Bishop Eddie Long and Vanessa Long: A Humiliating Saga Played Out Before the Entire Nation
By Nick Chiles
As a married man, I break out in hives when I think about the hell that must have been coursing through the palatial Atlanta estate of Bishop Eddie Long over the past year.
It’s one thing to make claims and issue denials from the pulpit and in the media, but the marital bedroom is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. (Just ask Herman Cain.) That’s where the cameras are gone, the loyal congregants are far away, the kids are in far-flung corners of the house, if they’re home at all, and it’s just a husband staring in the pained, hostile, outraged eyes of his embarrassed wife. Is there any husband out there who isn’t starting to have just a little bit of difficulty breathing right now?
Long can make all the refutations he wants, but let us consider what the past year must have been like for one Vanessa Long, First Lady of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. It has to be very near the worst nightmare for any wife. First you hear reports that your husband has been having sexual relations outside the marriage. Then you find out that the other parties are allegedly young boys. Boys that your husband has been mentoring for years. Boys that you probably know. And the allegations are accompanied by creepy pictures of the buff bishop posing in extremely tight workout clothes, muscles all taut and bulging. And to make it all a million times worse, this is being played out not only in front of your 25,000-member congregation but in front of your city, your state, the entire nation. Because of you and your husband’s remarkable success in leading your flock, your humiliation is now national news.
At this point, it doesn’t even matter if the allegations are true or not because the damage has been done. The walls of the marital fort–that (hopefully) hardy structure that surrounds and protects every longlasting marriage–have been breached. The bell can’t be ungonged.
Faster than you can say Tiger Woods, you have become an object of pity. Maybe even a laughingstock. And what about your choices? If you stick by him, you are weak and stupid. If you leave, you are a vindictive bitch destroying a great man and a pioneering church.
Let’s imagine the pained silence of the family meals. The bishop, the wife, the four kids, all sitting around the table and trying hard not to acknowledge the 800-pound beast in the room. And there are the inevitable questions from the kids–questions directed probably more at Mom than at beleaguered Dad.
And as any husband knows, the bishop can forget about any intimacy in the marital bed. With the nature and breadth of the allegations, we can presume that intimacy must be a farfetched and awkward proposition.
In the end, the First Lady couldn’t take it anymore. Time didn’t heal the wounds. Her combustible stew of emotions all played out last Thursday and Friday. First, she filed a divorce petition in Dekalb County Superior Court to end their 21-year marriage. Then on Friday morning she issued a statement through the church saying that she had changed her mind and was standing by her man, who she admired for his “strength and courage.” But just a few hours later, her lawyer came forward and said she was following through with the divorce.
With the papers filed and the marriage over, the family’s difficult days certainly aren’t over. But they both are probably having the first peaceful meal they’ve had in a long time. At separate dinner tables.