By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
There are new disclosures in the scandal surrounding disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard just as he's promoting Alexandra Pelosi's new documentary about him. From the AP:
A young man who formerly attended New Life Church says that then-pastor Ted Haggard performed a sex act in front of him in a hotel room in 2006 and sent him explicit text messages.
His hidden relationship with Haggard, the man said, was followed by a period of isolation, struggles with drinking, drugs and suicide attempts.
Those latest allegations against Haggard, once an influential national evangelical leader, were reported Monday night by KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs, which interviewed the man, now 25.
In a statement earlier Monday, Haggard apologized for his "inappropriate relationship" with the former church volunteer, but said it did not involve physical contact.
This seriously complicates Haggard's campaign to rehabilitate himself in the public eye. Until now, Haggard's publicly disclosed extramarital relationships extended only to a gay prostitute named Mike Jones. It would be difficult to make the case that Jones, who says he received money from Haggard for sex and drugs, was victimized by Haggard.
This new revelation is a different story. It's much easier to see a 23-year-old parishioner as a victim of Haggard abusing his power as a pastor—especially when the young man claims the episode was followed by struggles with drugs and suicide attempts—even if he's not alleging that Haggard forced him into anything. The substance of the ordeal, and the failure of Haggard to disclose it, will make it a lot harder for audiences to sympathize with Haggard while watching Pelosi's sympathetic portrait of him.
But should it?
I looked back over Haggard's comments about sin, forgiveness, and redemption from my recent interview with him (here and here) and, according to the theology he espouses, I suspect that Haggard probably feels he's already done all he needs to do to get right with God and to be embraced by the church, even after this new disclosure. Are there Christian readers out there who agree or disagree with Haggard about that? Here's the relevant excerpt:
Have your views on homosexuality changed, in terms of the science or the theology?
It has.... When I started in counseling, I thought I was a spiritual disaster and a complete idiot for what I'd done. And the counselor started out by saying "You're spiritually OK." He asked, "Have you repented?" Yes. "Have you memorized scripture?" Yes. "Have you been through inner healing?" Yes. He said, "According to the Bible, you are in fine relationship with the Lord Jesus." And I said I think I am. I love Him. I've never rebelled against him willingly. This has been a wrestling in my life, never an acceptance thing.
And then he said, "You are rationale—have you read books on the subject?" Yes. And he said "Ted, if you could pray about this and be OK, you would have done it. If you could think about this and rationalize your own life, you would have done it. This is not spiritual nor reasonable. It is physiological." And he started to teach me how the brain works. And in that process, over two years, I've grown in eliminating the incongruities in my life. I've learned physiologically how the brain works and how that related to sexuality.
Now theologically, I still believe that the Bible has an ideal for all of us and that ideal for sexuality is that it should be expressed in heterosexual, monogamous marriages. However, I know that mankind is diverse and that is why the Lord provides forgiveness for all of us and love for all of us. Just as the Bible says, I hate divorce but we all understand loads of Christians have been through divorce, so we know God has other things that he has an ideal in our lives that we as human beings just aren't going to achieve.
Does that mean that one can be a good Christian homosexual just like one could be a good Christian divorcee?
It means that every human being is in equally desperate need for redemption and that humanity is so far off track that we shouldn't hate each other and that there is certainly no basis for any born again Christian to judge another born again Christian. We as people of faith are the fellowship of sinners that have been graciously redeemed. We are not the fellowship of the self-righteous.
So should a church accept a homosexual without trying to change his or her sexual orientation, just like it would accept a divorced woman without trying to reunite her former husband?
Churches need to accept everyone. And everyone needs to equally submit to the changes that the Holy Spirit's working into their lives. But even the unrepentant sinner in first Corinthians that Paul had put out of the church in second Corinthians he said, "Now take him back—don't leave him out too long or his sorrow will be too deep." And churches of all places need to be places of love. Jesus said that you can identify his disciplines by their love for one another, not by how they beat each other up and throw each other out... I was making a mistake pre-scandal by being too judgmental and by forming "evangelical opinions" without each of those opinions being informed by the Gospel and being saturated in love.