Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ted Haggard's Confused Sexuality and His Relationship with the Church

Ted Haggard, the one-time pastor of the New Life Christian mega-church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was disgraced when allegations arose of his paid homosexual affair with Mike Jones, a male prostitute, and drug use surfaced in 2007. And he is in the lime-light again. Haggard has been fielding interviews with magazines and television shows, including Oprah.

I will be up-front that I do not trust Ted Haggard. And there is a growing body of evidence surfacing that validates this mistrust. His words, shortly after his public fall, rang hollow because they did not confirm, to me, the theology that he had seemed to support for years. He did say he was taking responsibility for his actions and that he would submit to his church's oversight, but his commitments to his promises have since unraveled.

First, Mr. Haggard said that while he had sinned, he did not have sex with Mike Jones. The truth is that he had a continued sexual relationship with Mr. Jones over a period of several years. Second, new allegations have surfaced that he was also conducting a sexual relationship with one of his young, male, church volunteers. Third, he promised to submit himself to the oversight of three friendly pastors and his church, also agreeing to abide by its stipulations. Instead, he has left the oversight of those friends and his former church to seek other council which appears to have empowered him rather than chastening him. Last, He has pursued talking with the media and with a director of a documentary that has used his "story" in order to condemn the Church at large for its treatment of practicing homosexuals.

His view of his sexuality, according to an interview printed in the Christian Post, has remained hazy at best. Several statements make me shudder to think of this man, who seems to be angling back toward the ministry, leading Christians. Concerning his self-definition of his sexuality, he responded, "The stereotypical boxes don't work for me. My story's got some gray areas in it." He proceeded to say about practicing homosexuality, "I believe all human beings fall short of the standards they believe in." The Christian Post wrote, "Haggard said he isn't qualified to judge what factors into one's sexuality, but still believes it's 'God's perfect plan' for marriage to be between a man and woman." These are dangerous words concerning such an important concept (homosexuality) that must be informed by theology which, in turn, must be informed by Scripture.

According to Scripture, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it'" (Gen 1:27-28b). And in Gen 2:24, "a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." It is the purpose of God in creating humanity that one man and one woman should come together as one flesh. This is a biblical command. To engage in polygamy or divorce and remarriage or to engage in extra-marital sex is adultery (Deut 5:18; 22:22; Matt 5:31-32; Matt 19:3-9; 1 Cor 7:8-11). To engage in pre-marital sex is fornication and gross immorality (Deut 22:17-21,23-24; Rom 13:13; 1 Cor. 6:13-20; 7:1-2; Eph 5:1-4; Col 3:5-6; 1 Thess. 4:2-5; etc. ). To engage in homosexuality is beyond the pale (Lev 18:22,29; Gen 19:4-7; Jud 19:22-23; Rom 1:25-32; 1 Cor 6:9-10).

Scripture holds no ambiguity concerning sexuality - either you practice sexuality according to God's prescribed Law or you don't. Mr. Haggard has broken God's Law and there is nothing gray about it. His redefinition of sexuality and sin, based on culturally accepted ideas, is a tell which reveals a man who is seemingly willing to do anything to recapture glory. His grab at celebrity through interviews and documentaries confirm this. Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten that glory does not belong to him, but to God alone.

Furthermore, Ted Haggard's manner of return to the lime-light, that of an indignant and proud man who accuses the church of persecution, reveals a hardened, self-focused, heart. Haggard said in a recent AP interview, "the church has said go to hell" and "the church chose not to forgive me." His church has said and done nothing of the sort. First, his church could not allow him to remain in leadership without knowing the extent of his sin or without oversight. He is the one who has shunned oversight, rejecting most of the stipulations laid out by the church, even while the church gave him a severance of over $309,000.00. The church sought reconciliation with Haggard, but it seems his ambition outweighed his desire for community. His words indicated a desire on his part to have remained pastor despite his sinful actions - a cheap forgiveness, a cheap grace. Second, his church cannot forgive him without knowing what it needs to forgive him for and without his willingness to be open, seeking forgiveness. He has not displayed these characteristics and so, while his church has largely taken a forgiving attitude toward him, it cannot actually forgive what he is unwilling to be forgiven for.

One critical blog, Ted Haggard: Saint or Sinner?, may be getting it right, "Considering his personality, if he is actually gay, do you think he will be content to fade into obscurity? No way! He has to have the spotlight. He may decide that it's better to be a well-known gay spokesman than an Evangelical nobody." While he is not at this point yet, he has already changed his viewpoint considering homosexuality until it almost resembles an echo of the world.

All speculation aside, Ted Haggard may have done more to harm evangelicalism and the Gospel through his fall and continued stubbornness than the good he did before it. Let this be a lesson to those of us who are moving into ministry - we must humble ourselves before God and before other people, leading through serving. It is not a good thing to be too rich or too powerful. Ted Haggard fell prey to his own self-focused idolatry. Let us listen not to the calling of the world but to the calling of the Apostle Paul,
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry (1 Cor 10:12-14).

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