Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ted Haggard

So, the news comes out that Ted Haggard may have paid for gay sex over the last 3 years. Now, before I begin, let me say that I have never met Ted Haggard, have never read anything he has written, have never seen nor heard him speak. He even graduated from ORU 2 years before I arrived. I have driven by his church in Colorado Springs on a number of occasions, and even used the bathroom there once. But I do not know the man and know very little about him. So I have no way of knowing if the allegations about him are true, or if this guy is a plant designed to suppress evangelical votes next week. But I have some thoughts on the matter, and this seems as good an opportunity as any to talk about them.

First, let me say that if it turns out to be true, my heart goes out to Rev. Haggard, his family and the church. To him, because it is nearly a universal truth that men engage in homosexual behavior because of a history of sexual abuse, and I hurt for the pain he must be in. For his family, because this will be very difficult for them to get through, and if it is true, may rip his family apart. There are 2 sins in the Christian community that are worse than blaspheming the Holy Spirit: homosexuality and divorce (not that they should be, but we have really gotten confused about this one). If these allegations are true, he may find himself involved in both. And finally, my heart breaks for the church for this is likely going to be a very difficult time as the world scrutinizes them, and any sense of family that the church enjoys may be shattered.

But beyond this, these allegations do not bother me. I do not, for example, believe that this necessarily disqualifies him from his pulpit. Obviously, this is a decision that the church members and leadership will need to make for themselves; but if I were there, I would support him remaining in the pulpit if he so desires. I mean, all he has done is sinned. Like we all do. Every day. Your pastor does. I have lately been reading a book by Steve Brown called A Scandalous Freedom. In it, Brown presents the scandalous proposition that we are in fact all sinners, that God knows it and loves us and uses us anyways. So it matters not a whit to me that Rev. Haggard's sin (should this prove to be true) is now well-known. Thank God my sins are not. And each of you should be equally glad that your sins are not so publicly well-known.

But, you may say, it's that sin. Oh really. Have you noticed what God lumps with that sin? No? You should read 1 Corinthians 6. Greedy, deceptive, speaking evil. These are mentioned in the same phrase as homosexual behavior. Or how about Romans 1:28-31? Here we have gossip and breaking promises. You see, I firmly believe that God himself is not nearly as offended by homosexual behavior as we are. We say "I love the sinner and hate the sin." I wonder if we might not all be better off loving the sinner and hating our own sin, leaving everyone else's sins between themselves and God.

Pastor Haggard, as the leader of the Evangelical movement, has been outspoken in his support for amendments banning gay marriage. If these allegations are true, I do not believe this disqualifies him as a spokesman. If the rule was that one cannot speak on an issue unless one has purity in all aspects of that issue, then no one could preach the whole gospel. The truth is not less the truth just because I (or anyone else) am unable to live it out. This is the fundamental premise of non-relative morality - truth is truth whether I believe it (or live it) or not. Rev. Haggard's struggles (if they turn out to be true) do not make his voice less meaningful on this issue.

But (I hear some of you saying) this public sin ruins our witness! What will the world think when they find out that we aren't perfect? Well, first of all, they already knew that. The only people who really thought we were perfect were in the church, and our attitude and pretention has made us unbearable. By pretending that we do not sin, we isolate the lost, who believe that they cannot be welcome because they still sin; we marginalize ourselves because a moment's reflection tells every non-believer that the sinlessness is a sham; and we set ourselves up for ridicule when someone sees us sin. Think of the problems Bill Bennett faced when his gambling habit came out. It amazed me then, and continues to amaze me now, that any believer was surprised to find out that Bill Bennett actually sins. Just because he has studied virtue doesn't mean he has mastered it. And when we pretend that our leaders are sinless, we guarantee that they cease to be heard when someone finds out that they are not.

I sincerely want these allegations to be not true. Because the people in Ted Haggard's life will have so much to struggle through if they are. Shoot, even if they aren't true, the simple fact that they have been raised is going to have a profound effect on a great many people. But if they are true, I pray that Rev. Haggard will not only find grace at the throne of God (it is always there and always free), but that he will also find it from the people of God, from whom it can sometimes be harder to find.


the-unintentional-blogger said...

Very eloquent and thought provoking. Everything I've come to expect from your posts. This could actually be heresy number 3 for you!

I'm betting you won't hear a lot of this attitude in the Christian community, and that's a shame. We are so quick to condemn because it makes us feel better about our sins. If God were to make us wear signs detailing all our sins, I'm sure we wouldn't so self-righetously condemn this man, if the allegations are true. I do respect greatly how he handled it. He immediately resigned from the National Evangelical Whatever and he stepped away from his role as pastor until some of these issues could be resolved. If the allegations are true or false, it showed humility and grace to not just lash out.

Anonymous said...

Dr Don, why is your astrological sign displayed in your profile?

Dr. Don said...

My sign was on my profile because I had entered my birthdate, and Blogger uses that to produce astrological information automatically. I have removed my birthdate to eliminate this distraction.

Barbara D said...


The first thought I had when I heard these allegations was that the secular community will use this as a stronghold to defeat the relevant ammendments being proposed all across the country. After all, they are the people who more than anyone expects Christians and especially their leaders to be perfect. They are not disappointed when they find out we are not, rather the opposite. Like children watching an illusionist not for the entertainment, but straining to catch the moment that gives the trick away.

The second thought was to pray for Rev. Haggard's congregation to remain strong in their faith. I can imagine there will be a great many people in his 4,000 member church that will question all they have been taught by this man. I heard somewhere that the #1 factor for people leaving the church is hipocracy. Yikes!

My third thought is that the accuser is obviously looking for his 15 minutes of fame and doesn't care whose family or reputation he destroys to get it. Yes, I will pray for him, too. On so many levels.

puresnow Is1:18 said...

Don't you think Pastor Haggard's behavior "disqualifies" him from the pulpit at least temporarily?

Restoration is a process that should not be rushed, especially from a sin that is sexual in nature.

Would any sin disqualify a pastor from the pulpit? What if he was molesting his daughter for 6 years?

Another thing to think about, for the good of the congregation, stepping down is a wise move. A church that size has to have huge impact on its community in the way of outreach ministries. Suppose he did not step down and half the congregation left, resulting in less resources with which to minister to the community.

I really hope Haggard can be restored and victorious in this battle. But he'll need some strong boundaries, and consequences, one of which should be removal from the pulpit.

Dr. Don said...

PureSnow asks a reasonable question about my post. I have a new post to clarify what I was saying.