Sunday, 25 January 2009

In Bed With Evangelical Ted

Ted Haggard, fallen icon of the Evangelical counter-culture, is trying to make a comeback. Like another Ted of an earlier decade, he's "repented" ("I am guilty. I am responsible," ... "I got off track, and I am deeply sorry and I repent ... I'm moving along in a positive direction") while managing to slag off his detractors at the same time. It seems being caught with your pants down is OK as long as you're firmly clutching your Bible.

Haggard was the poster boy of judgmental sanctimoniousness until he got caught in a gay sex scandal. It was, of course, a one-off aberration, and the church treated poor Ted without adequate Christian compassion, yadda yadda yadda. Now it seems Ted is rebuilding his celebrity status with a side-order of martyrdom. There are interviews pending on Oprah and Larry King Live, and a doco called The Trials of Ted Haggard. Yes, Ted was a victim too, and who are we to cast the first stone?

The problem with that line of reasoning is that Ted is himself a world record holder in the sport of stone hurling. And now it emerges that Ted has been bonking more than a lone gay prostitute.

Somebody has been telling porkies.

Bonhoeffer talked about the perils of cheap grace, which is a message mainline Christians might do well to hear, but maybe the message biblicists - of whatever variety - need to hear instead is on cheap repentance.


Byker Bob said...

I have a problem with cases such as this. I have no problem with a Christian being forgiven of all manner of horrible sins, and then entering the ministry. But, I have a big problem with someone disgracing the whole concept of spiritual leadership once he has been held out to parishioners as a leader worthy of emulation.

The concept of leadership is based on strength. This includes strength of character. The potential for damage (to little lambs)is so great if a leader indulges in pedophilia, homosexual activities, extramarital sex, or any sort of criminal activity.

Of our politicians, it is often said that a leader's public life is completely separate from his/her private life. But, in the case of spiritual leadership, the two are totally bonded.

There is forgiveness for Ted Haggard. But, that forgiveness relates to his personal redemption from sin. He's proven himself too weak and disreputable to continue in any sort of spiritual leadership position. To allow him to continue would be a mockery.


FT said...

I am in firm unilateral support of your position Byker Bob. To allow him back in the clergy this kind of immediacy is simply a travesty. Yes, the Bakkers may be the exception but I think they paid a much more heftier price than Ted Haggard. A loss of owning your religious empire is quite more severe than losing your pastoral position. Jim Bakker did the crime and paid some time in prison. From there he took stock of his life and his theology and learned something. My suspicion with Ted Haggard that he is merely trying to get in the spotlight once more as soon as possible and that I believe is problematic in itself.

Anonymous said...

The political power of the Evangelicals has peaked and it is now on the decline. The majority of the country has rejected their leadership.

The Evangelicals out of power in the White House but there are still holders on in the Supreme Court.

After having been in power since 1981, since Reagan, they will have a difficult time adjusting to the new political reality.

I have no sympathy for the pain they will be going through; they have lessons to learn after the enormous damage they have done to the nation.

They virtually destroyed the US economy and ruined our standing among nations...

Russell Miller said...

BB... since when did extramarital sex have anything to do with pedophilia?

To me, the biggest travesty here is that he was a hypocrite, not that his behavior was wrong. He preached against things he was doing. THAT'S what makes him untrustworthy.

Bamboo_bends said...

Haggard described his sexuality as "complex and something that can't be put into "stereotypical boxes."

I live in California and see quite a few unusual Humanoid boxes.

When I hear these kind of words it makes me wonder how freaky-ass he must be to not fit into at least one of California's stereotypical boxes.

I don't know about you, but my inclination is to run, run, run, run away....

Anonymous said...

FWIW, Ron Dart said forgiveness doesn't necessarily stop the consequences that follow an action. He gave a similar hypothetical example or forgiveness for a minister not extending to letting him back in the ministry.

When I heard Ron give this fictitious example, I couldn't help thinking he was remembering his old pal GTA.

Leonardo said...

For an interesting view on Ted Haggard, check out the very revealing and frightening) documentary "Jesus Camp" from your library.

The moment I saw this guy I knew he was as phony as a three-dollar bill.

These folks are as potentially dangerous as the most extreme of Islamic fundamentalists.

Bamboo_bends said...

Anonymous said...

FWIW, Ron Dart said forgiveness doesn't necessarily stop the consequences that follow an action.

Ya think?

You can forgive the man who shot your kid, but you can't return the bullet to its cartridge.

larry said...

Anon 08:36 said,
"The political power of the Evangelicals has peaked and it is now on the decline. The majority of the country has rejected their leadership."

