Why Jamal Parris Sounds Believable

When one of Bishop Eddie Long’s accusers spoke out last week, it offered insight into the tortured contradictions of male sexual abuse. But the question remains: Who’s telling the truth?

Spencer LaGrande, Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, and Jamal Parris have filed civil lawsuits against Eddie Long, accusing him of sexual misconduct. Recently, Jamal Parris, the oldest of the four accusers, made a statement to a FOX News reporter in Atlanta, becoming the first of the accusers to speak publicly since the lawsuits were filed.

Upon watching the full report, my heart went out to the young accuser. While I am making no judgments as to Long’s guilt or innocence, Parris left viewers feeling that he was either telling the truth or that he is a really good actor.

Parris: So while the media and the rest of the people around the city look at us like, “how could grown men let another man touch him,” what you have to understand is that this man has manipulated us since childhood.

Parris, like so many other victims of sexual abuse, grew up without a father. While there are arguments (many of which I hold) that purport that fatherlessness is used as a crutch that is too often used to explain criminal inclinations and deviant behavior in Black male youths, Parris’ comments provide an interesting rebuttal. Could there be something to notion that boys who grow up without fathers have issues concerning gender-identity development where some boys go to the extreme of hyper-masculinity and others femininity? Could the consequence of gender-identity development lead to problems with sexual identity? If it’s not true, it’s certainly logical. Parris’ unaired comments heart-wrenchingly address this question.

Parris: His [Eddie Long] presence alone is seduction to a young man without a father. You look at him and he’s everything you want to be and everything you see and you dream to be. And being around him is almost like a drug. You can’t believe the place you’re at in your life and the things that you’re doing and the cars that you’re driving and the people you’re meeting. So it becomes, “If I want to continue to feel this love and experience this power, I’ll do whatever my dad [Bishop Long told him to call him daddy] wants me to …”

Whatever my dad wants me to? That’s pretty serious. It also is evidence of the presence of some sort of psychological issues. The most pronounced of which are issues of abandonment, and fear of rejection. I would be doing a disservice if I paraphrase Parris’ words, so I’ll continue to let him speak for himself. At one point he was asked, “Why didn’t you just stop and say, ‘Bishop, that’s wrong?’ ”

Parris: You’re afraid to lose your father. You’re afraid that if you tell him no, the support that he gives to yourself, the support that he gives to your family, and the support that he gives you mentally, and the fact that you finally have a father that you always wanted and always dreamed of, will just walk away from you if you don’t give him what he wants. So you end up turning into something you never thought you’d be, which is a slave to a man you love.

This sounds like someone who is honestly crying out for help. It sounds like someone who is in a lot of pain and dealing with deep regrets.

In a CNN.com opinion piece about Bishop Long’s first Sunday-morning statement following the accusations, Harvard Divinity School professor Jonathan L. Walton wrote, “To hide behind legal counsel, biblical metaphors and spiritualized acknowledgments of one’s imperfection insults the intelligence of those who respect [Long] and his ministry.”

I have to agree with Walton. At a moment when we needed to hear something clear and straightforward from Bishop Long, he dodged the simple question many people in his congregation were awaiting an answer to: Did you or didn’t you?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tim Lee.

About the author, Tim Lee

Tim Lee, a Chicago-based editor and youth minister, is the founder of One Black Man, a leadership consulting firm for Black boys between the ages of 13 and 18. In his free time, Lee actively participates as a member of the Metropolitan Board of the Chicago Urban League and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
  1. Good read. My initial response was the same as the general consensus, How could a grown man let another grown man touch him?? I’m guessing he provided them with a life that was somewhat intoxicating to the point where they wouldn’t dare call him out.. The power of money is ridiculous.

  2. Hey Tim,
    Good work and analysis on this. You final point is one that continues to linger on within the minds of many who are concerned about guilty or not guilty. However, it is the perception that is most captivating.
    keep up the good work,

  3. Sometimes we forget that God works in mysterious ways. I believe that the exposure of the abuse by Catholic clergy, Bishop Long and others of their ilk is God’s message to us that we have stopped listening to His word and following in His footsteps. We have relinquished the free will that God has given us by worshiping hucksters who seduce us with their silken words and paying them to intercede for us.
    My prayers are with these young men and all people who have been abused by those we hold in high esteem and trust.

