Monday, November 06, 2006

I do it because I love it

The Ted Haggard discussion is creating quite a bit of traffic and I'd like to make a couple comments that might be useful to some who are reading this blog for the first time.

I have great hope that evangelical Christianity can find a way to offer what it does best to the people who love it most. I love the community life of evangelicalism. I love the way we care for each other, the way everyone rushes in to make life easier for the hurting or suffering (whether someone loses a job or goes to the hospital). I've seen huge doses of grace dispensed to the hurting or fallen. Just last spring when one of the 15 year olds in our homeschool group revealed she was pregnant, our group rallied around her and her family! She continued to come to co-op while pregnant and has since brought her baby with her each week this fall.

Moments like these are times when I'm so proud to be a part of an evangelical community.

What I wish we could see with Ted Haggard's situation is an opportunity for real honesty to co-exist with leadership. The only way that will happen is if a person's job security is not dependent on being absolutely morally pure, particularly in the arena of sexual brokenness. There can be no honesty when one's livelihood is tied to being above reproach, at all times.

On the other hand, churches do have an interest in having leaders that don't fall into large-scale sin. It seems to me that what we really need is a way for churches to help their pastors and members through their addictions to the other side while allowing them to continue to perform the tasks that they can while being helped. Ted can still work in a soup kitchen or go to prayer meetings or teach the Bible, can't he? These skills don't disappear because of sexual misconduct.

He needs the body more now than he ever did. And the body needs him - to see how to recover, how to be humiliated and still find grace and faith. To shuttle him off to some hidden place reinforces the message of hiddennness.

Only when evangelicals can see that their churches are safe places for sinners to reveal their sins, doubt, missteps, changes in thinking will honesty become the currency of our spiritual lives. If not, secrecy will thrive. I write these columns, this blog, my papers for grad school because I am passionate about Christianity... in fact, I love it! I long for the day when Christians can live up to its bold challenge to love, to forgive, to serve, to make peace, to heal, to embrace, to live the truth humbly.

I hope I'm becoming that kind of person myself.

16 comments:

steve poole said...

Just want to say you rock. I discovered you by accident, following links RE: the Ted Haggard mess. I love your blog, and it seems I share your thinking in general. You are articulate and refreshing - is it OK to say you are beautiful too? Just an accident of birth, know, but a nice one. Not flirting - I am happily married, but I calls em as I sees em! My frankness not always pleased everyone, but it has made life far more interesting. I am a Christian who loves evangelicals but seems to love evangelical-ism less with every passing year. Atthis point, the whole Haggard world (and world view) is utterly weird and unatractive to me. Even though I built a thriving "contemporary" church with the past twenty years of my life, oddly enough I have have no desire to ever be in one again. I am finding great beauty and grace in classical Christianity. These days I am enjoying weekly worship in a conservative Anglican church. No panacea, but it sure is great to get away from pop-culture Christianity. Anyway, Thanks so much for being honest and true and interesting, etc. I have bookmarked you and I will be back.

sadiq.jimeta said...

Julie:

I just stumbled across your post. My question is not confrontational but I would like to know why you proudly state you are an Evangelical? Do you identify more with the label or do you identify more with the fact that you are a follower of Christ?

SJ

BC said...

I hope due to this situation Christians will now address same-sex attraction. "Just don't do it" isn't working and this is a big issue today, both inside & outside the Body of Christ.

julieunplugged said...

I seemy evangelical background the way I see my Irish heritage perhaps. I spent twenty-five years in the fold and identify most easily with the issues that plague evangelicals.

Ironically, though, I do not consider myself evangelical any more (theologically) and I have given up the nomenclature of Christian because too many assumptions attend that identity.

You wrote follower of Christ. Thatis closer for use. I'd say at this point in my journey I love Christianity and Christ in spite of having to go through this time of realignment about what I believe.

I consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer my hero in the faith, if that helps.:)

Julie

julieunplugged said...

Should read "that is closer for sure."

Gary Sims said...

