Monday, November 06, 2006

No Christian cure for Haggard's sex addiction

UPI column is up.

We are still tweaking the title so it may look different than this one. I'll edit to match but have to go shower and get ready for homeschool co-op. Wonder if anyone will be discussing this issue... There's a distinct lack of interest in some quarters.


Kansas Bob said...

Enjoyed the column Julie - very insightful thinking about Evangelicalism. I might spread the wealth a bit though. Where you say evangelicals I would probably say religious people because the themes in your column are pretty transferable to most religious people. Judgments by religious people towards people (like Haggard) who fall push people into hiding. I think that the treatment of Haggard by the Media ultimately pushes gays into places of shame.

Conversely, I so resonate with your sentiments about church being a place where hurting, lonely and wounded people can go for comfort. I regularly meet with people entrapped in hurtful habits ... I think that they continue to come because I don't judge them ... I listen to them, cry with them and pray for them. Many of these have been read the (evangelical) riot act and are so tired of trying to be something that they are not. I encourage them to like who they are and just be who they are.

Editfish said...


Thank you for the honest take on this. Christianity frequently lump that assumption together with that blanket promise that those who are "weary and heavy-laden" will be relieved of their burdens and given rest. You rightly noted that this does not guarantee a cure, a fact that is simply glossed over by 99% of the Evangelicals. We WANT the burden of proof to be on God, to cure us and fill up our bank accounts--and to shield us from any trace of temptation. But this is a delusion--the Bible states unequivocally that we will still be tempted (although not more than we can bear), so the burden of proof is upon us, to stand up to it. If we're completely cured, then it no longer becomes a temptation, does it? The apostle Paul wrestled with his "thorn in the flesh" for years, and asked many, many times for it to be removed, to which the reply was a simple "my grace is sufficient for you". That great man begged for a cure and was denied, despite his incredible faith and powerful witness. Who are we to expect anything different?

Thanks for the course correction.

Anonymous said...

Putting other sexual sins aside for the moment, maybe there is no cure for homosexual urges because it is not a sin after all? And maybe the hurt and deception that seem to accompany these urges would not be necessary if it were not deemed such a present evil in our society.

Back when I was an evangelical, I was a part of a church that was rigorous about confronting sin. It was as if once identified, it should be eradicated immediately. I constantly remember thinking, "where is the grace for the process?" If we had more patience and loyalty for each other while getting from here to there, we might be able to have more honesty and more healing.

Kansas Bob said...

I liked what Scot says at Jesus Creed:

"What we saw with Haggard is not just about leaders; it is about all of us.

Thus, a proposal, and I can only suggest it and hope that some evangelical leaders will catch the same vision — some at the national and international leadership level: evangelicals need to work hard at creating an environment of honesty. It is dishonest to the human condition to pretend that Christians don’t sin; but as long as we are afraid to confess to one another we will continue to create an unrealistic and hypocritical environment."

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Julie, for your comments on this subject. As a former fundamentalist/evangelical/"preacher boy" student, I feel keenly the dynamics of all those involved in this scandal. I really appreciate you writing about the lack of "miracale cures" the evangelical church actually has to offer people with this "condition." (I put that in quotes because I don't actually believe true homosexuality is a condition but rather a natural state of being.)

But I wanted to suggest something:(impotently, at this point and from my distance from Haggard's overseers) "What if they, instead of firing Haggard, had said, "This is interesting. Why don't you take some time off to reflect on your journey, communicate with your wife and family, get some good therapy to truly get to the bottom of who you are. When you are ready, come back and share with us your new wisdom."

Instead, their answer is to simply cast him aside, more embarrassed than committed to their friend, an even bigger failing, I believe, than Ted acting out his secret compulsions. Now that would be a miracle.

jim b said...


I'm just not willing to concede that God doesn't offer help or hope for those struggling with addictions. AA and other groups, based on Christian principles, have been a pretty proven road to recovery.

I think the problem comes from an assumption that 'final victory' over this or that addiction has been achieved, especially by some sort of divine intervention of the Holy Spirit. This miraculous work of the H.S. absolves me from all responsibility to truly look at myself and figure out what's really going on.

Alcoholics who go through AA stay in AA and are never willing to say "I've been freed from Alcohol for life." for if they do that is the first sign that they are on the slippery road back into .

Unfortunately the church doesn't provide a place for people like Ted to be honest about the ual demons that haunt them. The language I hear from Ted's apology is "I thought from time to time God had given me freedom from this, but that clearly has not been the case."

I fear that Ted's counseling buddies won't prove to be much help.

julieunplugged said...

Anon, this is exactly what I want to write about next. What is to be done?

A culture of honesty does not grow in a place where your job is on the line when you reveal your deepest darkest secrets. Evangelicals do not promote honesty because they want to advertize triumphant Christian morality that instructs the culture and gives glory to God (as they see it).

