Many of you know I am a person of faith, specifically a Christian. While I don't hide the fact, I am not interested in blogging as a ploy to persuade anyone to my faith. Obviously if I believe it, I think it is true, but that is not the purpose of what I do here on this blog. I just try to be myself in whatever shape that takes.
Recent events, however, prompt me to comment as a person of faith. Please be aware that this post is simply a statement of my perspective and not an attempt to convince anyone one way or the other. I am delighted at the variety of backgrounds of people who come and read this blog, and want to continue in this way. I have no intent on starting a religious debate; I just think it is important for me to share my perspective on a recent news item.
Everyone has undoubtedly heard of the situation with the prominent pastor Ted Haggard and the allegations of using a homosexual prostitute and buying crystal meth. While these are still just allegations, the more that I read, the more it seems likely that many of them are true.
First let me say that since he is a leader in the Evangelical church and a renowned preacher, he is held to a higher standard (which is spoken of in 1 Timothy). Hence when he falls like this he is judged more severely. I think this is appropriate. When you broadcast your opinions and set yourself as an example for others, you must take great care to live by what you say. He clearly demonstrated hypocrisy in these actions and should never have been in the positions he was in if he had these personal struggles. He is to blame for this because he should have stayed away from the public life while he tried to make is life consistent with his beliefs. Any criticism he receives from the public is, in my opinion, well-deserved.
Secondly, as a person I do not judge him for the struggles he has. Everyone has areas in their lives in which they struggle to do what they know to be right. Many of my patients struggle with drugs, alcohol, abusive relationships, obesity, and other things they know they should not be doing, yet continue to do. He is a human like everyone else and I believe that God can forgive him still, despite the degree of his sin. After all, David, the most prominent king of the old testament and a man who has the label "a man after God's own heart," slept with another man's wife and then murdered her husband to cover this up when she got pregnant. Paul, the greatest writer of the New Testament, was persecuting Christians and having them put to death before he was converted. Mr. Haggard is no worse than these men and so can be restored to right standing with God.
Finally let me say that this event displays what I believe to be the sad state of the Evangelical church in America. The church has largely abandoned the example of Christ and has bought into the cultural obsession with success and personal fulfillment. Jesus would not be among most of the church-going Americans, rather he would be among the poor, the outcast, the simple-minded of this world. I think he would be quicker to befriend the accuser (the male prostitute) of Mr. Haggard than he would have Mr. Haggard himself. The church has become a place for "good" people and not a healing place for the hurting. The church has become a place where you have to hide your struggles and not a place where you can overcome them. The church has become a place where the sins of others are judged, not a place of forgiveness and love. The church has become a place for "self-help" and personal fulfillment, not a place where a community of weak people become a strong body. I have much more hope for the persecuted Christians in China than I do the comfortable Christians in America. Theirs is a far more solid faith than ours.
I often tell my patients: "we are all idiots in our own ways." Like them, I struggle with my own bad tendencies and have really hurt those around me. My hope is that this admission on my own part will let them know that I am not judging them as being worse than me. My hope is that American Christians won't simply dismiss Mr. Haggard as a "bad man," but instead that his fall would cause us to examine what we are as a church and become the church that I believe Christ intended us to become - one in which the prostitutes and drug users are not shunned, but where they can be accepted as people and loved like Christ did while he was here.
End of Sermon