Julie - I just received a copy of an email from my pastor attributed to you entitled "Julie Bogart for Monsters and Critics." I can't find it referenced in this blog but it was a powerfully thought provoking piece regarding the Ted Haggard situation. It spoke about the "evangelical church (needing to) admit that they don`t have answers for sexual addiction, perversion or homosexual inclinations?"

The Ted Haggard fall affects all Christians, evangelical or otherwise. The questions your article raised that I'm struggling with are: Is the promise of being transformed in Christ really a lie? If so, where is the hope? Shouldn't we expect to be able to come to Christ and be changed? Yes, frequently we slip and fall but if every addict (sexual or otherwise) gave up simply because the "Evangelical promise of healing" is a lie, then why bother. Yes, people continue to struggle with their addictions after coming to Christ. But there is hope, isn't there? Yes, its a daily struggle - "one day at a time" - but change is possible, isn't it?

I agree with your assessment of preaching morality and the false sense of security that can come from the Evangelical promise but I'm also hopeful that lives can be changed by Christ. I guess you can call me the eternal optimist.

I am glad I found your blog and will be back. When you have time check my blog out at http://www.ezraweb.com/community/blogs/blogview.php?member=GarySims

Keep up the good work

sadiq.jimeta said...

Gary and Julie,

As a follower of Christ - this incident has caused a lot of thoughts but when we go back to the basics it boils down to death to self. There are aspects of salvation that are unpleasant and death to self is one. "It is no longer I who lives but Christ lives in me" - The Holy Spirit isn't a voodoo charm. He's a helper. God partners with man. We play our part and then God plays his part.

The Holy Spirit hasn't failed us, we just haven't embraced death to self.

I also posted the earlier thread to understand the term "Evangelical". I think it is an americanized version of Christianity that isn't accurate at all.

To BC - How will we address homosexuality now? The same way we are expected to address lying and adultery. We should not accept them but teach those wishing to leave that lifestyle about death to self. God doesnt and has never changed. He just is. He has never been more God nor less God. His requirements are still the same. .

SJ

Gary Sims said...

SJ - I agree with you - "Deny yourself and follow me." When we do then our pride comes tumbling down and the Holy Spirit can do His best work.

The only problem, especially as we become successful leaders in our communities? We feel justified by our actions and quickly lose focus. The Israelites lost focus about every 40 years and then spent another 40 years paying for their sins.

I think the sin that Haggard committed was not a sexual sin at all but a sin of pride where he felt he had the God-given right to tell others how to live. When we feel righteous then you can bet Pride has taken over.

BeckyR said...

First of all Julie, thank you. Such truth. Said better than I have tried to through years.

Death to self - so, how much death to self so we no longer sin? Is that the idea? That we will not sin if we have died to self. Sorry, but it struck me about the same as if you have enough faith. and how much faith is enough, then?

I think truth is, and it is shown in the Bible by all the stories of the heroes who sinned, is no matter what principle we apply to our lives, we will sin till we hit our graves. There is progress, but this side of the Fall, it is harmful to impose expectation that there will be anything other than struggling with sin till we die.

There are principles of dying with Christ and living in the Spirit, but these are understood more and more deeply with each additional year we are a christian. They are not a cure for never sinning.

The other aspect is as Julie said : how great it would be to be in a christian community where we could admit these sins that shock, and find support and counsel as we try to get a handle on the sins. One by one. And that the confessions wouldn't shock, but there being an attitude of - join the crowd, you R us.

My starting place is multiple times daily to go before God starting with : I am a sinner, I need your help. Up Daddy up. In the same way I had nothing to contribute for my justification, I come to Christ with nothing to contribute for my sanctification except looking to him to do his work in me. Behold the handmaiden of the Lord, do as you say.

sadiq.jimeta said...

beckyr:

I hear you loud and clear; but there are some fundamentals to the faith that once you negate, you might as well say Christ was a liar and we know he wasn't a liar. When he told the lady go and sin no more - do you think he meant it in a figurative sense? I'd like to know your thoughts.

