Posted by: Jim | January 27, 2009

Haggard Revisited

haggardOver a year ago I blogged about Ted Haggard, and he is back to the fore. Yesterday it was just revealed that Haggard had a long-time homosexual affair with a young man in his church, but that the story was squelched and the victim was bribed.

 

This story is particularly interesting to me because it points out some of the most basic flaws in how Christianity handles humanity. If you are a Christian, this illustrates why Christianity is bad for you personally, and if you are not a Christian, it illustrates why Christianity is bad for society at large.

 

The church’s concern was clearly not for people involved, but to preserve the integrity of the message. If you are a Christian (especially in a large church), don’t think for a second that your needs won’t be quickly brushed aside in a similar manner should you ever be victimized.

 

The error is with the church’s definition and approach to sin. This begins with the Bible and ends with modern interpretations of it. The net result: homosexuality is a sin, and a choice—but not a genetic predisposition. The integrity of this message is important for the church to preserve because otherwise it would imply that God created some men with a natural tendency to do something that is considered an abomination. Why would God do that? The Christian answer: he doesn’t. According to them, people choose to commit homosexual acts because of their sin nature. Therefore this sin can be overcome through faith in God and a choice to be heterosexual. Case closed. (Note: this is also a very useful doctrine for the church. Anti-homosexual sentiment has been a rallying cry that keeps the pews—and the offering plates—full.)

 

To preserve this valuable message, several people have lied. They wiggled out of disclosing Haggard’s long-time homosexual affair by bribing the young man with college tuition. The article quotes the current church pastor as saying

 

We considered it more compassionate assistance — certainly not hush money. I know what’s what everyone will want to say because that’s the most salacious thing to say, but that’s not at all what it was.”

 

Well Mr.  Boyd, if you didn’t want the world to think you were giving him hush money, you shouldn’t have given him hush money. Boyd also said,

 

“This decision was made not as an attempt to conceal wrongdoings, but to protect him from those who would seek to exploit him. His actions now suggest that he has changed his mind.”

 

Really? Why did you need to give the victim money in order to protect him from the media? I’d love to hear that explanation. And why did the victim change his mind on the day a documentary about Haggard was to be aired on HBO? The documentary continues to portray homosexuality as a sin, and in it Haggard completely and deceitfully disregards the long-time affair he had with the young man at his church. Maybe the victim realized he was being paid hush money, and decided that it was bullshit that the man who was the source of his pain should continue to profit from his hypocrisy. Maybe his heart was broken that his intimate affair was so easily brushed aside. Maybe he was troubled by the fact that the man who was “coming clean” and “healing” was continuing on in an even bigger lie. Kudos to the victim for blowing the whistle. Shame on the New Life Church for continuing on in the effort to spin the truth into something that complements their flawed doctrine at the expense of their own congregation.

 

The church wanted to squelch the fact that Haggard was a practicing homosexual for several years, while he was one of the primary leaders of the evangelical movement in America. Instead, they tried to spin Haggard’s scandal as a single “wild streak” of aberration during a short span of time. Why? Because these facts cast an even greater uncertainty upon the basic principles of Christianity. If the greatest, most faithful among them could not for years cast off his evil nature—how could anyone? Or, could the top leaders of Christianity be mere charlatans? These are questions they don’t want people to ask. They are not profitable.

 

This ugly fact splays wide the festering wound they continue to inflict upon homosexuals with their obviously flawed doctrine. Even while one of their very elect is a hard-coded homosexual, they lie and wiggle to preserve the message that no, he is a heterosexual who was merely attacked by Satan with unnatural desires. This causes homosexual Christians to hate themselves, and heaps more shame upon “the guilty,” who will, in turn, require the church’s exhonoration services.

 

This is an example of how a system of information that does not allow any self-correcting mechanism can run into a brick wall when that information is applied to reality. The fuzzy thinking used by Christians is largely a result of the constant struggle to justify their dogma against conflicting facts. That fuzzy thinking is blatantly obvious here. No Christian leader involved is allowed to ask “Should we rethink our current doctrine in the face of this contradictory evidence?” No, that would imply that the message is less than perfect—less than divine.

 

I say this to the New Life Church: stop your war on truth. Stop the hypocrisy because you will only face this ugly reality over and over. Liberalize your views on homosexuality, and stop profiting from your anti-homosexual agenda.

 

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Responses

  1. Jim,

    You write so well on the Haggard story.

    The attitude towards homosexuality as constituting a moral failing, because it is deemed a choice, this is indeed a source of continual problems for the church, and, as you point out here, what this erroneous view actually inspires are genuine moral failures:

    – failure of Ted Haggard to admit that he is gay
    – failure of the church to speak the truth
    – failure of the church in paying off this man

    If the church wants to talk about choices, talk about those, too.

  2. “If the greatest, most faithful among them could not for years cast off his evil nature—how could anyone? Or, could the top leaders of Christianity be mere charlatans? These are questions they don’t want people to ask. They are not profitable.”

