October 17, 2017

Advent With Ted the Loser

UPDATE: My apologies for what the discussion thread turned into on this post. Some things are just very hard to moderate because they aren’t nasty and they are tangentially on topic. Then you get to the point you realize the whole thread has been hijacked by points of view the opposite of what you wanted to discuss. Thanks for the positive, on topic contributions from several of you.

This post is inspired by a FoxNews piece updating the situation of disgraced megachurch pastor Ted Haggard. Haggard was a major leader in evangelicalism until he was brought down by evidence of sexual sin and drug use.

Dear Ted,

May I call you Ted? Not “Pastor Ted,” “Reverend Haggard” or any other ministerial name.

You may not feel like it, but you’re at a good place. Finally. It’s taken a while, but you’ve made it to the place where the Gospel of Jesus has its power. On the verge of the fourth Sunday of the season of waiting, you’ve made it to the place where all that can happen now is for a savior to be born to a virgin. Your savior, no less. Yours and all the other losers.

Yes Ted, honesty, your best gift now has arrived.

“Disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard says in a new documentary that he still struggles with his sexuality yet is committed to his marriage for the sake of his children.”

Struggles. YES!

“He now sells insurance and, in the documentary, says he isn’t successful. ” At this stage in my life, I am a loser,” he says.”

Loser. YES!

Ted, I hope I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but all those years that you lived in the center of the evangelical circus, all those years you covered up your struggles and desires, all those years you were taught to lie, deny, obfuscate and yammer on and on with various high-octane versions of the evangelical revival story (complete with band and movie clips), you were far, far away from the truth.

You were living a lie and you were teaching a lie.

And some of the things you’ve said since your fall? How you were fixed with a few sessions of counseling? Not good, Ted. Not good. A very bad place. Avoid it.

Now, Ted, now…now you are starting to see the light. You can say “I was abused as a second grader.” “I struggle…..I’m a loser.” This is major progress.

My recommendation is to find a good group somewhere that will understand how you feel and what you’ve experienced. You see, the evangelical version of that you can say you strugglED and you WERE a loser, but now everything is all right because you prayed a prayer, got saved and got called to preach. You know that’s not true- you’re not all right. You’re a walking wreck and lying about it has just made things worse.

What you hid, denied and buried rose up out of the dark place where you stuffed it and took over your life. I know that feeling very well. You’re suddenly a person without integrity. The truth isn’t in you. You’ve lived a lie and now the truth is going to have its day.

So here you are selling insurance. I suggest you stay right there, or someplace similar, for a very long time.

I suggest you find some other “losers” and compare notes.

I’d like to affirm your instinct that just any place in evangelicalism probably won’t do right now. Some evangelicals will be good companions, but most won’t. You understand this, but let’s explain this to those still fascinated by the coffee bar in the common area.

Ted, gentle readers, is now living proof that “it” doesn’t work the way “it” is supposed to work. Ted is now a living demonstration that, darn it, we aren’t fixable. A good church with a kickin’ band? Great shoes and suits? Sermons researched by assistants and delivered with the proper film clips and jokes? Nope. Tear filled illustrations? Prayer groups? Sermon series on mp3? Book? Seventeen verses of the latest “I love you Jesus” song? A big smile?

All worthless for real sinners like Ted and yours truly.

No Ted, it’s resurrection or nothing. It’s Jesus does the whole deal or there is no deal.

I see that hand. What? Can’t we have transformation and victory now?

Transformation….yes. Transformed from lying to telling the truth. Transformed from this religious act to honest confession of sin. Transformed from this celebrity saint to this loser on his knees at the table of the Lord. “Even the dogs get the crumbs.” Yes, transformed so that the Gospel’s diagnosis and truth make sense in the deep, dark places of your life.

But fixed? Cured? “Victorious?” “Your Best Life Now?” No. The deepest disease of the soul isn’t sexual sin or meth or lying. The deepest sin of the soul is prideful autonomy, the very thing evangelicals demand in their celebrities. There’s only one cure: dying and rising. Until then, believe the Gospel with an open heart, and walk in the power of the Spirit- who keeps you on your knees depending on Jesus- until Jesus finishes the job.

