Monday, November 06, 2006

The wages of sin

I know there are liberals around the country who are snickering at the crash and burn of Ted Haggard. Heck, I would have been snickering right there with them a few years ago. It is a special kind of comeuppance when it comes to light that a holier than thou kind of guy isn't.

But even as my knee jerk reaction might be to join the feeding frenzy, the Christian in me says that I must respond only one way: Prayer. I must pray for this tormented man. I must pray for his congregation, who is clearly in pain. I must pray for the prostitute, the wife, the family, friends, the Christian community and the gay community, too.

And I do have to wonder how this kind of thing happens. How can your personal faith be at such odds with your actual walk? How is it possible to have such a terrible schism in your life?

I think there are schisms in all our lives, though. We all talk one way and act another. I may not be out there betraying my spouse by consorting with prostitutes and taking meth, but in some ways, I too am guilty of hypocrisy. For example, I will just as likely watch murder and mayhem as entertainment on tv as I am to read a good book or spend time in prayer. I yell at my kids. I resent my husband. I gossip about a friend. I betray a confidence. I have spiritual pride. All of those things are sins, in one way or another. None of them bring me closer to God.

Haggard created a colossal wedge between himself and God. And over the years, that wedge hurt him and the people around him. I can't help but wonder if he would have been more able to handle this wedge if there was a tradition of formal confession in his denomination. I know, for me, confession can bring the light of God into the wedges in my own heart. I know people will still sin, but maybe the ball of wax doesn't get quite so big if they are able to speak it out loud to someone and receive absolution. Forgiveness. God's love. What strikes me most of all is the self loathing Haggard must have felt all these years. It makes me sad to think of it. Confession, at it's best, can help pull us out of that sin and show us that God cherishes us, even in our weakness. Haggard says that he has been battling this demon within him for years. Perhaps his mistake was trying to battle it alone.


You are the great healer. When we are broken, let us turn to you. Give us the courage to speak of our sins, repent, and let the light of your love cleanse our hearts.


revabi said...

great post on this situation.
Praying right there with you.

MicahGirl said...

I think you hit on a good point about the rite of confession. What we all need is accountability in our lives, and we all mostly run from it.

SingingOwl said...

Thank you for this post. I haven't been able to post anything about Haggard, who I have met, but I will soon. Something to note, however, when considering accountability is this: Haggard does not have a "denomination." There is no denominational policy. His church is independent--as are many Evangelical Pentecostal churches. Therein, IMO, lies a large part of the problem.

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

Very good point, Singing Owl. It seems easier for people to get swept up in personal power when there is no denominational safety net.

Pride is an insidious sin, indeed. It might have been what kept Haggard from asking for help.

I pray that pride won't stand in the way of my asking for help when I need it...

LutheranChik said...

One of my friends suggests that what may seem to others to be a tragedy for Haggard may be God's way of finally helping Haggard get honest with himself and who he is.

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

Hey LC,

I agree with your friend that God may be in the midst of this situation. One of the biggest tragedies (among many) is that in Haggard's world view, being gay is completely unacceptable. It has caused him to act out in very destructive ways, it seems.

Honesty will bring healing.

Anonymous said...

I think singingowl may be partially right- that in a loosely church with loosely congregational polity, there are fewer ways of calling leadership to accountability. However, even where strong structures exist (like my own Roman Catholic Church) their effectiveness depends on how willing the leaders are to maintain transparency with each other and with their flocks, andabove all with God. I'm not sure I would say this is God's way of getting Haggard to deal with who he is. The real issue here is not, IMHO, gay/lesbian identity or openness. Rather, it's another call to him (and to us all) to become more transparent to God's grace.

BC said...

Perhaps his mistake was trying to battle it alone.

I agree, Rachel, and I think there's another piece to the puzzle, too. Perhaps his mistake was trying to battle it, period. Desire is not to be battled. God gave us desire, after all. And he gave us desire so we could desire Him. But we're such little monkeys that we run around desiring all sorts of things instead. Developing the desire for God can help us see that all desire is a reflection of spiritual desire. Then there's no battle, just understanding (and a little training of the monkey!)

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

"...all desire is a reflection of spiritual desire."

I agree that the longing we feel, which can only be fulfilled by God, is very often misdirected.

But I am not sure I agree that we need only understand our desires. Jesus said that if we lust after someone we have already committed adultery in our hearts. (Matthew 5:28) He is saying that the not only is the act itself sin... so is the desire to act. Which is a much harder test. (One that I have failed many times, I am sure.)

What if we recognize our lust as misdirected longing for God? Then I think grace is at work.