03 November, 2006

Let's Talk About Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard was, until very recently, a renowned pastor of a mega church and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Ted has now admitted to some gay sex and drug use and resigned his positions.

How do I feel about this? Is my faith shaken?

Well, let me tell you. I grew up in the church. I've seen more pastors, elders and deacons have affairs, cheat on their taxes, drink to the death and have stacks of porn than I can shake a stick at. I had a youth pastor that knocked up a lay (using that term literally, I suppose) youth leader. Outside the church these people are called "hypocrites". Inside the church they are called "human beings". We're all human, and we all struggle with our sin nature on a daily basis. When Jesus said "take up your cross daily" He knew what he was talking about. How hard it is to do right in a world of wrongs. Especially when the wrongs are so tantalising.

I'm not into porn. What little of it I've seen strikes me as alternatingly plastic and degrading to women. But I can see how porn is a shiny apple in the tree for a lot of people, and how it can swallow a man with easy gratification. From where I sit, illicit sex, whether pornish, gay or straight, has a very specific appeal for Christian men. Not only is there the obvious gratification of sexual activity, there's also that extra spicy kick that comes from the total forbiddenness of it all.

I'm sure there will be many people gleefully rejoicing in the Fall of Ted Haggard, Hypocrite. Here's a married man who has preached against homosexuality while enjoying the homosexual favours of a prostitute. It's the sort of joy that dreams are made of. For those like me, however, who subscribe to the philosophy of "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" this is old news. Haggard is, like the rest of us, just another sinner. I'm terribly sorry for MRS. Haggard this morning, and for Haggard's congregation.

Speaking of congregation, here's where I get a little dig in. Mega churches, this is part of why I think your overlarge structure is a huge problem. When you become so large, your pastor becomes remote and has little accountability. He becomes a figurehead who has a lot of power, both self-perceived and granted by the body. When men have that power they are more vulnerable to temptations of all natures. We saw it happen here at Bellevue Community. And here it is again with Ted Haggard.

UPDATE
Ah. It makes even more sense. Haggard is from Indiana. Can I just tell you that Indiana people are a breed apart? We're all so used to being out there under the endless sky all windchafed and naive and nice and nasty. If only I could find out where in Indiana he's from.

13 Comments:

At 8:40 AM, November 03, 2006, Blogger newscoma said...

I agree.
My church is 25 members. We are lucky to break $300 in the collection plate on Sunday morning. But I have been to bigger churches when I lived in Nashville and felt very small there.
I'm with you. I do feel sorry for his congregation, his wife and his children.
I'm liberal, and in all honesty, I'm not reveling in this.
I find it to be very sad and disconcerting.
On a personal level, I'm so tired of this never ending wheel of scandal.

 
At 8:59 AM, November 03, 2006, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

How right you are.

Christians have not done a very good job of telling the rest of the world what we believe. Heck, many Christians seem to get it wrong. The bottom line is, every time one of us falls, it proves the most basic tenet we hold: man, alone, is incapable of righteousness. No other religion teaches this. Every other one says "Do this prayer, perform this meditation, do 'x' and you will acheive 'perfection'"

Christianity is the only major religion that says "you're a lost cause. Give up (surrender all)". There is no other game in town. Outsiders misunderstand this.

My main problem with many megachurches is that they seem to say "Join Christanity and Improve your Life!" as if it were some kind of group-therapy thing. To me, it's much more tantalizing to tell the Seeker: "You feel you're not good enough for church? I'll guarantee you we're worse than you! We're all just trying to find our way. Nobody's better than anybody else. Come on in!"

I agree with your thoughts totally on this. Hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue.

 
At 9:09 AM, November 03, 2006, Blogger John H said...

The mega-church is often build around a cult of personality. I can easily imagine that being the center of this kind of adoration would make one feel insulated from normal temptation. It would be extremely hard for pride and arrogance not to creep into the daily walk.

It's easy to scoff at Haggard for his rampant hypocricy on the 'gay' issue. To me, it's just another reason to avoid the mega-church cult of personality world.

Luckily for me, i don't have the personality to attract a cult. My sins are much less publicized, despite the fact that I've been a hypocrite once or twice.

 
At 9:44 AM, November 03, 2006, Blogger Chance said...

This really hit home for me since I live in the area. In fact, the last I heard was that Haggard continued to deny the allegations, until I stopped by your blog this morning.

Interesting point about the megachurches, and they do seem to have their share of problems. Some churches, however, just seem to boom. So what can be done about it? Would you suggest that such churches split up into smaller satellite churches.

Pastoral accountability is important. My pastor has an internet program that sends a list of his visited sites to certain people.

 
At 9:54 AM, November 03, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

On a personal level, I'm so tired of this never ending wheel of scandal.

You and me both. My first reaction to both the Kerry thing and this was "oh brother. So what?" We're turning into a nation of clucking hens. It reminds me of that "pickalittle talkalittle" song from The Music Man.