By all means, Ted, find a community. Find a church that gives you the Gospel over and over and over again. A church that has no time for the evangelical circus.

But know that the community of “strugglers” and “losers” centered around the Gospel and the Table aren’t going to be there behind most church signs. Still, don’t give up. Jesus wasn’t lying about his church. It’s on earth, but you have to be willing to touch the leper, embrace the adulteress, include the sexual struggler, love the loser. You have to see the ugly, the broken, the lonely, last, least and lost to see that community.

And you have to see Jesus in the simple Gospel proclaimed, in the bread and the wine. In the things that don’t make megachurches anymore. In fact, you may be surprised where you find that community, Ted. Jesus is famously unconcerned with the kind of people he calls his friends. I hope you’re learning that.

You’ve been given a great gift in your honest struggle and confession of being a loser. You’re on the way. You’re on the road. Don’t whine about it. Don’t make the mistake of seeing the broad evangelical Disneyland as your destination. You’re at that point where George Bailey stood on the bridge. You can despair….and jump. Or you can know that God has sent his hope, love and good news to you in a barn, where shepherds worship in tearful silence; where a man receives a gift he never created; where a virgin says yes even to the unthinkable that grace can do the impossible.

Go there, Ted. Find that place. Go as a struggler, a loser, one with nothing. Go and know that this, and all it means and will ever mean, is for you. For you….a savior. A savior of strugglers, losers and worse.

your friend and fellow loser,

Michael

Comments

  1. Thank you so much, iMonk. Please be reassured, your postings are a real ministry of grace and consolation. I have received help here that I could not find elsewhere. So be encouraged.

    Concerning the letter you wrote to Haggard, I also wish that he would listen to this song, one of my favorites:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh0TC6Er92o

    Sometimes I think we need to praise the Lord not for our victory, but for our defeats. I don’t mean that in the way of enabling sin. But sometimes it’s when we really fall low that we realize how much we need Him, and how far away we have actually been from Him. When we are brought low, when we see ourselves as we really are, all the religious pretense doesn’t work anymore. But then we can really find Him in a fresh way, and experience the power of His death and resurrection.

    I’m grateful that in a low place, He finds us, and is faithful to be with us. I sincerely hope Haggard and his family can know Christ as never before. But I hope that means they disappear from the headlines.

    And there is absolutely nothing shameful about being an insurance salesman, and having a tough time of it. The Lord was just a carpenter, after all.

  2. Comments are now being held for moderation.

  3. Great letter, iMonk. I had similar thoughts when I read the news article yesterday, but you assembled the thoughts and put together a masterful piece.

    Thanks.

  4. iMonk~

    I was just talking about this same issue with someone last night. Interesting. I like your letter here to Haggard.
    I spent 20+ years as an evangelical. I would still consider myself partially one. But here’s the catch man, I’m now working for a group that says that Christ welcomes all to the table and that concept just blows my mind and I don’t know why!
    Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a community of people believe so much in restoration that they invest in Ted’s life and others? Wouldn’t be awesome if the world could see that as Christ followers we are still human and prone to error? But even better that God loves us so much that it’s cool if we can make it through the process of healing and come out on the other end honest and open about who we are?
    Wow, thanks again for this letter. I pray and hope that Ted and many others like him just let the truth shine through their lives.

  5. ah yes, willard has a phrase for this: “miserable christian.”

    michael, i think your caricature of evangelicalism is fair, especially the triumphalistic, pentecostal variety haggard represented.

    however, what you’ve described here is akin to an AA meeting where all the members are still drunkards – they’re just honest about it. frankly, if the difference between christians and non-christians is that we’re just honest about our sin, then i don’t see the point.

    if following christ cannot reliably produce more virtuous people then jesus was lying in the sermon on the mount, and i think the church’s testimony of “weakness” has less to do with enslavement to sin and more to do with humble service over and against worldy power.

    i don’t think we have to choose between humility and holiness.

  6. Christian righteousness is not the same as worldly virtue. There are many practical similarities, but it’s an entirely different matter. And if Christ is making me into a virtuous person…compared to ????

    If to himself, there’s real trouble. In comparison to someone else….isn’t that the “I thank thee that I am not like other men” prayer in the parable of the pharisee and the publican?

