Why people stick by scandal-plagued pastors
Parishioners often build a firewall around a pastor hit by scandal, a Christian author says. But when does loyalty turn unhealthy?
May 27th, 2011
11:02 AM ET

Why people stick by scandal-plagued pastors

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - The streets that were once choked with traffic are now bare. The church's sprawling parking lot is half full. Inside the stylish sanctuary, ushers sway to choir music in front of empty seats.

On a typical Sunday morning, New Birth Missionary Church in suburban Atlanta would be hopping. But on a recent Sunday, the sprawling church complex looked half-deserted and the mood seemed flat.

Six months after a sex scandal involving New Birth's senior pastor, Bishop Eddie Long, became public, the megachurch no longer packs them in. Yet there are loyalists, like C.D. Dixon, who have not joined the exodus.

Read the full story
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Celebrity • Christianity • Church • Pastors

soundoff (532 Responses)
  1. JPX

    Why do people stick with scandal-plagued pastors? The answer is quite simple and any student taking psychology 101 will tell you that the answer is “cognitive dissonance”, which is a well-known phenomenon. Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. In this case the two ideas are (1) I have followed this pastor and (2) this pastor did bad things. Dissonance is reduced by justifying, blaming, or denying reality. It’s easier, for example, to stick with scandal-plagued pastors than to have to acknowledge that you have been following a bad person.

    June 2, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Jesus

      True, but you've got to remember that part of the religion huckster's scam is to establish himself or herself (e.g. Paula White) as a trusted family member. It's tough to shun family.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  2. Mad Max

    Freud was right, religion makes people crazy.

    June 1, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • clearbreeze

      YES ur right Religion makes people crazy but ur relationship with God should be the focus...if more people who made mistakes would honor their mistakes especially leaders step down get right with God then no one looses...when you stay in pride everyone loose!

      July 27, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  3. Rico53

    One problem i see in these mega churches is it feeds the mega ego of men like this , they start to believe the flock is coming to see them ,not to have fellowship and praise GOD IN HIS HOUSE ,but in the bishops house.They forget the teachings of Jesus who taught us all to BE HUMBLE among men .As he was asked by his disciples, lord who among us will be the greatest in heaven ,and he told them to be the greatest in heaven you must be the humblest here.
    As we all know "pride comes before the fall "

    June 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  4. JC

    The fool says in his heart there is no God. The Pastor did not die on the cross for you, Jesus did. All have sinned and have come short of the glory of God(the perfect image of God) including this so called man of God. The Pastor is a sinner and the fact that many people flock into his services does not mean God was necessary in their mist. Don't allow his inability to live to the measure of his (calling?) be a stumbling block in respond to your own need of salvation. The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but for those being save it is the power of God. Look to Jesus don't look to man for flesh and blood will fail you.

    June 1, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Jesus

      Historically, the dying on the cross, the birth date and very existence of Jesus, the history of Jesus are all highly suspect. Only one of the apostles (Saul AKA Paul) could have ever had actually seen or met Jesus, but that is also highly doubtful. Jesus is not mentioned AT ALL in historical scrolls that appear at the time of his purported existence. As one Biblical scholar told me, "you've just got to believe, because evidence does not exist to support Jesus". Lastly, read the history of prior to Jesus Gods-Mithra, Horus, and Krishna...same essential story for those guys as the later Jesus tale.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  5. Dave From Philly

    In my experience, some stay b/c they were memebers long before the current pastor became pastor. So the church is just as much theirs as it is his.

    June 1, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • sara

      They need to be LED! They think that GOD is in the Church, instead of GOD in THEMSELVES. Just watch and see how Anger looking a so-christian looks. Most of Fat. This is the manifestations of anger and hate in them. Now look at ones that go to church, but work ON themselves INSIDE out and you see GOD-LIKE. They know their connections with their GOD and they are FREE. No need to EAT the house to try and "smother" the anger and hate. God-Like does NOT carry those.

      June 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  6. P.A. Toombs

    When members of a congregation prop up the ministers of these so-called mega churches, they become invested,(or "caught up" in the dynamics, culture, plans and directions of their particular "church". Because they are looking for a "return" on their investment, they cannot or will not let go of their minister or church. Greed ,pride, lust,envy and embarrassment can take on the disguise of loyalty as it did Judas Iscariot. Woe! is appropos

    June 1, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  7. Milagros

    Often people suoort those pedophiles and perverts because of fear

    June 1, 2011 at 2:56 am |
    • OhMyDad

      Maybe they're trying to figure out how the pastors get away with it.

      June 6, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Jesus

      Fear (of what happens to them after death and of death itself) is a prime motivating factor for believing in religions.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  8. Jon Edwards

    IIt's because too many people follow MAN not God. Lots more to come in the next few months – churches are full of greedy pastors who fleece the flock.