What was the purpose of God sending Christ to come to earth and die as a human? He might have as well been killed by Herod and then the sin offering portion of salvation would have been fulfilled.

But he lived 30+ years for a reason; to teach us how to live life victoriously and he was without sin (this isn't open for deabate - the crux of our faith is dependent on this)

Julie's post has caused some serious introspeciton on my part and a serious departure from baby christianity. Christ who was equally man and equally God demonstrated death to self at the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed and cried and sweated blood (to demonstrate that death to self is not just a theoretical & theological concept that we just speak about). It is a painful process that we must engage in.

We want to get to heaven but we don't want to die. We must submit to our final authority which is God's word. We must also apply wisdom and not compromise on God's word.

SJ

julieunplugged said...

Thanks Steve! Nice to meet you.

Gary, I sent you a link to the article you mentioned, but it's also in the post below this one. It's my UPI column.

I agree that there is hope to recover from addictions. I would even go as far as to say that people have recovered through spiritual disciplines. What I am trying to say in my article is that unfortunately, the disciplines are not a panacea for recovery, nor are they as reliable as we pretend they are.

I will be posting more about this issue on this blog in the next few days so I hope you'll be back. I'll check out your blog too.

SJ, I don't believe that the complexity that is being human can ever be boiled down. The idea of "death to self" in our post-Freud era is not the same idea that is put forth in the New Testament. Addiction and internal dishonesty are so complex that at times, there is no treatment that recovers a person. My hope for Ted and all of us is that we will do the work necessary to become whole in the company of people who will love us and tell us the truth about ourselves. I hope that the church can become a place where that can happen consistently. I like what Becky said about this.

Julie

The Happy Phanthom said...

Hi Julie...

I Love You
and have been checkin" you out for a while now. (is that a sin?)
I'm not flirting either... ;>)

I don't comment much but had to send some sugar to you for the way you've covered this, dare I say, scandal.

The recent 25 year review of moral failures post and the courageous comment about the Holy Spirit "failing Ted" kind of thinking was powerful.
More powerful is the
Faith, Hope and Love
you demonstrate toward God and His Body. Keep up the great work and never fear telling your truth.

sadiq and gary...
Whatever the apparent sin, homosexuality,lying, gossip,
pride, etc...

Victory/overcoming is not an act of your will, it goes deeper than that.
denying/dying, or whatever you want to call it is actually losing yourself/identity and being found "In Christ".
What He experienced is now your experience,
Death, New Life , Power and Glory.

The transforming of your mind occurs by remembering and reminding others
what God "Declares" you.
A New Creation, Righteous and Holy.
Believing that, is always the first but hardest part.

Remember, Ya can't crucify yourself Ya just gotta carry the cross...

Grace and Peace
p.s. I'll go back to being quiet now

Kansas Bob said...

Great post again Julie. You have keen insight into the evangelical culture and have the ability to fine-tune your thoughts into words.

I do not know Haggard but what I have observed (over 30 years) in the many (many) fallen leaders that I have witnessed is this: they have huge egos and will not take a lesser role in their church. Many of them arise from the ashes of the their humiliation and start new churches/ministries. Very few of them do not return to "ministry" because they re not trained to do anything but church work. In Ted's case I hope that I am wrong.

Larry Moffitt said...

Happy Birthday, Julie !

Age 45 is a the new 30, so you may still be a ways away from the halfway, point. Plus, as a few of the male visitors to your blog have kindly pointed out, you are well-preserved. All that’s a blessing, but even if you were younger – life is very, very, very short. And after age 40, it picks up speed like a screaming mother.

I am loving the attention your writing is getting. It’s well deserved. This can be the column that represents you in ReligionAndSpirituality.com's Best of 2006 book.

After the abuse you took from some in the Christian community for honestly sharing your faith struggles in your columns, you acquired a craw sufficient to understand the plight of the Ted Haggards of the world. Your adversity made you a deeper person, and then you harvested the fruits of your depth. That’s how God works.

