|It’s been a busy few weeks. I’ve wanted to chew on this one for a while as the stones were distributed and the mobs gathered in Colorado, Virginia, New Jersey, and other localities. Several states put a twist in the mid-term elections by examining the meaning of “traditional” marriage, spawning skewed political ads that neglected to examine the real and basic purpose of state constitutions versus statutory laws. My own church stumped for approving the amendment, tacked to the end of a sermon that encouraged us to listen to the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives. Honestly, I was embarrassed.The scandal erupted soon after in Colorado Springs as accusations circulated against the former president of the National Evangelical Association, Reverend Ted Haggard. Mike Jones, a gay escort, stated that he provided massages and methamphetamine to Reverend Haggard, who called himself “Art” during their encounters. After recognizing who his client was, a man who railed against gay rights and gay marriage, Jones’ conscience got the better of him and he couldn’t keep his silence.
One man, with his reputation on the line, decided to reveal the hypocrisy in this large church. He wasn’t important. He had everything to lose. He is a prostitute. And gay, which is an even bigger sin in many eyes. But his conscience got the better of him. Not because he felt his lifestyle was wrong or he was in need of forgiveness, but he couldn't sit silent while one of his customers publicly spewed hate and disdain for the very behavior he enjoyed after the pastoral garb was hung up in the closet. Allegedly.
Everyone loves to see the mighty fall. There is a certain deliciousness to find out that our pious and perfect relics and icons struggle like we do – except there often is a denial that sin continues to control. That’s the rub. Many, including our tottering “leaders,” subscribe to the Christian myth of “once converted, fully converted”. Our testimonies end after the Gratuitous Gutter Conversion. We are saved! All our struggles and desires have been fulfilled or extinguished and banished back into the Sinful World through the elusive ambrosia of Christ’s Blood. It is finished! Allegedly.
So when our old addictions begin to creep back in, we secretly begin to doubt the Good News. We pray harder, we confess more, we wonder what else we can do to finally kill the ravenous beast that is threatening to steal our salvation. And we can’t confess our struggles to each other. After all, they have it together. Right? So we resign ourselves to live hollow lives of religious showmanship. This is where our biggest failing is. Not in the daily struggle against what we know is right and what we actually practice, but failing to realize that We Can Do Nothing. We cheapen the grace given [daily] to us by trying to prove our salvation—to earn it, to keep it—to ourselves and to G-d.
Which brings me back to the topic at hand. I admire the Xtians who are willing to forgive Haggard’s behavior. We’ve got to stop shooting our wounded. But what gets me is his denial of wrongdoing. As the world turned, he changed his story and admitted to buying one of the most addictive and easily accessible drugs of the day, but “I did not have sex with that gentleman.” Oh, and he only looked at the meth. So that's okay.
So drug use (or purchase) is more acceptable for evangelicals than [gay] sex? Did I miss something? I know that the mere mention of sexuality causes the repressed masses to salivate, wanting to know the juicy details only to pat ourselves on our backs. We check off our list – we may drink too much, eat too much, work too much, break promises too often, talk about others too much, but we would never cheat or go to bat for the other team. After all, we mutter to ourselves, I’m not that bad. But what would have happened at the NEA if Haggard had admitted that, in a moment of weakness, he engaged in actions that they consider deplorable? Would we be reading the same story or would there be a moving van and a journey in the soggy tea leaves?
This is the hot topic of the day and my goal is not to convince you to view it one way or another. But consider the company Christ kept. He befriended prostitutes, corrupt corporate executives, the immoral, and the poor who could only take without the hope of repayment. He touched the homeless, the sick, the disfigured, the mentally ill. He opened his arms to those outside his religion and creed, the opposite sex and children who were considered worth less than property. His heart broke for those who killed him. Tell me how this “sanctified” exclusion will fulfill his kingdom or vision.
Whether or not Haggard engaged in homosexual acts, I don’t care. Whether or not he actually used the meth, I don’t care. All I ask of him is honesty and to grow in the spirit of Christ. The elite in Boulder need to be just as forgiving and accepting to Haggard if he does confess to infidelity – even if it is with another man. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)
God loves us all and Mike Jones is welcome at the banquet table at the feast of the Lamb.
Labels: forgiveness, homosexuality, human rights, Ted Haggard