Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Practicing Piety Before Others

I think that the Ash Wednesday disconnect between Jesus' admonition in Matthew and the liturgical direction to wear ashes on our heads can be confusing.  In honor of that conundrum, I want to offer this video of the "crowning" of Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth here in Atlanta.  He has been at the center of some really horrible controversies as of late.  In response to the controversies, his mega-congregation showed their support for him and his ministry with this ceremony. 

As a matter of personal practice, I try really hard not to judge other people's religious practices or beliefs.  I think there are many many many ways to see the face of God in worship.  But this?  This is exactly what Jesus was talking about: hypocrisy.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter, friends!  Comment away!



  1. My theory about this - or anything similar - is that it has to do with a congregation affirming itself, because it has its identity too closely tied up with its leader. Charismatic leaders often create successful organizations that fall apart after the departure of the leader because the glue that holds the group together is the ability of the leader to attract followers. I think the congregation is probably trying to hold itself together by propping up the leader with this bizarre (and yes, profoundly disrespectful) ceremony. It's all very sad. A healthy church should be able to get through the loss of a leader due to scandalous behavior - it happens all too often that for whatever reason, clergy or other leaders make serious mistakes that are deeply damaging to themselves and others. Some churches get through it and grow, while for others, it can be decades if not longer before the effects are overcome. In a denomination that answered to outside authority, Bishop Long would probably not be associated with that church (or any other) at this time. No church should be so deeply grounded in one very human person. At the risk of sounding trite, the person churches should be grounded in is Christ, not the clergy.

  2. I agree, judging other's ways of getting closer to G-d is sticky. It seems that if you are seeking God FIRST and yourself Second (or third, or fourth, or last) that it's all there in writing. The Bible has proven to be a worthy guide if our hearts are open and willing.

    This is a response from a Messianic Rabbi in Macon. I'm not certain the link will work. His name is Rabbi Greg Hershberg.

    I watched the video of Edie Long video just after it first aired. I cant' watch it again, I tried, but it is upsetting. I think Rabbi Greg has a pretty good perspective on this matter. Let me know what you think.


  3. Mindy, I don't really know enough about Messianic Judaism to understand a lot of what Rabbi Greg is talking about and I think that he and I would probably part ways on a few issues, but I like what he says about the significance of the Torah and being "wrapped around" the Torah instead of "wrapped in" it.