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Bishop Long talks sex from the pulpit

By John Blake, CNN
Bishop Eddie Long has talked bluntly about homosexuality and his attitude toward women in his sermons and books.
Bishop Eddie Long has talked bluntly about homosexuality and his attitude toward women in his sermons and books.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bishop Eddie Long preaches about bringing "fresh sperm" to his congregation
  • "Sperm" sermon is one of many he's given on controversial subjects through the years
  • Long's beliefs under scrutiny since he became center of scandal
  • Four young men accuse Long of "sexual coercion" in lawsuits

(CNN) -- Bishop Eddie Long, his face glistening with sweat, paces onstage before his cheering congregation.

He's preaching about the Bible, the role of a preacher, and "fresh sperm."

"The word of God is potent. The word of God is His sperm," Long thunders. "The job of the preacher is to bring fresh sperm and when he speaks it, the womb -- the church -- is to take it in and say, 'Sho' you're right.' "

The video of that sermon, delivered during the early days of Long's ministry in the 1990s, has gone viral. And now it is being discussed in the context of four lawsuits that claim the 57-year-old Long used his spiritual authority to coerce four young men into sexual relationships with him.

Long has denied the allegations, characterizing them as assaults against him and New Birth Missionary Church, his 25,000 member megachurch in suburban Atlanta, Georgia.

Since his denial, Long has stopped talking publicly about the allegations. Yet debate about the scandal persists. Many people are trying to figure out: Who is Long? And what are his beliefs?

Long has already provided some of those answers, in his sermons and books. For the last three decades, he has publicly preached and written about some of the same issues raised in the lawsuits: homosexuality, his relationship with men, and his style of leadership at New Birth.

Art Franklin, a New Birth spokesman, did not return calls requesting an interview with Long.

In earlier sermons and books, though, Long has been open about his stance on an array of controversial topics.

Long explains why some boys are gay

Men can look attractive when they're dirty.
--Bishop Eddie Long

Take Long's opposition to homosexuality. It's been a part of his message for years. In his 1998 book, "I Don't Want Delilah, I Need You!" he wrote that "The Bible has no provision for two people of the same sex to be married."

"Two people of the same sex cannot reproduce in the physical natural realm, which is an outward manifestation of their inability to produce the fruit of righteousness in the spirit realm."

In the same book, Long wrote that the devil convinces homosexuals that they have no control over their sexual orientation.

"Neither does God make a person to be a homosexual. Look at yourself naked in a mirror and see what God gave you. That's who you are in God's creation. Your parents ... or someone else may have influenced you to engage in sexual behavior that was not godly, but God did not ordain that behavior for you."

Long's explanation for why some men are gay, though, may appear puzzling.

He put some of the blame on women, in "I Don't Want Delilah, I Need You!"

"In a society, where little boys are exposed to grubby, cursing, dirty, cigarette-smoking road construction worker women, is it any wonder they stop chasing women and start chasing men?"

The proper role for men and women is a recurrent theme in Long's books and sermons.

Video: Bishop Eddie Long speaks to church
Video: Accuser's message for Bishop Long
Video: Bishop Long and loyalty

Men, he said, are different than women because they are made from the dirt. God, he said, made Adam from the dust of the earth.

"Men can look attractive when they're dirty," he wrote in "I Don't Want Delilah, I Need You!"

"We see sweating, dirty, hardworking men on television all the time and we say to one another, 'There's a macho guy.' But women were not made from the earth. God made women to be lovely, gentle, clean and beautiful on the inside and outside. They are to be strong in character."

Why Long drove two Bentleys

Men, Long said, were created to be "warriors" who lead and protect their families. Yet there are forces in society that "damage" men, Long wrote in his 2004 book, "Gladiator."

"Somebody took the man out of manhood," he wrote in "Gladiator."

That somebody? He blames the "women's liberation" movement and "liberal and extra-biblical teaching" in public schools.

"The anti-man agenda of such organizations as NOW [National Organization of Women] ... spawned in the previous century is simple: being 'equal' isn't enough -- we want to be large and in charge."

At other times, though, Long has offered a spirited defense of women's role in the church.

Unlike some conservative pastors, he wrote that women have a right to preach and be leaders in the church. Long encourages men to treat their wives with respect and to remain faithful.

In one sermon, Long cited his own marriage to encourage parishioners. He invited his wife, Vanessa, to share the stage with him in a 2009 DVD entitled, "When a Man Loves a Woman."

Vanessa Long, who has appeared at Long's side since the allegations against him were made public, talked about the challenges of living with her husband to a rapt New Birth congregation.

Long took the New Birth pulpit in a 2004 DVD, "Back to Basics," to talk about the male ego. In the video, he tells the audience he wouldn't have a problem if his wife made more money because it's still "my money" as head of the household.

As members in the congregation chuckle, Long tells them that he would be happy to pick up his wife on payday, and deposit her check into their joint banking account.

"I might even give her a little bit -- and I wasn't talking money," Long says as his congregation hoots in laughter.

The job of a preacher is to bring fresh sperm...
--Bishop Eddie Long
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Long's stance on money has also drawn scrutiny. He's a "prosperity preacher" who once said that Jesus wasn't poor.

A 2005 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Long created a charity whose biggest beneficiary was Long himself. The charity, ostensibly to help the poor, provided Long with the use of a million-dollar home and a $350,000 Bentley car.

In his 2002 book, "What a Man Wants, What a Woman Needs," Long says his luxury cars are "side benefits of saying yes to God."

Money isn't evil; the love of money is evil, he says in the book. Pastors need to show people "visual sermons" to demonstrate that God is blessing them, he says.

"It's strange but when a preacher gets a Bentley, people get mad," he says in the book. "That's why I have two of them. God has launched me into my culture like an arrow and I'll go to almost any lengths to plant the kingdom in the hoods."

Why parishioners should respect authority

The Kingdom of God, according to Long, is held together by authority, another favorite topic.

"Taking Authority" is the name of a Long television show that once aired on Trinity Broadcasting Network. In his 1999 book, "Taking Over," Long wrote about taking authority at New Birth during his early days by persuading the deacon board to relinquish power to him.

In Long's view, there is a "chain of command" in God's creation: children must answer to their parents; wives to their spouses, and parishioners to their pastor.

Some pastors encourage parishioners to address them by their first name or to view them like anyone else. That is not Long's style of leadership.

In his recent book "Gladiator," Long warns parishioners not to get overly familiar with a pastor who has God's "anointing."

"Some people get close to the pastor, and then they stand back by describing the pastor as just a man or just Eddie," Long writes. "It is true to a point, but it is a statement dipped in scorn for God's anointed."

Scorn can easily turn to disrespect when parishioners start looking at their pastors critically, Long says in the book.

"A disrespectful or adversarial attitude causes otherwise good people to look for mistakes, weakness, and flaws in their human leaders."

In the book, Long even warns those who might look for flaws in their pastor:

People who disrespect their leaders not only disobey God, they bring harm onto themselves, he says.

"Once the flock of God leaves the green grass and clear water of God's presence to gnaw on their shepherds," he writes, "their insurrection kills their blessing and aborts their corporate victory."

 
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