When I turned 57, I considered taking up cigar smoking. I don’t smoke anything now, but cigars look cool, and authoritative. And I figure by the time it becomes injurious to my health, I will be far along in the check-out line anyway. Plus I can do the classic, ultimate insult of blowing smoke in someone’s face. Then I thought, naaah, and so I didn’t.

So now I don’t smoke cigars and I am still getting older anyway. It seems there is no reward for good behavior. But who knows, maybe I’ll earn my wings somewhere between here and there. I understand there aren't a whole lot of editors in heaven.

rgds,
Larry

BeckyR said...

My own journey - I am realizing that if I want this attribute of strength in myself, I get to the point where I can honestly admit my sins because it is what needs to be done for my spiritual health. And for it not to depend on how others will respond to me. I figure I'm not that different from others, and I get responses to other comments or revelations I make, that aren't what I am looking for. It is up to me then to speak up and hopefully communication becomes clearer on both sides. If we individually are brave enough to speak the truth of what our christian life is, then we show to those influenced people, that this is a reality of what a christian life is. It takes guts, to where responses don't shake one in the vulnerability. I mean, it starts now, in many contexts. And hopefully within all of that, we do have a person or groups of persons who will accept us and help us work through the roots of the sin and help us grab hold of the concept in that instance, of death with Christ and living in the Spirit. I don't think we can wait till someone sets it up in a church so that we can do it. I think if we want it, it must start with the individual, it must start with us who yearn for it. It must start with us doing it.

Anonymous said...

I re-read the lengthy May, 2005, Harper's article, SOLDIERS OF CHRIST -- INSIDER AMERICA'S MOST POWERFUL MEGACHURCH WITH PASTOR HAGGARD.

I was astounded to realize that one of the New Lifers interviewed in the article back then, prophisied the Haggard debacle in the visions he had and told the author about. Not so much the first part of the prophesy, but the rest of it is pretty riveting. I love the last line. I think he should splinter from New Life and lead his own Church.

Commander Tom is a disabled former chip manufacturer worker, who is left with a bizarre sensitivity to electrical fields. He reads two books over and over, the Bible and Lord of the Rings. This is all talked about earlier in the article. He has a son in the evangelical equivalent of Boy Scouts/Hitler Youth. Here is an excerpt from the article with his prophesy from May 2005:
-----------
In December, Commander Tom received a vision. It is not unheard of for ordinary New Lifers to experience visions, but most are wary about their provenance; what a secularist would call psychological they call satanic. But Commander Tom thinks that this one was real. He seemed close to tears as he told me the story. This is what he had seen: “Complete darkness over all of America. But there was a light coming down to the center of America,” i.e., Colorado Springs. “And it was just a circle. And in it there were angels, and the angels were battling. And they were fighting hard as they could”—here Commander Tom's voice broke—“but they couldn't hold back the dark, and the Lord said to me, ‘America has to repent, or this hole will close.’”

Commander Tom returned to the moment. “I'm not even saying I know what to do with it. It's just—that's what I see. And I pray. There's something going on here, and God's gonna explode it. There's gonna be an explosion from here bigger than anyone's ever seen.”

Pastor Ted, he believed, would marshal the shock waves. “I think Pastor Ted is Gandalf,” said Commander Tom. Tom had received a few mini-visions, just glimpses really, and in them he saw a pastor kneeling, praying, in spiritual battle.

“Who's the Balrog?” I asked, referring to a demon that nearly kills Gandalf, the Lord of the Rings's heroic wizard. I expected Commander Tom to reply with the usual enemies, “the culture” and the homosexuals and the humanists. But the Balrog, he said, is inside Pastor Ted, and inside every Christian. Before the church can condemn the world, it must cleanse itself, thought Tom; he believed that American evangelicals were filthy with pride.

“Pride's dangerous,” he said. He was thinking of the last presidential election. “Like a football game. Us against them.” Commander Tom was pleased with the results but dismayed by the political power surging through his congregation. “That is not the same as”—he paused—“going into God. God does not see politics as a victory.”