  7. Yet another terrifically written, quotable, memorable, and gospel rich piece. I pray that he reads it, and I pray that your writing/teaching gift runs wide and expands in it’s unique ability to glorify Jesus. Who in the world doesn’t need to read this piece?

    Answer: No one!

    I also remember a White Horse Inn interview with Mr. Haggard where he astounded Michael Horton by stating that he did not believe that he sinned. Horton followed up by asking if he realized that in the sermon on the Mount Jesus likened ill-will as murder and pressed Mr. Haggard about whether he sometimes felt ill-will towards the liberals who fought against the Christian right? Mr. Haggard said that the Lord had given him total victory.

    That was a telling interview, and Mr. Haggards fall may well be a powerful proof of Jesus’ persistent love for him.

  8. The real question is then, What was Jesus like …? Theologically He was like us “in all ways except for sin,” but practically speaking He appeared no different than the sinners He hung out with. Peter had to have a special word from the Father that He was the Messiah, because nothing he could experience with his “flesh and blood” revealed that to him.

    So to become like Jesus would be to become intrinsically really good but not becoming noteworthy for it.

  9. Surfnetter, I really like your point. Maybe becoming like Jesus (being “conformed to His image”) doesn’t mean we become otherworldly beings that no one can relate to. Maybe to become like Him is just to become more genuinely human, which requires something divine at work in us.

  10. I think you’re right, treebeard. There’s that whole thing about Jesus not thinking “Godliness anything to be sought after, but emptied himself to become a servant.” We think must do the opposite ….

  11. The only sins Jesus ever pointed out were those of the “religious” folk, and that being their self righteous judgmentalism. So it seems to me that this is the one area where we must be most scrupulous.

    As far as other kinds of personal behavior malfunctions, we are to be “washing each other’s feet,” as it were.

  12. And we all have had a recent lesson on how Middle Eastern cultures view the concept of dirty feet….

  13. JayH (Histrion) says:

    Wow.

  14. "Edmund Pevensie" says:

    From one loser to another, Michael, yes and amen.

  15. Michael, you made me cry. Thank you. It’s a good sort of cry.

    You see, the evangelical version of that you can say you strugglED and you WERE a loser, but now everything is all right because you prayed a prayer, got saved and got called to preach. You know that’s not true- you’re not all right. You’re a walking wreck and lying about it has just made things worse.

    My sins aren’t Ted’s but sin is sin is sin. Thinking about my sin in the past tense is a prideful delusion. It’s real and it’s ugly and it’s daily, and it normal, everyday, sin that would never shock the world (or even most Christians), but it’s a current struggle, always, except when I “forget” to struggle at all.

  16. I am struck by the exchange between the Lord and Peter about the feet washing.

    Peter says, “You will never wash my feet.”

    Jesus responds, “If I don’t wash you you can have no place with me.”

    So Peter says, “Then not my feet only bur my head and my hands as well.”

    Now Peter had been away from his wife and kids following the Lord for three years. “What kinds of misdeeds of that much import [to the mind rugged lifelong commercial fisherman] could such a man be doing in that situation that involved his head and his hands?” I ask myself.

    And here’s the kicker. Jesus tells Him (and us), “Someone who has been once washed [and it is the word for being baptized] is completely clean, except his feet get dirty.”

    I interpret this to mean that we are not to judge others by their outward behavior, but we are to wash our neighbor’s feet (how their behavior gets warped by the world) with our love and acceptance.

  17. Michael:

    Thanks for the post. It’s both humbling and encouraging at the same time.

    Question: do you believe Catholicism teaches another Gospel? An earlier comment you wrote seems to imply (at least to me) that you think it does. I hope I’ve misunderstood.

    Peace.

  18. What I am coming to is the concept that since the revelation of the Son of God, there is no “Sin” anymore in the classic sense. It has been put to death. But we can still hurt each other. And really, except for the First Commandment, all the others were those kinds of sins.

    I was telling a Jewish friend about this a little while ago. It’s like confessing to your mother that you were running with scissors when she wasn’t looking. The first thing she will want to know is if you or anyone else got hurt. She will then say, “It’s ok then. I’m glad that you told me.”