    I think this is setting up a straw man of sorts. I don’t know of any protestant church that believes that it’s leadership is not equally subjected and vulnerable to sin as any other mortal.

    In fact, the leadership, given it’s position, is supposed to be held to higher standards of conduct, but they are still only human. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

    The fact that this man was acting hypocritically is humanness and nothing more. Your mom tells you to never hit your sister. You go around telling your other brothers not to hit her either. You tell other brothers that they shouldn’t hit your sister. You then become the king of the club “never hit your sister” and are known throughout the world.

    Later it was found out that you did in fact hit your own sister for however long… What is the problem, hitting your sister? No of course not.

    You might not agree with or like the presumption that hitting your sister is wrong in the first place, but that is still another discussion and argument.

  3. Ted, good argument!

    You might be right about the straw man situation, although I would counter that with THIS particular church (New Life) relies a bit more on “superhero Christian celebrity” than most churches. I’m not able to prove it, but that’s what I think.

    I would ask you then, why–after this man had already confessed to the one sin–did the New Life church attempt to hide the long-term homosexual affair?

  4. Jim, I don’t know about that church, but I do know that a church is in actuality a bunch of people “trying” to follow what they think God wants of them. The church is run by humans who have all kinds of frailties and weaknesses, trying to find and maintain a relationship with a personal God.

    Coming from an Atheistic perspective, I know you’ve said that this is a delusion and that you can’t have a relationship with something imaginary, etc… but to give you perspective from the inside (of the church), this is what we are indeed doing. We attempt to put our own selfishness aside and try to honor God with our speech, actions, life.

    I think the church can get caught up in “image”. I think my description of less than perfect people doing their best with a common goal has been lost on mega churches. I think they feel that they need to appear squeaky clean in order for the rest of the world to see either a “change” in them, or to see someone who has it all together (so why don’t you join too!)

  5. I suppose, Jim, a more fertile ground for identifying a hypocrisy is if the New Life Church was busily condemning others for their moral failings, etc, while covering over and denying their own. And, to Ted, Jim’s point is also fair, if the moral authority of the church seemingly has no impact on the moral conduct of its members, then what is its raison d’etre exactly? It certainly has no grounds for condemning others, does it?

    This, to me, seems to be the issue, as it’s a truism that everybody is fallible (except the Pope!)…

  6. “has no impact on the moral conduct of its members,”

    And here, I mean specifically the covering up, as that was a group effort and as such was an institutional failing and an indication that Christian principles count for nothing when their are reputations/$$$ to be saved/safeguarded.

    Let them say it, fame and Mammon are our Gods!

  7. “…if the moral authority of the church seemingly has no impact on the moral conduct of its members, then what is its raison d’etre exactly?”

    The message of the Bible is about sin and salvation, and living a life pleasing to God along the way. It’s about discovering that living a life that honors God is also a life worth living full of the fullness and richness and beauty that this world offers. The church is not God. The church authority/leadership are not God.

    We as humans try to build a solid church and leadership the best we can, but we are all fallible and when one church makes a mistake or makes constant mistakes, the world will point to that church and condemn the “church” as a whole. Just as there are good and decent people of all races and colors and creeds, one of the people from one of those races can make mistakes constantly and bigots and racists can point to them and say that the whole race is _________ fill in the blank.

    People who are critical of the church can be “racist” to the church as a whole based on the actions of however many churches.

    The Bible does not teach to lie and cover up.

  8. Ted, I have a little more respect for you now with your recent contributions, but this is a total avoidance of the questions I posed. I am not interested in Christianity as an ideal, but in the fact that an entire institution, a church, supposedly operating in Christian fashion, is completely incapable of upholding any of its own teachings.

    We all know about your placement of the religious beyond reach of criticism (and attainment), so that each failing is wholly personal, rather than of God, blah blah, but this is literally damning. A church that acts this way should disband from its own sense of shame.

    That is not to say that this is a general problem, but just as an accountant who can’t add up or a traffic cop who drives drunk are unfit for their roles, so the New Life Church should leave the matter of striving to fulfil the tenents of Christianity to others.

  9. kingfelix, I’m not defending the New Life church. There is some fundamental problems with their church politics and business plan/operations.

    I am a big believer in second and third chances when it comes to messing up (in a non criminal way), but when it comes to leadership, they must hold themselves (and the structure which put them in this position) accountable and step down or be fired.

    Each failing is NOT wholly personal to me at all, so you know. I’m not proud of ALL the Christians out there! Are you kidding? They can give us all a bad name as many of them have. I don’t see the need to defend them because I think they were not acting in a way that I believe God wants them to act.

    God says you reap what you sow. He does not protect you from consequences. He will forgive you if you are asking from a true heart, and he has mercy and grace when it comes to salvation, but you will reap the consequences of what you sow.

    I wish that some churches would pack it up and leave the matter of striving to fulfill the tenants of Christianity to others as well. Good words.


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