    June 1, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Sense

      When you see a pastor living in a million dollar mansion and driving a Bently to church, and the majority of the flock is struggling but they keep on giving their 10% (which was done away with Jesus Blood because that was under the mosaic law), you have to wonder what's really going on?

      July 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  9. Orlando

    hehe, When someone does see God it will be too late to switch from your PHD's 🙂

    May 31, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Sean

      Well, you'll never see a PhD, so I guess you're on the right track.

      June 6, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Jesus

      If you see God, be sure and report it to your conservator. Yoiur meds may have to be upgraded.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • wanja


      August 24, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  10. Orlando

    proof of christs function is not required in the activity of faith. Faith when proven is not faith, it becomes truth. the question in christian vein today is what is truth? where is it sourced from, and is it complete. Everyone pastor out there worth his or her weight quotes truth of some form or specific idea relative to God. But when it comes to salvation, therin lies the problem, because the acquiring of salvation is far too controversial and in some cases down right fighting words. But even in this there is a truth that not the majority of people worshipping God thier way are not worshipping God his way.

    May 31, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  11. Greenie

    Until somebody spots GOD I will trust my PHD's

    May 31, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  12. Tonlok

    People stick to their guns when something like this happens for the same reason that people who believed the world was ending in 1994, thought it was going to end again in 2011. They spend their time and money in this organization, and feel so embarassed/ashamed that things weren't as they seemed that they become even more involved to somehow justify the time spent.
    Preachers are no better than the average politician, spending a lifetime decieving and hiding their true-self. I can't imagine 1,000 years ago when the church leaders WERE the politicians.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  13. Chris E.

    everyone falls short of the glory of God at some point in their life. We're all subject to sin. It's just sad that great pastors have to go through their short comings in public when the rest of us can hide.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • GloryNothing

      The "glory" of god is well depicted in the old testament where he orders babies to be dashed against rocks and virgins rounded up for the pleasure of soldiers. Yeah, glory. More like the gory of god.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Stevie7

      There's falling short, then there's falling WAY WAY short and being too cowardly to apologize.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Chris D. Jones

      I am so glade the members some or leaveing.He need to go to JAILLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.

      June 1, 2011 at 2:27 am |
  14. Cheryl Noddin

    If this were a Catholic Church...it would not be "hush money" and expected to be righted. This was premeditated...to me that is worse to be so calculating. However there is an ultimate court where no one needs say a word and there is perfect justice...too bad we could not get a peek at it. It is the fifty dollar question...what does God do when it has not been righted?
    We only know He does something.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  15. Pale Horse

    I heard the church was a ghost town

    May 31, 2011 at 5:21 am |
  16. Topkatt

    Most current pastors worship Mammon, and are the tools of Satan. Christ would have nothing to do with the current government oppression.......... Cut taxes for the rich?......... Yea...... right..............

    May 31, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  17. Reality

    Once again, these "loyalists" are either on the payroll or they suffer from the very common ailment called the Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in their religion.

    May 30, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  18. dnnisjos

    i fell sorry for those bolivers, in Eddie Long, they are fools, open yours ayes, he is nothing but a hipocrite, lier, maipulatod
    of young mens, preach agains gays, and he is one, sorry for all of you, keep buying his suits, and his B,... S....

    May 30, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Jack FL

      Please use your spell checker. Thanks!

      May 31, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  19. tommas

    The real question is if consciousness lies entirely in the brain, ie we have no soul/spirit/magical ghost. Then god, what is bigger than the universe, at the moment is a moot point. Just once people believed we are the center of the universe and galileo ideas were "radical" at the time. Neuroscientists are already proving theories that consciousness is part of the material in the brain. In a 100yrs who humans will look back at us as we do the people who thought the earth was flat.

    May 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  20. Starmajic

    I figure all religion is a bunch of "hearsay" from a bunch of people who many many years ago did not have the science we have today . . . we have l learned so much since then but surprisingly enough for many belief systems have not.

    The way I figure it is that I do not have any tangible proof of god only hearsay, if there is a God, he is the one that made me smart enough to know that I do not know.

    When I die, if I show up at some pearly gates and I have lived a good life without the fear of Hell or in hopes of the reward of Heaven, but just because it was the right thing in my mind (the one "God" gave me) I think I'll get in the door!

    May 30, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Proof

      Tangible proof was displayed on a cross and an empty tomb. Tangible proof is seen in creation. Tangible proof is experienced in conscience. Tangible proof is observed in the Bible. Tangible proof.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Stevie7


      You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Mikey

      Proof – there is no proof that the tomb or Christ ever existed. Belief yes....proof not so much.

      June 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.