    It’s ironic that the mother’s attitude toward that kind of disobedience and confession is like the modern Jewish attitude toward sin, and they invented the concept. A rabbi would say, “No harm done. Just do better next time.” It would be a far different matter if someone got hurt in both cases.

    But we Christians don’t really make that distinction.

  19. what i struggle with is the idea of personal sin versus societal sin. Haggard is a loser but, yes, followers of Jesus were losers. Poor, under-educated, and crushed by the military and economic might of the Roman empire and sold out by the religous establishment.

    I’m not sure what lessons there are to learn from the Haggard saga…except don’t be an evangelical leader with a homophobic agenda and then smoke meth with a gay prostitute.

    As the last eight years come crashing down to a terrible end, why hasven’t evangelical leaders taken responsibility? They are the ones who jumped into bed with republicans and brought forth this economic crisis.

    So Haggard can be forgviven for his private sins, but what about these public sins? Without the likes of Haggard, there might not have been an Iraq War, a looting of the treasury by the financial sector, the lack of a real plan to fight global warming…

  20. Junior:

    I believe all traditions teach less than a perfect Gospel. Not another Gospel, but a flawed Gospel.

    I’ve said many times that I am pretty much a Lutheran on the issue of the Gospel itself.
    peace

    ms

  21. michael – virtuous compared to christ.

  22. Christopher Lake says:

    Thank you for writing this letter, Michael. I am a 35-year-old man with a college degree and a physical disability. Because of the latter, I am not able to drive a car. I am nowhere near where I would like to be in life, and I’m not talking about being upper-middle class. I’m talking about obtaining and keeping a job that pays a living wage, so that I can even begin to approach a Christian woman whom I’m interested in, knowing that if the day came, I could provide for her, and Lord willing, a family. I am not currently at that place. It is so hard.

    My college degree is slightly helpful in the job market, but the disability and not being able to drive most definitely are *not* helpful. By the world’s standards, and I fear, the standards of even some Christians, I am a loser.

    I will keep striving to be a man who can provide for a potential wife. I hope and pray that I get there, sooner rather than later, if possible. Even if I am always a loser in some peoples’ eyes though, I think God, because as you wrote, Jesus died for losers like us!

  23. Problems I have with this thread include:

    a conceptualization of Jesus who is similar to us “in all ways except sin” that we are expected to be able to relate to sympathetically when it comes to our private shortcomings, the supposed distinction between social sin and private sin (as relates to Ted’s life ostensibly, which I try and fail to relate to my own), and the breezy conflation of grievous sin with “running with scissors” in the eyes of God, so to speak.

    It just seems to me that the vacuum between Ted and God is super-compressed by assuming that he could really be honest (or that we could, when it comes down to it, without serious discipleship Really become honest before God) about the magnitude of his sins and seek redemption, when it seems that just admitting that he is a “loser” is not nearly penance enough.

    If penance, in the past, has amounted to animal sacrifice, sackcloth and ashes, and composing Lamentations, what good is the Evangelical definition of repentance? How “costly” is the grace that comes of it, if someone like myself could access it without noticeably meaning anything for the sake of it?

    I guess this is, in the fullness, why I tend to think the guy is …… He seems more inconvenienced by the awkwardness of the scandal than truly, existentially, sorry for his corrupted nature. I guess his lack of open self-loathing bothers me. Any other Catholics on this thread want to chime in?

  24. Christopher Lake says:

    Wow– Freudian slip! In the above comment, I typed “I think God,” when I meant, “I thank God,” but either one is actually appropriate for the sentence! 🙂

  25. (keep in mind, I’m not calling “problems” in this thread Problems theologically, I’m just pointing out what gets my ire up as regards this thread’s non-starting lynch-mob.

    Come on, guys – where’s the bigotry and anti-homosexual condescending? Where’s the “Ted Haggard is a horrible example of Pentecostal faith”? How come nobody’s posting their suspicions that the guy isn’t really saved?)

    Ted Haggard is one of those people whose life bothers me. I’ll say it.

    Somebody, tell me how we should deal with false teachers other than by shunning them? Is there a Scripture about our lying,…….hyporcrite leaders that should guide a sound, Christian communal posture as regards them, once they are identified?