I believe you are correct. While the "evangelicals" never spoke for me, they did have some support in the populace. The support may still be there, but their influence in Washington is minimal now. I don't think this is a good thing.

With Obama's election, America is positioning itself as a secular nation, and giving up even the illusion of subjection to the Almighty God. America's real strength is derived from the faith of the people who generally live between the coasts.

The power of these people in Washington, is waning. And the country is going downhill accordingly.

Anonymous said...

What the heck is Haggard doing in that picture? Looks like he is on his knees or something. Sigh.

Byker Bob said...

Russell, to answer your question, we Christians consider both of those activities to be sin. I certainly was not implying that a dude who would bonk his next door neighbor's wife would also indulge in homosexual acts or pedophilia with other neighbors. Although possible in extreme cases, that would usually be a ridiculous assumption, based on what behavioral scientists have to say regarding sexual orientations.

Having said that, it is a very human thing to assign degrees to sin, based on the damage which is done. Especially egregious sins would seem to imply that someone is not even trying to live a Godly lifestyle. Haven't we all critiqued HWA and GTA for this very reason? The norm is to expect spiritual leaders to have overcome the huge sins, and to be growing to overcome the remaining little ones.


Gavin said...

I agree that we all fail to live up to the high ideals we espouse. But there are those who have high ideals for themselves, but are merciful toward others (and hopefully realistic toward themselves.) I don't get the sense that this describes Ted Haggard. Watching him strut and preen in his New Life ministry - the very time he was attacking others for the same actions he indulged in - is a sobering contrast.

A tender conscience? Not Ted. He behaved as a boots-and-all hypocrite, another Elmer Gantry, a manipulator.

I've known ministers who walked away from their job. I never ask why. Invariably they have been honest people with great integrity. That deserves respect.

But Ted? No. Gene Robinson is his polar opposite - dealing with his sexuality openly and honestly, and hiding nothing. Robinson I can respect. Haggard? Nothing even faintly admirable there.

Anonymous said...

Bam Ben

I think it's more like you can forgive the man who shot your kid, but he's still going to do time for his crime.

David was forgiven, but Uriah was still dead and Bathsheba was still pregnant.

Byker Bob said...

It's a beautiful sunny day here, we've got what everyone else might consider summer temperatures (I WISH our summers were like this!), and I just got back from a nice hike on some mountains about five miles from my house. While there, I was contemplating this thread.

It seems to have taken on all the complexity of the old proverb concerning the elephant and the blind men.

There are so many angles to ponder, and I suppose that the dominant one for each of us as individuals would be based on our individual philosophy or lifes experiences.

Although we're all going to be looking in his direction, I don't know if this is a Garner Ted thing, or not. Prior to his passing, people in his CGI splinter had described him as being very compassionate of others' shortcomings, very human.

There's really so much we could say about this Haggard situation. Qualifications for a bishop. The parable of the forgiven servant who would not then forgive his own servant's debt. OT and NT passages about homosexuality. I am sure that some will just consider this entire episode to be a typical example of the hypocrisy of the Christian religion, and that would be really sad.

Bottom line is that credibility issues such as this one generally take care of themselves. It is likely that people will vote with their feet. When this all settles down, for most people, Haggard will probably slip into anonymity. And that is probably exactly where he should be dropped off to contemplate his life and what he needs to do.


Anonymous said...

"The power of these people in Washington, is waning. And the country is going downhill accordingly."

Actually it is the secular politicians who have the capability to save the nation.

The religious politicians who rule based on ideology would completely destroy the nation.

Our founding fathers knew that.

Only someone like Obama, a realistic, can lead the nation well.

larry said...

Anon 01:55,
I beg to differ. Obama is a man without a moral compass and has surrounded himself with those like him. My suspicion is that Hillary is genuinely evil.

The country has been going downhill as people of this ilk have gained influence over the media and the bureaucracy. Now that they completely control the government, there can only be one disaster after another ahead.

Miguel de la Rodente said...

Larry let's see if your prophecies are any more accurate than those from your church. No matter who was elected this time runs the risk of being a one term prez. Obama may just beat the odds, and we should all be happy that Hillary was not chosen. God might have been involved in that.

Russell Miller said...


I'd believe you if it weren't for the past eight years, which were a disaster on par with anything that Obama could come up with, and more besides. The religious nuts have ALREADY messed things up royally. Sorry, you're just whistling dixie on this one.

I'm glad Obama is in office, I'm impressed with what he's already done, and I hope that, in general, there's more of the same coming.

larry said...

Russell and Miguel,
The Western world is at war with the world's largest Satanic cult, Islam. This is a war we did not start and do not want (and maybe cannot win), but was thrust upon us. Whatever you say about GWB, at least he understood this.

