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Christians: November 3, 2006

Haggard and Evangelical Hypocrisy

In the national media spotlight few scandals attract more prurient interest than that of a popular evangelical who is alleged to have committed immorality of shocking proportions. Such is the case of Ted Haggard, senior pastor at a 14,000-member megachurch in Colorado Springs, Colo., and president (until yesterday) of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals.

It is clear that the nature of the allegations and their timed public release were politically motivated and an attempt to argue against Colorado’s Amendment 43. In essence, this is a smear job, aimed not at Haggard but at the evangelical community and the supporters of a state constitutional amendment which would protect marriage.

The argument goes something like this:

Rev. X supports Amendment 43
Rev. x is a hypocrite
Therefore, Amendment 43 is bad
It is very easy to see the logical fallacy contained in this line of reasoning. Whether or not Haggard is a hypocrite and guilty of the most scandalous conduct does not impact the appropriateness of Amendment 43. Truth is separate from its proponents and detractors.

In the greater sense, absolute truth is dependent upon God, the transcendent Creator, and is reflected in Christians to the extent that they are faithful to Jesus Christ. Consequently, the smear job also goes deeper than Haggard, Amendment 43 and evangelicals – it is ultimately aimed at God. And, if God were in anyway dependent upon Haggard, this incident would reflect poorly upon Him. Instead, the question might be asked, “Why does God allow sinners to associate themselves with Him?” The answer, in one word, is "Grace".

That fact that so may are shaken by the sin of one man, to me, reflects poorly on our culture, indicating that our view of God is shaped by a distorted and idolatrous view of Christian leaders. Haggard is one man, a sinner (as am I), who by the grace of God calls Himself a Christian.

Turing to Haggard’s personal conduct, I note that he has denied the most egregious accusation:

"I've never had a gay relationship with anyone," Haggard said in an interview with Denver television station KUSA on Wednesday night. "I'm steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife."
He has admitted to purchasing methamphetamine and receiving a massage but not taking the drug or engaging in a sexual act
The acting pastor of Haggard's New Life Church, Ross Parsley, told congregants in an e-mail that the church's four-member board of overseers had met with Haggard on Thursday.

"It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true. He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation," the e-mail stated.

Tapes provided by Mike Jones, the gay prostitute making the allegations, do contain Haggard’s voice but fail to substantial a claim of immoral sexual conduct.

The explantation by Haggard is bizarre at best (no, he didn't inhale!) and if he is guilty of more I trust that the board of overseers will bring him to repentance. In fact, despite the motivations of Haggard's detractors, it is good for him, his family, his church and society that he has been exposed and now has an opportunity to repent. Really, this is a minister of the Gospel who is charged to call sinners to repentance, such that they may seek and receive the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ. A secret life of depravity would certainly interfere with his call and compromise his ability to lead others.

The case of David comes to mind:

Psalms 32:3 When I kept silent [about my sin,] my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away [as] with the fever heat of summer. Selah.

5. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. 6 Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.

Although the present situation is not without consequences in Haggard’s life, the situation as it stands may be quite liberating if he responds to the call (let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found).

La Shawn Barber comments beautifully:

He got lost somewhere along the way, but the beautiful thing about God’s grace is that it never leaves the believer. If he is truly saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, Haggard has a mighty arsenal at his disposal. God allows these things to happen to Christians for a variety of reasons, and I won’t try to guess why this happened to Haggard.

... The Bible teaches that we’re all sinners, Christians and non-Christians alike. The difference between the two is that Christians are forgiven for all the sins they’ve ever or will ever commit. Non-Christians are not. They are still under God’s wrath, and unless they repent of those sins and accept Christ as their Savior, they will be judged and punished as unrepentant criminals

... “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. ”

Jolly Blogger has more: In light of both of the above the thing that distinguishes Christians from others is not our moral superiority or moral authority, it is our identity as recipients of grace.


The Right View: Haggard's Accuser Fails Lie Detector Test

Check out StoptheACLU's Friday Free for All

Slice it: My worst fear is that this man will be circled by followers, given a slap on the wrist, and returned with full honors as pastor to stand under the revolving globe in his church to continue his "ministry", just to demonstrate how full of grace everyone is. Forgiveness is available to all who repent of sin. Pastoral leadership, however, is a special position for those spiritually mature enough to avoid gay prostitutes and meth.

Photo from Pyromaniacs - Some might think such a voter/donor backlash is unwarranted and irrational. I don't. The back-story here includes just about everything wrong with 21st-century "evangelicalism." This was the top leader of the largest organization representing America's old-guard evangelical core. The movement (not everyone associated with it, of course, but the drift of the movement as a whole) long ago sold out eternal values for more pragmatic and temporal concerns: political power, contemporary fashions, public opinion, and a lopsided moral agenda.

Posted by tim at November 3, 2006 7:26 AM

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