I’ve refrained on commenting on the Rev. Ted Haggard story for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I didn’t know what the facts were. Given the fact that a) I’d never heard of Haggard and therefore didn’t have a record to base any opinion on and b) his accuser flunked a polygraph test, it just wasn’t something I felt comfortable opining about. It is clear that the accusations came out at this time for political reasons, but that doesn’t make him any less guilty if he’s guilty. It was equally possible until today that Haggard was either guilty of all the charges or innocent of most of them. If he was guilty only of what he initially claimed, namely buying drugs, then he faced some legal jeopardy but there might be some way to restore him to the pulpit once his debt was paid. Now, it’s clear that he’s guilty of enough of the charges that his church has removed him from the pulpit.
That, in my opinion, is what should be done and it has been done. He may also face legal problems and he’ll certainly have some family problems. Anything further from the commentariat is piling on.
The glee with which many have greeted Haggard’s fall is all too typical of the times. He was a man the vast majority of his new critics had never heard of until a day or two ago. It’s his position as head of a large church and of the National Evangelical Association that stirs up the hate in his critics’ hearts. Their behavior is neither humane nor, unfortunately, shocking anymore. That it comes mostly from people who support the lifestyle Haggard seems to have been leading underground shows that they hate the sinner but may well love the sin, a view that is the inverse of real morality and humanity.
Haggard’s behavior itself is terrible, but the fact that he behaved at odds with his stated beliefs does nothing to discredit those beliefs. Everyone by their own life injures their stated beliefs to some extent. The apostle Paul described the conflict between belief and action best in Romans 7:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
That’s the human condition summed up. And it’s the Christian condition.
Ted Haggard deserves justice, consequences, and then mercy.