Pastor Eddie Long is elevated to king, but of what?
Eddie Long, pastor of a Georgia megachurch and no stranger to controversy, is learning the hard way that, as popular wisdom holds, it is indeed good to be king -- but it may not be all it's cracked up to be.
In a video that has gone viral, Long is named king by Ralph Messer, a self-described messianic rabbi from Colorado. As part of the ceremony, which has been roundly condemned, Long is wrapped in what is purported to be a 312-year-old Torah scroll. The video also shows him, while seated in a chair, being carried around the stage of his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church to the joy of an obviously enraptured congregation.
“He now is raised up from a commoner to a kingship,” Messer shouts as he watches what seems to be a teary Long, wrapped in a traditional Jewish prayer shawl, being carried.
Long once was one of the best-known televangelists in the United States; at its peak, New Birth claimed more than 25,000 congregants, with Long’s voice and image resonating around the world through sermons and broadcasts.
In recent years, several Southern televangelists fell from public grace because of their complicated personal lives, and Long’s public image has taken a bit of beating itself.
Two years ago, four young men accused him of coercing them into having sex, charges Long denied. Last year, the lawsuits were settled out of court and the terms have not been disclosed.
As for Messer, he describes himself on his congregation’s website as “president and founder” of Simchat Torah Beit Midrash -- a congregation and school based in Colorado. “With an Apostolic and Evangelistic anointing, Rabbi Messer actively teaches the Hebrew Roots of the Christian Faith.”
The congregation describes itself as “a community of Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ).” Messer doesn’t claim any connection to the more traditional branches of Judaism.
In the Old Testament, Jews do have kings, famously anointed by great prophets, as Samuel did for Saul.
But there is no Jewish ceremony in which a person is wrapped in a Torah scroll. The ceremony of carrying does not come from the Old or New Testament and does not exist as part of a coronation. It is usually associated as a celebratory gesture by European Jews to lift, for example, a bridegroom, above his brethren at a wedding.
-- Michael Muskal