although the haggard story broke late last week, i've avoided writing about it for a few reasons. one, it's way too easy to go for the easy ironic joke; two, i wasn't quite sure if i even believed the story (and, believe me, i'm not exactly a haggard fan); three, the whole situation sort of seemed cheap.
the downfall of a preacher is a sad thing. i've seen my own father go through two church splits (we were Baptists, after all) and it was difficult to watch a ministry dissolve right before my eyes, along with the trust that once existed between a man and his congregation. i don't think any kind of ministry really recovers from something like that. because of the intense and intimate nature of a pastor's call, the sudden divestment seems like betrayal and a waste of all those previous years. in my father's case, the ground shifted due to an overly ambitious assistant pastor (such a cliche, isn't it?) with a secret of his own to hide and my father stepped down rather than be embroiled in an long, undignified fight with a once close friend who seemed to think he deserved something he didn't earn. though my father looked ahead with something like optimism, the whole ordeal was hard on him, the family and the folks who left with us. for me and my sister, we saw an ugly picture of church politics and greed. we saw the ugly underbelly of our church laid wide open and we turned away from it as fast as we could.
for haggard, it wasn't his own congregation that betrayed him but what he called his own 'dark nature.' perhaps. i wonder which is the greater sin - haggard's still shadowy liaison with jones or his lying about what led to that liaison for all this time? or is it all of a piece? i was going to ask if it's possible to run from our 'natures' but that's what christianity teaches, doesn't it? we put off the old nature and, behold, we are all made new creatures. i guess there's happy, shiny NEW and then there's the rest of us - let's welcome Haggard among us - who are Newish. we're relatively shiny but with a few spots of tarnishing here and there.
what should a progressive christian do in this case? when a combatant in the culture wars has fallen, a great big arrow sticking out of his back, what should the progressive church person do? most of the commentary around has focused on the 'hypocrisy' of ted haggard. it's more than hypocrisy; if he's actually gay, lobbying for legislation that will outlaw the lives of other americans simply because of who they love, then that's internalized homophobia, that's self-loathing. and that's so much sadder than hypocrisy.
there are clever posts to be written about the limitations of christian celebrity, the futility of living with secrets, the double edged sword of judgment, the end of privacy, the muted pleas for forgiveness from the evangelicals when it's one of their own who fall but its absence when it's anyone else, but i won't write those. (though i could!) instead i just think about how sad it is. sad that a guy was brought low simply because the idea of being christian and gay was inconceivable.
The Revealer: Haggard's Downfall as well as the nerve article he mentions (the roll up of christian men's self-help books has a pretty good analysis of the imagery and language defining christian masculinity. personally, braveheart does nothing for me.)
haggard's restoration team lost dobson. guess all that tarnished christianity was just too much.