January 2017

Brian Tamaki's African-American Pentecostal fundamentalist 'overseer', Eddie Long (New Birth Missionary Baptist Church) passed away yesterday at the age of sixty three. Thus ends thirteen years of tangential involvement with New Zealand, which raises questions about the future of Destiny Church.

long-king_500w.jpg
Long is carried by parishoners after elevating himself to 'King'
Like Tamaki, Long broke away from a larger fundamentalist Pentecostal organisation, the Apostolic Church, and founded a new, predominantly African-American sect, focused on the Pentecostal 'prosperity gospel' which ordains that God 'wants' someone to get rich as a 'sign' of divine favour.

At an early stage, it became obvious to observers of Destiny Church that much of Brian Tamaki's emphasis on tithing economically vulnerable parishioners, campaign names and sermon messages were largely derived from his 'shepherd', Eddie Long. "Shepherding" is a Pentecostal mentoring relationship wherein a more affluent Pentecostal leader provides assistance to a protege, enabling them to create a disciplined congregation and voting bloc during local and national elections.

However, in New Zealand's case, the shepherding relationship fell on stony ground, to use a pertinent biblical metaphor. Destiny Church might have been a Pentecostal megachurch, but its impoverished flock led to the coining of the term "Tamaki Effect," in which mass mobilisation of followers is hamstrung by the desperate, unfulfilled needs of those same, impoverished followers. Some time ago, I concluded that, however much bluster and rhetoric Tamaki generated, he was likely to need it directly to fulfil his church's operating needs, with little left over for whatever political ambitions he might have, leading to the eclipse of his consequent Destiny Party and Family Party political vehicles

Long was more effective as a political operative, praising former US President George W.Bush's "Office of Faith-Based Initiatives" welfare privatisation and receiving funds from it, then used against marriage equality within Georgia's African-American communities. In several instances, he exaggerated the extent of his theological education and academic qualifications.

At times, the imitation games became almost ludicrous to watch. Because Eddie Long mobilised New Birth Missionary Baptist parishioners against marriage equality in the United States, Brian Tamaki fielded a Destiny Church contingent against the Civil Union Bill. However, the Destiny Party and Family Party quickly failed to gain political traction and were rapidly abandoned, and Tamaki became politically quiescent, apart from the odd homophobic outburst.

Meanwhile, back in Georgia, Eddie Long had fallen afoul of his congregation after it was alleged that, like many closet cases, he had enticed young African-American men into his bed with promises of cash and high end consumer goods. Five young men came forward in 2010 and this was settled out of court in 2011.

There were also unsubstantiated accusations of financial mismanagement and embezzlement of church funds and donations for his private benefit. When this was disclosed, his church experienced a catastrophic loss of membership and his wife and children left him, but returned after two years. Regardless of this, Brian and Hannah Tamaki continued contact with Long.

Recently, Long was diagnosed with cancer, and it was this which ended his life in early January 2017.

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New Birth Missionary Baptist Church: http://www.newbirth.org/

Craig Young - 16th January 2017

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