  4. Tim Lee,
    I share in your sentiment my dear. Unfortunately, while I have no concrete evidence and still leave room for my own human error, I am persuaded to believe this young man, Mr. Parris. The unfortunate comment that closed the deal for me I read in an article. Mr. Parris said he was hurt MORE by Bishop Long abandoning him after he no longer had any use for him. The first thought that came to mind for me is “This young man may be telling the truth because not only does he have misconceptions about love he is hurt more by being abandoned by Bishop Long than being emotionally/sexually abused by him.” Plenty of abuse victims, particularly those that experience assualt beginning in childhood, attach a form of love to their assailants which this young man has done. You are definitely right, I hear pain in his testimony in that he himself doesn’t even recognize just how confused he has become.He needs to have a different love provided to him now.
    Simultaneously, I sincerely fear for Bishop Long. Imagine the level of confusions hes under, he’s a pastor,a husband, AND a father. While I do not condone any kind of sexual misconduct, this man has serious serious unresolved issues. It just goes to show for me that sometimes as Christians we need to love each other enough to questions each other’s action BEFORE they fall into these sort of circumstances. I’m sure someone noticed something before Bishop Long got this far. Now its our responsibility to allow him get the “help” he really needs.-Shola W.

  5. Really thoughtful and thought provoking piece. I continue to pray that when issues like this arise that it will inspire honest discussions, solutions and therapy within the black church. He sounds believable to me as well. The labryinth of confusion and things that appear to be “okay” involved with sexual abuse, especially between someone of power and an innocent, or someone who is dependent on that power are endless. I’m praying for everyone involved.

  6. Tim
    First of all, I applaud your willingness to even speak out on this issue. Unfortunately it is one that is all too common and yet too infrequently spoken out about. For this reason, while I am saddened by the obvious pain of both the accused and the accuser by such a public scandal, I am grateful that the issues surrounding this case are in front of us so that we, as a body can confront it. Whether in a same-sex or a heterosexual context, the issue here is the absolute misuse of power from a clergyman to his congregants. There are so many things that we must confront in this scandal…from the way that we deal with same-gender loving individuals to sexual inappropriate behavior/power from the pulpit.
    I am not going to assume Long’s guilt or innocence but I do know that this thing happens far more often than maybe we are willing to admit. As a minister, it saddens me that our position has evolved into one of such privilege and with that power it is easy to get caught up and almost intoxicated by the attention and the enamored affection that is doted upon you simply because of your position. The cars, tuition, etc. is only secondary. The fact that Long publicly condemned homosexuality is also secondary. What is relevant here is that there was an obvious need that these young boys had that was distorted and manipulated to satisfy the desires of the very person that was supposed to guard or shepherd them. That breeds such a distrust and can cause so much irreparable damage and my heart goes out to all victims of this type of injustice.
    But my heart goes out to Long as well and here is why. If these allegations are true, I cannot imagine the existential torment that he had to endure each time he spoke out against the very lifestyle that he secretly took part in. Whether it was to gain political privilege or even to hold onto some fundamentalist doctrine, it must be difficult to exist with your own conscience playing both sides of the same fence. Perhaps the issue is with us, the church. Perhaps we have some blood on our hands in this as well because of our inability to embrace this part of our community….forcing them into inauthentic and secretive lives. I wonder how different this story would be if so many clergy did not feel the need to exist on “the down low” and could exist and serve authentically without fear of condemnation. Perhaps we too have to reckon with our own place in this story and repent now that we see how damaging and far-reaching this becomes. I dont know..just my thoughts.
    Great article Tim…so proud of you my brother. Keep speaking out and making us think
    (your sis, nikki phillips – stvu 05′)

  7. I think that part of the reason many black church-goers don’t believe that he committed this crime really relates back to discussions that need to be had about gender roles, sex, and sexuality. Why is it so hard to believe? Honestly, half …the choir directors in the black church are gay. I think black people need to stop lying and start dealing with their issues head on so that predators, real or imagined, can not have easy access to our babies and so that our babies will have the language to tell us when there is a problem that needs our attention. Anyway, good job Mr. Lee.

  8. It would be hard to make up that story. I pray God’s healing in his life.

  9. My husband and I lead an outreach to prostitutes in the streets of Baton Rouge LA. We regularly encounter young male transvestite prostitutes that are under age.
    I blogged about this subject yesterday.