    Michael, I hope you don’t moderate me out, but I do understand if this isn’t he discussion you want to have in this thread.

  26. Jason wrote: “what you’ve described here is akin to an AA meeting where all the members are still drunkards – they’re just honest about it. frankly, if the difference between christians and non-christians is that we’re just honest about our sin, then i don’t see the point.”

    This is my concern as well. And quite frankly I find it quite a scary concept.

    I think there is a misunderstanding about what John Wesley believed, which if clarified, would shed some light on the topic. Perfection, is the eyes of John Wesley, was not the same as sinlessness. Instead it comes from the Hebrew word which is translated “perfect”, which has a broader general meaning of “achieving the purpose for which it was made.” A chair made by a wood worker, for example, is perfect not when it is flawless, but when it achieves the purpose for which it was made, that is, to be sat upon.

    As humans, even though we may be Christians, we are flawed human beings. We sin. Dallas Willard, in his book, “The Spirit of the Disciplines”, contends that the reason we find it so easy to slip into sin, is that we do practice that same sort of disciplines that Jesus did, such as consistent withdrawing for times of prayer when facing temptation.

    According to Wesley, perfection comes when, faced with the temptation to sin, you, through the power of the Spirit, chose not to sin. Part of our way to accomplish this is through the disciplines like Jesus did. We will still continue to habitually sin, but when the Holy Spirit reveals to me an area of sin in my life, I have to believe that he also gives me the resources to deal with it. Practicing disciplines in the power of the Spirit – this is how Dallas Willard understands Jesus’ statement that “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

  27. Patrick,

    I was greatly saddened when the story broke about Ted Haggard. My immediate thought was, (sarcasm follows) “Great, another reason for my co-workers not to accept Christ.”

    One of the issues of the ever present media that we have is that the people who become the “magazine cover” for Christianity are not the people that most Christians would choose. I work in a very secular environment. In days gone by, people would be able to look at me, and see who I am, and say “there is something different about Mike that I find interesting, I want to find out more.” Now, with the instant world wide exposure of Ted Haggard and the like, people are more apt to say to me, (and this happened very recently)… “Mike, you are an anomaly, because you are not like the Christianity that I see everywhere else.”

    So I am saddened. Saddened that Ted has not only impacted his own witness, but mine as well. Saddened for his family. Saddened for him. Theologically, I don’t have a strong enough grasp on rewards/punishment in the end times to say for certain exactly how God is going to deal with him. I think that I don’t respond more strongly than this, because as iMonk said earlier, it would have a tendency to make me like the Pharisee looking down on the publican.

    Joan Baez once sang (might have been a Bob Dylan song):

    Show me the prison
    Show me the jail,
    Show me the prisoner,
    Who’s life has gone stale.
    And I’ll show you young man,
    With so many reasons why,
    There but for fortune
    Go you and I.

    When thinking about that a bit it makes me much more likely not to condemn those whose lives have gone wrong.

  28. At some point, the God allowed his community (the Jews) to flog or outcast their people for sins they committed, both against the witness of their community and against God.

    When people preach against the evils of legalism, I TOTALLY see the God-given ability for a pre-New Covenant community to punish as a positive, despite what I deserve.

    If we were able to strip Ted of everything he owns and beat him a hundred times with leather straps and then re-admit him without discussing it, I wonder if the point wouldn’t be clearer. He could take his punishment as a son and not a -Sinner- and we could just leave it at that. Relative-credibility restored, no need for these little existential apologies.

    Instead, Ted will always be the disgraced pastor, no matter what message he comes back with. That’s not really mercy, is it?

  29. The problem with someone like Haggard now calling himself a loser is that it reveals what he really thought about most of the people he was preaching to and were supporting his grand lifestyle all those years.

    The point I’m trying to make about Jesus’ sinlessness is that Paul only points it out to show that He was the “Lamb of God without spot or blemish.” But the “morality police” of the day in no way shape or form considered Him thus. To them He looked just like Haggard’s lover.

    How did Paul know this about Jesus, anyway? He never spent one day with Him while He walked the earth. So it wasn’t experiential knowledge.

