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.