A radical way of dealing with Ted's situation would be to not fire him and to keep him as their pastor. Then they could begin the process of renewal and embrace, restoration and healing. He may never be senior pastor again or he may. But for now, he would be not just an embarassing ex-founding pastor, but a man in leadership who sinned, just like every member in the congregation. And through his lessons, all would learn.

For the record, I do not think homosexuality is a sin and that's why this particular situation is of even more interest to me. How can anyone be honest about who he is if his core identity is sinful? He lives in a schizophrenic self.

Bob, you are right that this could be broadened to religious groups in general, but I always heistate to speak for groups I don't know. Evangelicalism is the source of my faith and the longest term experience of Christianity. Haggard was a mega-star in that world and a huge proponent of the power of prayer. His failure is a testament to the fact that prayer is not a cure all, at all.

More soon. Thanks for all the comments.


Dave said...

Julie, this "honest environment" that you propose the church try to develop would probably be the most radical, amazing revolution in church history, coming from where evangelicalism is at, especially churches like Haggard's, where marketing and multimedia illusions are such a prominent feature of congregational life.

You kind of hint at it in your column, but I think a major obstacle to be overcome is that so many Christians are inextricably wedded to theologies and cosmologies that are simply not "reality-based" as they strive so hard to fit all the data into a logical, internally consistent and coherent worldview that inevitably winds up distorting something or other in the process...

I have no serious problem with the muddle of confusion, limited knowledge, partial perceptions, etc. that we are all subject to, but the dishonesty comes into the picture when terms like "absolute truth" start getting tossed around, supernatural intervention is presented as a routine and obvious phenomenon and the facts get fitted forcibly into the larger metanarrative. So I really wonder how many evangelical churches are willing to get THAT honest? Are they going to allow their guard to drop re: biblical literalism, metaphorical interpretations, agnostic tentativeness re: doctrinal speculations, tolerance toward other religions, etc.? I have a hard time seeing it go to that level, since the "illusions" are still such a powerful and compelling aspect that keeps so many Christians enthralled with their faith.

Then again, there's always the Spong approach to these issues...

Bilbo said...

Hi Julie,

Thanks for the excellent article and I really, really, appreciate what you and everyone else had to say about this topic. Big congrats....Julie....I really like your and "anons" proposal to give the Haggard some time out to explore what is going on and then come back and share with the congregation. I think and wish more churches would give this serious consideration...because...throwing the guy under the bus is, imo, equivalent to banishing him into a black hole. How many fallen leaders have ever recovered after they have been disciplined by the church and publicly humiliated?....Are there any happy endings to any of the stories?...Any stories of transformation and return to normal ministries?...Bob...I like your suggestion that " evangelicals need to work hard at creating an environment of honesty." Dave, I am skeptical,my word, not Dave's, because I think there is a significant amount of change that may need to occur before we can begin to create an environment of honesty...and...may I propose that we begin by re-examining how we interpret and categorize sin...because...right now many evangelicals tend to place "certain sins" in special, "shameful" categories that forces people to either be dishonest or in denial, or both. Sexual sins are an example, imo. I remember years ago when James Dobson interviewed Ted Bundy and Bundy shared about how his addiction to pornography gradually led to his serial killings. After hearing this program and the implications of the relationship between addiction to porn and serial killing is it any wonder why anyone would be scared to death to be honest about their porn addiction?...And, is it any surprise that Ted Haggard would not want to come clean after knowing what has happened to all the other Evangelical leaders who have entered the black hole of confessing their sexual sins...

Lee said...

>>julieunplugged said:
"For the record, I do not think homosexuality is a sin..."

Pray tell, what part of the following is unclear?

'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable..." Leviticus 20:13

Jesus was quoted "neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."
Based on this, I surmise that sin was still a problem. Sin is still a problem in 2006.

Some of the comments left describe your column as: insightful, honest and caring. Can you please bring your thoughts to bear in a comment or a column why hosexuality is or is-not a sin?

julieunplugged said...

Hi Lee.

It would be difficult in one blog entry to discuss the issue of homosexuality to your satisfaction, I'm sure. I take a differentreading of the passage you mention and probably approach the Bible differently than you do as well. If you read my archived entries or my columns, you'll have a better idea of where I'm coming from.

I don't expect you to agree with me. And I invite your participation even when you don't! My beliefs about sexuality have evolved over a period of serious study, including work in grad school. If I get some time and have the inclination to unfold all that, maybe I'll do it!


Anonymous said...

I could not agree more with your thought:
"For the record, I do not think homosexuality is a sin and that's why this particular situation is of even more interest to me. How can anyone be honest about who he is if his core identity is sinful? He lives in a schizophrenic self."
Just as many gays have had to hide and practice deception simply because their desire is for someone of their own sex, so I have had to live in complete and utter isolation because I can never remember a time when my desire was not for children. I am ashamed of what I have been forced to do just because of societies refusal to accept the obvious truth that God has created certain adults with a desire for children, and almost all children with a natural curiosity and desire for adults. I long for the day that all of us can simply act on our God given desires without fear of condemnation or retribution. When will people accept that if its a predilection you are born with, it is not, nor can it be sin.