Ambivalent about Ted Haggard

Until the recent "revelation" I’d never heard of Ted Haggard. I knew about Merle Haggard but not Ted. And I now know there’s not much in common between them.

I didn’t know Ted Haggard was listed as one of the 25 most influential men in America. Didn’t know he was president of National Association of Evangelicals. Didn’t know he was friends with presidents and top Christian leaders.

Well Ted’s going down and all that remains is the fading echo of the derby shoe heels of his erstwhile friends Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell.

In doing a bit of digging I’ve found that it’s true that the NAE webmaster has taken off all Ted Haggard links; but it’s not true that the only thing that’s working on the site is the donation link.

It’s true that Ted’s fall is a huge deal for American evangelicals but it’s not true that most regular folks care. Most people will think that Ted probably needs some education about his own homosexuality. And that he might want to revise his stated literalism on the Leviticus 20:13 passage: If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Up until today, you could still view Ted Haggard’s website where I found something I liked. When conflict flared after the 2001 terror attacks, Haggard said that Christians’ first duty is to "serve the Islamic people" by protecting them from angry backlash.

As well, although there is more than a hint of elitism, he a least doesn’t come across quite as one-dimensional as some of his powerful Evangelical friends. For example, he says, "Whether Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Christian, if we give them government accountable to the people, give them free-market economics and let them worship according to their conscience, and a greater opportunity to raise their families as they believe, we will have a better society."

But on the other hand I found something I didn’t like. In an interview last year with Harpers he said, “I teach a strong ideology of the use of power, of military might, as a public service.” He is for preemptive war, because he believes the Bible’s exhortations against sin set for us a preemptive paradigm, and he is for ferocious war, because “the Bible’s bloody. There’s a lot about blood.”

Yes Ted has some issues he’ll need to take care of. Perhaps during this time he’ll rethink some of these weightier gospel issues.

There is, as there is for all of us, mercy for Ted Haggard. It remains to be seen whether the Evangelical community will extend the kind of mercy that often flows easier from people outside the fold.

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  1. Thanks for your thoughts Steve. Balanced and kind as always.

    I’d like to issue a challenge to your regular readers. Can they please tell me why a man at the pinnacle of the evangelical movement, a man presumably filled with the Spirit, a man with access to resources, counsellors and even James Dobson, could not resist his seeming addiction to ilicit activity outside marriage? If he couldn’t “overcome”, why do our churches continue to tell us for less equipped believers that we’ll have victory over sin if we only pray and read more Scripture? Shouldn’t this poor man’s downfall at least get that kind of discussion going?

    Further, wouldn’t Ted’s homosexual leanings, and his long losing battle to overcome them, also somewhat moderate evangelicals diatribe against gays?

    That these questions aren’t, and won’t be, addressed indicates the continuing sickness of the evangelical church. Life will go on as if nothing happened, each hermetically sealed Sunday drifting into the next. Meanwhile, the Haggards among us will be disciplined and discarded, while new more “normal” recruits are welcomed with more false promises. Someday the church will be purified of the morally bereft – because no one goes there anymore.

  2. Amen and amen and amen, to both Steve and Jeff’s comments. It is time, long past time, for evangelical leaders to re-examine literalism and their understanding of the Levitcus and other passages on this point of church teaching. Too many have been hurt by it, and continue to be hurt, and though Jeff is probably right—the questions probably won’t be addressed, and evangelicals and many other religious groups will carry on as before—I like to hope just a little. If Ted did rethink his theology, and others sat up and paid attention and started doing the same, then maybe some good will have come out of the deceit and the pain his family is going through right now.

    For the sake of those parents still sitting in the pews these days, stuffing the possibility of one of their own offspring being gay and being sentenced to a life of celibacy and almost certain failure, guilt, silence, and pain, I hope the upheavals continue until the church drops its attitude of pride, until it begins to see the hypocrisy of condemning homosexuality, all the while blind to logs in their own eyes. There is more to Christianity, at least I hope there is, than fighting over definitions of moral impurity or feigning perfection. Oh that we’d begin to get it, that families could stop being silenced and torn apart over something the church has simply misunderstood.

  3. No question the discussion needs renewed engagement. And it needs to go deeper than the reasons one Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill (A Seattle mega-chruch) gives.

    On his blog Mark Driscoll says: “Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.”

    …in other words Ted, your attraction to men is a shared responsibility between you and your indolent wife.

  4. Could there just possibly be a reason why some wives “let themselves go”? Maybe male pastors are so busy assuaging their egos through their career that their wives have become invisible. Didn’t Paul challenge husbands to be “willing to lay their lives down” for their wives. If they could stop chasing the image-addicted lifestyle maybe they would have wives who desired to look beautiful for them. Me thinks that Mark may need to look at the log in his own eye since the thing we so easily condemn is often the thing we struggle with ourselves. And of course with the statement I reveal my own log….

  5. Lucy’s comment was insightful…feeling invisible (along with a million other reasons) can contribute to women “letting themselves go”. But to Mark Driscoll’s comment, I say OH MY GOODNESS. Ted Haggard did not act as he did because of his wife. He did what he did because he was gay (or bi), and being gay can’t be, not in the church, not unless you’re hungry for a life of celibacy, so it remained underground, undeclared, possibly even to himself.

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