    About chairs — you can sit on a coffee table — that doesn’t make it a chair. “Perfection” in a chair, or anything else, depends not just on it’s intended purpose but in what it is intended to convey by it’s very being. If the contract called for a plain wooden seat without padding or arms, and the artisan delivered an ornate bishop’s throne, that would not be perfect, now would it.

    And as per running with scissors not being “grievous” it definitely is in its potential for harm. The whole point is to keep it and other risky behavior from becoming a habit because of therisk, not because mommy just doesn’t like the looks of fast moving sharp objects.

  30. Patrick Lynch,

    What I’d like to know from the other Catholics on the thread is how your name calling (which I’ve now edited out or deleted four times) represents your RC view of the Gospel?

    If Ted read this thread, it’s pretty clear that he has no prospects with your team.

    It’s also clear that you don’t think the guy can be saved because he’s not becoming a good person. OK. That’s not the Gospel anyway.

    “I thank you Father that I am not like other men” or “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Who went home justified?

    peace

    ms

  31. Instead, Ted will always be the disgraced pastor, no matter what message he comes back with. That’s not really mercy, is it?

    Yes, I think it is mercy. It is mercy to him, never to allow him again to be put in such a position of authority or popularity. He should live out his life in humility, dependant upon the Lord, recognizing that his public ministry is over. Discipline can be a great mercy.

    Needless to say, the Lord is the Lord, so if He calls Ted again some day to something more public, including his experience of failure and repentance and restoration, then that should be honored. But to be honest, I don’t think Ted was called in the first place. I think he was just a bloviator. He was put in a position that he could not handle. His fall is probably true salvation to him. (Hence Michael’s wonderful letter to Ted.)

    Concerning sin, one of my favorite verses of Paul is this one: It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (1 Tim. 1:15)

    The apostle Paul, after believing in Christ, and after a life of ministry, still considered himself “the foremost” among sinners. That to me means he was well aware of his sinful condition, despite (or perhaps because of) whatever sanctification he had experienced. If Paul was the foremost among sinners, I don’t think we are far behind.

  32. Paul never denied his sinful tendencies or his failure to resist giving in to them. There was the “thorn in the flesh” and that it wasn’t removed but that “my grace is sufficient unto thee” and “my strength is made perfect in weakness” and so “I now boast of my weaknesses.” And then he spoke of the “law in his body that wars against the Spirit” so that “I find myself doing what I would not” and that “it is no longer me who is sinning.”

    Again, this was written to Jewish converts. Amongst moderns only an Orthodox Jew could truly appreciate the freedom that the saving grace of faith in the crucified Messiah brings to the soul of one who has a fundamentalist view of how it is we are to please God. God doesn’t now (nor did He ever) turn up His nose — or hold His nose — against a sinful human being, just self-righteous ones. The entire point of the Law given to the people of Israel was to illuminate for all time that “it is mercy that God wants and not sacrifice.” After Paul went exhastiviely into the whole purpose of the Law and the Prophets, he points out the way of love “against which there is no law.”

    After the Jews finally got it all down on paper in cohesive form during the Babylonian captivity and codified what they thought it all meant, their Messiah showed up and told them in no uncertain terms that they had gotten it all wrong. So the “religious” had him killed, and by doing so fulfilled the mission and the message of the Messiah, not just for the Jews, but for the entire world.

    And we still think that the Father is the moody taskmaster, who changes His opinion of us with our every thought and gesture ….

  33. OK. There is another discussion going on here, using my bandwidth to promote an entirely different view of God. I don’t have time to interact with this, so the thread is closed.

  34. iMonk, something must be lost in translation here. I dont see anything that Patrick said that looked like an insult.

    However his calls to forgive Mr. Haggard is echoed by me. As far as he being saved, Catholic don’t use those terms, I think he was mocking what evangelicals and other Protestants call “being saved.”

    We are all sinful, Mr. iMonk even when posting on the internet.