As for the "last eight years", there have been much worse. You must not remember Jimmy Carter. I personally thought the Clinton administration was awful because it was the first time in American history that we knowingly elected (and then embarrassingly re-elected) a crook. Now, we have had crooks in the Presidency before, but this was the first time we ever elected someone we already knew was a criminal. The folks in Arkansas couldn't get rid of the Bill and Hillary show fast enough!

In reference back to the first paragraph, FDR was the only world leader who truly understood that there was something dark and evil going on in Germany in the late 1930's. Churchill didn't, the French didn't, most of America and the British Commonwealth didn't. Chamberlain certainly didn't.

I don't believe Obama had a clue about the dangers the world faced when he sought his present office. I think he is finding out now that he is getting the daily intelligence reports! Watch his hair turn white over the next four years.

Dennis said...


Handwriting in the sand...

"I have a big problem with someone disgracing the whole concept of spiritual leadership once he has been held out to parishioners as a leader worthy of emulation."

Get over humans being worthy of emulation based on unrealistic and unreal expectations.

Probably the most profoundly challenging posting Gavin has ever put up. This might be the last response I give to one.

The human tendency is to demand leaders that don't act, think or do as everyone else does every chance they get. The idea that there are humans who are uniquely better or obedient than others is simply not true. It causes people to not share their pain or needs with others yet struggle unnecessarily alone through them because of all the unreal advice or shoulds and musts or must nots put on them, without understanding or real compassion.

Sometimes they come back to churches and shoot everyone and themselves.

I know many ministers, (WCG or otherwise) priests and deeply religious humans who have bare their souls, thoughts and needs to me, so, yes, I do know what the hell I am talking about. I have also never entertained illusions about myself. So once again, I know where of I speak. I also know everyone able to be honest with themselves, even if quietly, knows exactly what I mean. I have found every judgmental human being in my life to be wearing their own masks.

Deeply devote people have shared their humanity with me more on the massage table than they ever did with me in a suit and tie behind a desk hearing what I thought I needed to hear form people who told me only what they thought they were supposed to say.

I tell my clients that I have learned naked people are more honest. (they are under a sheet don't worry if you are the worrying type)

Ministers are expected to never do or think what everyone else does all the time after they go home.

Ministers are expected to show compassion and forgiveness to all while getting none in return for the same shortcomings. They are the sacrificial human for what all other humans wrestle with and have no clue who to talk to about it without reprisals or consequences. When they doubt, get scared, get lonely, need intimacy, get confused or hold contradictory ideas or thoughts, they better never ever let anyone know.

Their job is to be Jesus and pray to God they never get caught being less than the image of becoming perfect as "your heavenly father is perfect." No challenge there as I have said before.

I've buried people whose lack of being able to share their ideas, pain, feelings, needs, shortcomings or failings to live up to unreal standards put a rope around their neck or a bullet in their heads. At one funeral I found out the man drove to see me because he knew he could without judgment, but after driving around my house, went home and put a hose in his car from the exhaust. He felt he could not change, not that I would not encourage him no matter what.

Three now grown up female teens and one guy have called me to tell me they were gay. They called to tell me that because they needed to and wondered if I knew. Yes I knew. I knew back then and I knew why. I had two women "friends" sit for years on the front row in church knowing that they could no more love a man than Peter could love Paul. I spent the last hours with a man in the church who was conflicted in life that only became known when he died of AIDS. This was in the day when those with AIDS were told not to come to church out of fear for the health of the membership. I took him back to his home the next day as ten pounds of sand in a still warm cardboard container.

One woman introduced herself to me the first Sabbath I was in a new church as "the woman who committed adultery." Needless to say, I took her aside and had a chat with her right then about never defining her life or self by such labels. She cried her eyes out and hugged me and said thank you. She thought she was supposed to tell me (the minister) that so I'd know her problems.

You get over your humanity quietly and alone or you don't and pray to the gods no one finds out you're just like the people the book tells to forgive seventy times seven for the same thoughts, steps and misteps depending on one's view of it all.

Righteous Lot offers his daughter to the crowd to save face with his guests. No problem, he still gets in to Hebrews 11
Noah drinks himself blind after his deliverance…No problem…

Abraham offers his wife to the King to save his hide. No problem, he still gets into Hebrews 11

Isaac follows dad's example and does the same. No problem….

Moses kills someone's dad for picking on a Israelite. Kills 3000 for not hanging out long enough for him to get back with "thou shalt not kill." Gets angry and reeks vengeance on the hungry and thirsty. Leaves the first generation of Exodus types to rot in the desert. No problem….

