So Pastor Eddie Long – currently under a cloud of scandal for inappropriate actions with four young men – has been crowned king. King of what, I’m not sure, but in this video Rabbi Ralph Messer anoints him and wraps him in a copy of the Torah. This is seriously weird.
There have been a lot of reaction to this. Some of the better ones I’ve found:
Rev. Wil Gaffney picks apart some of the claims made by Messer.
13. The notion that there is such a thing as a “king chromosome” is a fiction, as is the claim that it is kohenic, that is priestly; the Israelite and Judean monarchs — there were queens as well — were not priests.
14. The man’s articulation of what “God wants,” is to say the least unsubstantiated outside that particular setting.
15. The man never says how he knows that none of Long’s ancestors or relatives has ever seen a Torah scroll.
16. While there are some traditional reflections on the human body — including DNA and chromosomes — in the mystical Kabbalistic tradition, the speaker is crafting a verbal montage without reference to the classical texts or their theologies.
Anthea Butler at Religion Dispatches has been watching Long for awhile:
I wish I could say I was surprised by Long’s latest antics, but I’m not. Actually, I am surprised he stayed away from the church this long. After declaring in December that he was taking a hiatus to work on the problems in his marriage, Long has returned with a new lacefront and a defiant attitude. Having a fake rabbi declare him “King” of a fading, dying mega-church is a joke, but what is not are the deluded New Birth Members cheering him on.
Clearly they have drunk the “Kool Aid” and I don’t use that term lightly. I’ve believed since my trip to New Birth back in 2010, when Long promised to fight his civil case, that New Birth was a cult-like organization. Long’s hold over his congregation reminds me of Jim Jones. That may sound harsh, but Jim Jones slept with his members too, before leading the People’s Temple into the jungles of Guyana.
This is not the first time Messer and his scroll have come to the rescue of a beleaguered evangelist; in 2007 Tampa Bay Online reported from Randy White’s Without Walls International Church, following White’s split from church co-founder Paula White:
[Randy] White preached for a few minutes before turning over the pulpit to Ralph Messer, a Messianic rabbi from Denver who teaches about the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith.
Messer preached about the Torah and Jewish entrepreneurship and spoke again at the 11 a.m. service, where he led the congregation in a prayer that ended emotionally for White.
The Torah that Messer presented is apparently linked to Rabbi Menachem Youlus. According to the Grey Lady, Youlus has recently confessed to fraud:
For years Rabbi Menachem Youlus, a self-described “Jewish Indiana Jones,” received plaudits from those captivated by his stories of traveling to Eastern Europe and beyond to search for historic Torahs that were lost or hidden during the Holocaust.
But on Thursday, Rabbi Youlus stood inside the federal courthouse in Manhattan and confessed that he had made up those tales of daring.
“Between 2004 and 2010, I falsely represented that I had personally obtained vintage Torah scrolls — in particular ways, in particular locations — in Europe and Israel,” he told Judge Colleen McMahon of Federal District Court. “I know what I did was wrong, and I deeply regret my conduct.”