Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fishbowl on a Pedestal

Most blogs I read regularly have picked up the current woes of Ted Haggard. The reactions are all over the map, too. Some are worried about how this will tarnish the evangelical image, some are worried for him and his family, some hope that the allegations aren't true, some hope that he, as well as other evangelical Christians, learns something from all this. I am pleased, however, that not one blogger I've read is twisting the knife or trying to use this to prop up an anti-Christian, anti-Religious Right, or anti-Evangelical agenda. I'm sure that some bloggers somewhere are, but the ones I read haven't and that includes some that are usually pretty scathing when it comes to the groups with which Haggard identifies.

There's been a lot of discussion of sin and hypocrisy coming out of this (well, more "conservative" blogs are more concerned with the sin part because they have a particular idea in this case). After all, Haggard has before now been elevated onto a pedestal due to his position and influence. When people on these pedestals fall, they can fall far and hard. After all, when someone seems to have it all together AND adamantly preaches against something that he or she is later implicated in allegedly doing, the significance is not lost on anyone who has been paying attention. Thus, it will be the hypocrisy on which people will focus rather than the particular "sin."

(Apart from disagreements on the sinfulness of homosexuality, there is still the alleged act of adultery, which is much more universally condemned.)

For my own part, the tragedy lies in the pedestal. All pastors are at risk here, from 10,000-member megachurches on down. It is not necessarily of our own doing, but the implications are ever-present in our fishbowl of an existence.

So pastors live in a fishbowl...on a pedestal? Maybe those metaphors aren't the best complementary fit, but I can see how they can work together. People scrutinize us while revering us. It's not easy to get out of the public eye when you screw up. The positive side is that people see you as fully human. The negative side is that people see what you did and you have to live with the consequences. Actually, that may be a positive as well.

Regardless, I remember the words of a seminary professor in one of my own less proud moments: there is grace in the gospel. There is grace for Haggard, the same grace that is for us. It is meant to be a transformative gift rather than a free pass. It's what new life in Christ is all about. That is good news for pastors, and for everyone else.


Pastor Peters said...

I see what you are saying but I tend to think that this is a theological problem. Bear with me.

If we -- as Christians -- elevate a theology that does not allow us to love our selves and honor the choices that we make, then how can we find God's blessing? To be created in the image of God begs the question of how we continue to see ourselves in that image.

Our tradition in the UCC honors continuous revelation of the divine to be discovered in all of our experiences. My prayer is that Haggard finds God in these "sinful" choices, rather than condemning himself or others.

Jeff Nelson said...

I don't disagree, especially with seeing God's revelation in all our experiences.

I also would resist condemning Haggard the person and subsequently painting any sort of picture that he is less than God's created and beloved.

However, while created in the image of God we are of course distinct from God...mortal, finite, imperfect. One can see oneself in that image while simultaneously recognizing and repenting of actions that are destructive to that image, ours or another's.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, am humbled.

As we journey through life, on this side of heaven, it is so easy to get distracted by "ways of thinking"... little systems to help us stay the Lord's path.
I think we, the body of Christ, may need to re-think how we treat "those other people" who are just trying to grab the hem of His grace.
I am a sinner. ... a sinning, sinful sinner. ..But Jesus washed me. That is all.
If I start looking at others...
A N Y others (no matter W H A T their "sin specialty" is.) as anything but a fellow sinner, simply in need of that same washing and forgiveness...
Then I have strayed from the foot of the same cross I am trying to bring others to.
I think a larger portion of the body of Christ will finally soften their voices of boycott now... and may the Lord embolden all of our voices toward repentance... publicly "owning" the fact that we are just as human... just as in need of constant repentance... forgiveness... thankfulness for His paying the debt that we owe... daily.
May we finally bring our faith back to the kingdom of God and away from mere conservative patriotism.
I love America because Jesus died for every single person whose foot treads her soil... just like the people of every other nation.
I love her not because I am going to elect my Lord, my Savior, My God as the mere ruler of my country.
Instead, I will pray for each individual in my country to find faith in Him, so they can voluntarily walk away from their own sins, instead of having their specific sins voted against.
We have simply been distracted by man's means instead of God's means.
Redemption and (voluntary)repentance... not restriction and counter legislation.
My prayer is that we will again be seen as a praying church... Like the thief in that temple that Jesus talked about.. unwilling to even lift his eyes... beating his chest saying, "Lord, forgive me... a sinner." So that we may leave our places of worship justified... and so the other desperate seekers of forgiveness will not have to clinch their fists as they privately bear their souls... trying hard to not hear how we are going to vote. But instead hearing how God gives us the means to change. So they may also leave our places of worship justified and not just "voted against".
His blood is too precious to paint a red white and blue campaign sign with. The red of Jesus' blood washes any who will come to Him whiter than snow. With the invitation to bring Him every sin. Not just the sins of the other guy. ... The sins that make headlines AND the sins that are not familiar.