Joshua kills everyone in sight
Jephthah burns his virgin daughter alive because he gave his word he would fry for the Lord, the first thing that walked through his door. He is praised for being a man of his word. No problem…he makes Heberws 11 as well.

David loves Jonathan with more love than he has for women and he loves women a lot

David tells everyone how to live and think about God "yet in my house it was not so" No problem…gets a mention in Hebrews 11

Solomon really loves women and gets read every Sunday as being the most wise person who ever lived.

Jesus is harsh with those that don't understand his enigmatic sayings at times. Jesus calls a gentile woman a dog. Imputes motives and beliefs to Pharisees they don't really have, accuses them of things they did not do and says they are of Satan when they react just as anyone would. Seems to kiss Mary too often on the lips to the distress of the disciples. Is rumored to have been born of fornication. Is rumored to have spent time with young man in the loose towel revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Doesn't repay a gentile for running his herd of pigs into the drink. Disrespectful and harsh to his mom at times.

Disciples flee and betray, compete and contradict.

Peter sanctions the death of two nice people for not sending it all in.

Paul evidently doesn't do what he should and does what he should not do but doesn't tell anyone what that is. He beats himself into submission literally it seems because he has a fear he will fall away after preaching to others. Paul is a very conflicted human being if you know how to read what he says about himself. He thinks marriage is just to avoid fornication and has no intimate relationships we know of and seems to fear them. Whatever his thorn in the flesh was, it was not weak eyes.

Ok, way too long. There are no spiritual leaders wed to their leadership by being better than normal in fact. NONE, no not one, and so they suffer, wonder or think quietly to themselves. Their peers, congregants or family simply never get to know the real person and that's generally fine with them.

Only degrees of honesty separate people into friends, good friends, close friends or enemies. Honesty is expensive and lonely.

And yes, once again I do know what the hell I'm talking about.
As for Ted Haggard, his problem is living in two worlds as if he was not. That is a problem in his appearing to be against something when he is for it and not something that he is. He should not be a minister to those kinds of people who tolerate little diversity and stick to Bible ignorance on such topics as human sexuality and relationships. Marriage, in the OT was an issue of property rights and being able to prove whose children belonged to who so goodies were not gotten by the children of the wrong man.

NT marriage is a chain of command from God, Jesus, the Husband and the compliant, ask your husband and be quiet wife. Paul noted that marriage was good for avoiding fornication. He did contradict Jesus on this topic.

Solomon seems to be the only one in the Bible to give intimate love a shot at describing but didin't make Hebrews 11. Must have scared the author.

Baptize, Marry and Bury 'Em said...

After his treatment for alcoholism, in 2008, Robinson said that he had led a retreat a few years before for gay Catholic priests. He has opposed the Roman Catholic ban on homosexual seminarians, stating : "I find it so vile that they think they are going to end the child abuse scandal by throwing out homosexuals from seminaries."

Ted Haggard and Gene Robinson: now there's a marriage, made in heaven!

Purple Hymnal said...

"Having said that, it is a very human thing to assign degrees to sin, based on the damage which is done."

The only real "sin" is ignorance, Bob.

Anonymous said...

Larry said:

"The folks in Arkansas couldn't get rid of the Bill and Hillary show fast enough!"

You are as ignorant of history as you are of everything else. In 1992 Arkansas supported Bill Clinton with 53% of the vote versus 35% for George Bush and 10% for Ross Perot. This hardly implies the good folks of Arkansas thought Bill was unfit to be the leader of the free world. Try to get your facts straight and maybe you will earn a little credibility.

Byker Bob said...

Aggie, I wish you were correct. However, while ignorance may cause some people to commit such sins as murder, theft, bearing false witness, etc., ignorance neither defines nor is it usually the root cause of sin. Murder is a horribly aggressive and premeditated act, whereas ignorance would imply almost a state of passiveness. And, of course we also have the concept of "willful" ignorance.

There are two phrases "mala in se" and "mala prohiba". Ignorance could easily be invoked by mala prohiba. However, mala in se acts are so intrinsically evil in nature that all civilizations recognize them as such, enact laws against them, and vigorously punish infractions. I personally believe that this recognition is God-imparted, and innate in humans. Murder, incest, theft, lying, and adultery are examples of acts in this category. Call them sin, or call them against the law. They are just plain bad, and deep down, everybody knows it.

Mala prohiba acts are things which are only illegal because some piece of paper or man made statute prohibits them. These could include parking violations, smoking marijuana, building a house without the proper permits, or using the wrong sex's bathroom. Relatively trivial, and possibly not sin, but still illegal. You could see where ignorance could easily apply to this category.

