The recent misfortune, scandal, undeniable evidence of the reality of sin in the world, or great come-uppance - the term one employs, I guess, depends on your inclination – involving Ted Haggard, the until-recently wonderboy head the of National Association of Evangelicals, head of his own giga-church, and self-promoted star in the fight against homosexuality, has had me going in circles.
As a plain-old person, I grieve for him (somewhat). I especially sympathize for his wife and family, who through no fault of their own, will be humiliated, shunned (at least I expect so), and treated as somehow complicit in the man's sin and crimes. As a Christian, I cannot be surprised that sin infects even major Christian leaders. (As a Lutheran, I subscribe simul Justus et peccator in bold and italicized ink.) And I certainly wish for him genuine repentance, forgiveness, renewal, and reconciliation (certainly with his family). As a lawyer, I wonder why he has not been arrested, given that he has already admitted to committing felonies. As a man and a husband and a father, I am outraged and horrified that he, similarly situated in such fiduciary relationships, could and would try to pull off some sort of double life. As a left-winger or progressive or “liberal” (an adjective I do not accept for myself, but one that is regularly applied to me), I take some Schadenfreude-like delight in his having been revealed for the scumbag and liar that he clearly is. (For heaven’s sake, he even lied once he was caught!) And as someone who expects things from leaders, I am appalled at how arrogant and stupid the man is to think that he was going to get away with whatever he was doing.
But how to make some sense – some evangelical sense – about the event? I am not particularly interested, I confess to my shame, in yet offering a word of grace to Mr. Haggard. I have no evidence that he is penitent or that he has humbled himself enough to hear a word of costly grace. But I recognized, intellectually, that the man needs help. On the other hand, I am wont to crow about the misfortunes of bigots, and I account Mr. Haggard high in that ranking. Of course, he was also helping the religious right-wing to see the importance of such issues as care for the earth and economic justice. So I fear that his fall will allow the retrenchment within the politically right-wing Christian movement of irresponsibility for the Creation (human and earthly).
I am grateful that I have been assisted in this matter by none less than my friends, the editors at Christianity Today. From their online edition, I have read George MacDonald’s meditation on these circumstances. And I have been very impressed. I think he deals with the matter in a most serious, evangelical, sensible, and responsible way. I hope his words receive wide distribution.
Please read his blog entry here.
I also note, with a certain glee, that Christianity Today presented about three articles on the situation, and in one of them, Haggard was noted to have been accused of using the services of a gay male masseuse! See here. (For those who don’t get the joke: Masseuse is feminine; it refers to a female massage-giver. “Masseur” is the masculine – and the applicable noun in this context.) I guess that goes to show that there is still, among the diligent and sincere Christian right, a certain level of naivete about the seamier sides of life.