Christians have not done a very good job of telling the rest of the world what we believe.

Telling AND showing, in my opinion. But I can ultimately only speak for me.

The mega-church is often build around a cult of personality.

John, you're definitely right. So much so that as I rifle through my mental database of megachurches I can't think of ONE that isn't built around a central (non-Christ) figure.

And ditto your remark about personal hypocrisy.

Chance,
That's right! You do live there, don't you? I keep forgetting that. As for your question about Mega churches, I definitely believe that no church should have a membership above 2000 people. Any more than 2000 and you need to start a church plant somewhere else in the vicinity. In my opinion there are several reasons for this. Number one, it reinforces pastoral accountability. Number two, it reinforces interrelational fellowship in the body. There are a lot of people who go to a megachurch because it's so large they can just blend into the woodwork and aren't required to have an active role. Number three, it removes the mystique from the "church" itself, and puts the focus back on Christ. Number four, facilities are more managable, more affordable and this frees up money for outreach and social programs.

I like the idea of your pastor having accountability on the Internet. That's hugely important. I'm pretty sure my pastors and deacons have a similar accountability program enacted.

 
At 9:55 AM, November 03, 2006, Anonymous Cecil said...

I forget who offered this good advice: "Don't stay away from the Church because it's so full of hypocrites. There's always room for one more."

 
At 10:25 AM, November 03, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

I like your new template by the way.

I think the cries of "hypocrite" come not as a result of a person doing what they beleive is wrong, but from a person doing what they condemn others for. Jesus said,"How can you say to our brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

I'm also reminded of a story about Ghandi (I have no idea if it's true or not). A woman brought her young son to Ghandi and asked, "Mahatma, please tell my son to stop eating sugar." Ghandi thought for a moment and asked the woman to come back in two weeks. Although a bit confused the woman did as she was asked and took her son back home.

Two weeks later she came back with her son and said "Mahatma, please tell my son to stop eating sugar." Ghandi looked at the boy and said "Stop eating sugar." The woman was thankful but asked, "Why did you ask me to come back in two weeks, you could have told him the same thing before." Ghandi replied, "Two weeks ago, I was eating sugar."

Regardless of faith or moral code, we all do things every day that we believe to be wrong, that makes us human, not hypocrites. It's only when we condemn others for the same thing that we cross the line into hypocrisy.

 
At 10:54 AM, November 03, 2006, Blogger Mr. Mack said...

I know I don't care to be associated with anyone who revels in this sort of sadness. I believe that Mr. Haggard is deeply conflicted, but his influence on National politics must be brought to a close, if for no other reason than he can't be trusted to tell the truth. I've made my distaste for evangelicalism quite clear. I love my Christian family and friends, right up to the pont that they become about nothing else. It's caused real divide in my own family. Anyway, people like you and the other commenters on this thread help remind me that I should not seek to paint all Christians with the same brush. Lastly, I hope his family and his church heal quickly from this.

 
At 10:58 AM, November 03, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

I think part of what these mega-churches sell is the idea that becoming a Christian means the easy life. In some ways, yes, but it's still not all roses and the flowery path. It just means you've got some strength to lean on in terms of a loving God and a caring community of fellow believers.

I find it interesting how we tend to classify degrees of sin. To God, they're all particularily vile. Its we humans who see the 10 Commandments and treat as a top ten list. Well, I took the Lord's name in vein, but I'm not as bad as that guy who murdered.

I love a church that is full of human beings...people like me who struggle.

As for why men respond to the porn...I can tell you. No chance of rejection or failure. Deep down, what men fear most is being a failure. With porn, it's "easier." There is little chance porn will think you a failure or call you on it...

 
At 12:06 PM, November 03, 2006, Blogger Lee said...

Does make you wonder about that Joel Osteen. I mean, he does have some mighty pretty hair for a straight guy.

 
At 12:17 PM, November 03, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Lee, there's a whole list of things that make me wonder about Joel Osteen. I try to let that all be between him and God. But I do think that anyone who writes a book called "Your Best Life Now" is probably not to hip on the whole "store up your treasures in heaven" teaching by that crazy poor Jesus guy who held HIS services on hills and fields and not in sports arenas.

Michael, I've never ever believed that one sin is worse than another. Sin is sin and seperates us from God. You're right on.

Interesting about the porn thing. I had never thought of it that way. Poor men.

 
At 4:08 PM, November 03, 2006, Anonymous sista smiff said...

Sin is sin, yes, but, some sins have deeper and more lasting consequences than others.

Another thing about porn and why some people are so attracted to it..it's very impersonal and there's no need for intimacy.

 
At 4:32 PM, November 03, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Sin is sin, yes, but, some sins have deeper and more lasting consequences than others.

That is true, in the earthly realm. Insofar as all sin seperates us from God--the ultimate consequence--then sin is the same.

But earth-wise, lying to your mother about eating the last cookie has fewer earthly ramifications than cheating on your wife with a male hooker.

 

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