Statements such as "the only sin is ignorance" might sound catchy to someone looking for or attempting to preach alternative answers. If everyone were a rational and perhaps dispassionate intellectual, you might be able to base a society on such a precept. Problem is, not everyone falls into that mindset, and using the term "ignorance" provides no deterrent value for those whose violent or perverse nature would lead them to wilfully ignore laws against mala in se acts.


Purple Hymnal said...

Bob, you didn't even read the link I provided, which begs the question why you are criticizing it. But that's OK. The Gospel of Truth tells me exactly how to handle this situation, so I'll shut up now.

Byker Bob said...

Aggie, you linked yourself! And, I had read what you had to say when it first appeared, and then reread it to see if I'd missed anything based on your post here.

I just happen to disagree. I believe that you are looking for solutions amongst the materials which the apostles and early church fathers had the spiritual guidance and good sense to reject. To me, that rejected material has about as much value as Wicca, New Age religious attempts, or Scientology. Like those, Gnosticism cannot provide redemption for our sin debt to Father God, nor can it put us on the narrow path to salvation. It just puffs up, and provides one with blanks to shoot at Christianity.

Got any converts yet? Not one person seems to be catching the gnostic vision with you.


Purple Hymnal said...

"Got any converts yet? Not one person seems to be catching the gnostic vision with you."

I might turn that question back around on you, Bob: I'M not the one looking to convert people, YOU are. Or don't you remember why you were banned from ISA?

Leonardo said...

Larry wrote:
"...FDR was the only world leader who truly understood that there was something dark and evil going on in Germany in the late 1930's. Churchill didn't..."

Larry, I would advise you to read your history books before making such a patently false and ignorant statement such as the one cited above.

All throughout the 1930's (often called his "wilderness years") Churchill clearly recognized the "dark and evil" nature of a quickly re-arming and mobilizing Nazi Germany - and very powerfully spoke and wrote out against it, trying to sound the alarm to his nation and the rest of the western world. Most of his fellow countrymen ridiculed him for it, claiming he was nothing more than a warmonger.

The rest is history.

Careless statements like this about the most elementary of historical realities greatly diminish what little credibility you have.

And the amazing thing is that in past blog comments you actually claim to be a graduate of a prestigious and well-known institution of higher learning!

Come on, Larry, you're not fooling anybody here except yourself.

Byker Bob said...

Banned from the blasphemy blog by such lofty authority figures! I'm just so ashamed!


Corky said...

Byker Bob said...
Banned from the blasphemy blog by such lofty authority figures! I'm just so ashamed!

You are getting worse and worse aren't you Bob?

I can tell it even if no one else can. You are only inches away from being right back where you started over 30 years ago. Why do you want to go through that again?

But mainly, why do you want us to follow you back into the world of the madness of make believe?

Anonymous said...

Anon, in defense of Larry on those in Arkansas who wanted to rid themselves of Bill and Hillary -
the idea was to get Bill elected and send him off to Washington.

Or perhaps "the folks" were all COG members, who don't vote...

But then, Larry appears to have a slightly revisionist view of history...

Purple Hymnal said...

"You are getting worse and worse aren't you Bob?"

I think a few words from Matthew might be appropriate at this juncture.

Oh, wait, that's blasphemy. Waiting for the lightning bolt here .... still waiting ..... *drums fingers* .... Well? Can't let my "blasphemy" go unpunished, now can you, Bob's god?

Oh, wait.....

I'll tell you how bad Bob's getting, he's even started defending the Armstrongists over at the WCG-A board. (Dark day in hell when they reopened that cess-pit, you ask me.)

Byker Bob said...

I don't keep the Old Covenant Sabbath or holy days. But, just because some people do, it doesn't make them Armstrongists. I get sick of binary thinking sometimes. This Armstrongite thing has gotten out of hand in some peoples' minds and has become almost like racism. It used to be that if someone had about 1/10 minority heritage, they were assigned to that particular group instead of the majority of their heritage.

Love heals. Calling people who feel just as strongly as you that they left Armstrongism an Armstrongite certainly does nothing to encourage them. Loving and embracing them pushes them further along in their journey. Recovery is often a matter of degrees, and different people are at different stages of advancement at any given time. To be perfectly honest with you, you've only been on these sites with us for a few short months. You are just beginning to gain some comprehension of the complexities of recovery. Maybe if you'd stop and take the time to get to know some of your fellow travelers rather than seeing Armstrongism everywhere, it would promote healing rather than bad feelings and discord.


larry said...

Sorry Leo, I am not trying to fool anybody.

Anonymous said...

Anyone catch the Haggard story on Good Morning America this morning? Check out this link.