  35. [I work in a very secular environment. In days gone by, people would be able to look at me, and see who I am, and say “there is something different about Mike that I find interesting, I want to find out more.” Now, with the instant world wide exposure of Ted Haggard and the like, people are more apt to say to me, (and this happened very recently)… “Mike, you are an anomaly, because you are not like the Christianity that I see everywhere else.”] – Michael Bell

    I can identify with this one. When the Priest scandals broke in the Catholic Church, all Priests were labeled pedophiles for a time. It was hard to bring up faith if one knew my Catholic background because we couldn’t get past the latest headline. Ted Haggard didn’t help the evangelical cause. Yes we all have our faults and demons. Perhaps he thought he was untouchable, perhaps he thought he could indulge because of his position or perhaps his desire was so strong and he was in a vulnerable place that he justified taking the risk. I guess there are many more pressures when one is in the public eye and vainglory may play its part here.

    But disfunction like this does not just go away with forgiveness. Its a lifetime of work to keep the desire at bay and it may never go away completely. And that, I believe is the point Michael is making – to take the first step and acknowledge – that by being a loser and showing humility …

  36. … he is actually one step on the road to healing (got interrupted).

  37. Boy! A friend connected me to this thread but I just can’t catch up with all things said here. What I do know is
    talking about it does not work for me. I have to do what Jesus tells me to do, judging what I do by the fruits and self-correcting as I go along. This is pretty much what I learned from the 12 steps and traditions I believe were given to the disgraced and fallen by Jesus since they sum up everything He taught in the NT and before that in the OT and continues to teach to those humble enough to ask, seek, knock. The disgraced Pastor need only follow the directions in the 12 steps to find his way out of the mess he got into living and thinking his way. That is what Job ended up doing to change his life. Any fool can do it. Merry Christmas and a spiritually prosperous New Year. (And, do pray for God’s, will not ours, to be done here on Earth so it too could be Heaven.)

  38. I love you, Mr. Internet Monk.

  39. Friscosan-

    Amen! to the part in parenthesis.

  40. I think Friscocan might agree with me that there are more real miracles happening every day in 12-Step groups than virtually anywhere else. It is such an effective spiritual program that churches, bureaucrats and mental health professionals send their otherwise “hopeless” causes there. And all of these institutionalized human service organizations have tried and are trying to incorporate the principles of the Program into their own programs. But it doesn’t work.

    I have come to the belief that it is because God will no longer (ever since the rending of the curtain over the entrance to the Holy of Holies “from top to bottom) be contained in anyone’s box. And so, anyone who, like Mr. Haggard did, holds himself up as an example of true spirituality better make sure he has done a “searching and fearless moral inventory” and all the rest as illuminated by the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, or your Higher Power might just make a public example of you of how not to be, for your own good and the good of those who have followed you into spiritual and moral error.

  41. Dan in Michigan says:

    I just happened upon this blog entry from a link from a friend’s blog. I agree that the place where we are ready to receive the grace of God is when we realize that we are in full need of Jesus Christ, in all of our miseries. It’s clear that when we “hit rock bottom,” it’s there where Christ desires to enter into our brokenness and show himself strong.

    A lot of the people in this thread really wish that Ted Haggard would read this, but I do not think that it’s a letter filled with love. I feel that you are using one man’s very public and horrific fall as nothing more than a bully pulpit for attacking evangelicalism, and I find these words and this letter to be the very opposite of Christ’s call to love others. It’s no question that Christ will, and can use this in Ted Haggard’s life, if Ted is willing, and I suspect that at the end of his life, Ted will view this very public fall much the same way as we view Adam’s original fall: felix culpa! O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer! Ted Haggard’s public fall was a severe mercy, done by the hand of his loving redeemer and Savior.

    Despite his self moniker of “loser,” he is no “loser.” He is a prodigal son, like us all, wayfarers who have journeyed far from home. He is no loser, for Christ deigned to die for him! There is none on this earth that are losers–we are all more glorious in our existence than all of the stars in the universe combined, and Christ’s death on our behalf shows our worth more than anything, and indeed Ted Haggard’s very public fall shows his worth in a way that the world does not understand: Christ valued him enough to allow him to fall, and thus fall into His loving arms.

    I find this post offensive, and indeed I hope that Ted Haggard doesn’t read it, and it’s an awful thing to use one man’s tragic and painful fall from grace, that was done by the hand of our loving God and Father, to be used as a bully pulpit for attacking fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, which evangelicals are. Perhaps they are mistaken on many issues, but why use the fall of Ted Haggard as a billy club to attack evangelicals? We should fall on our knees in prayer for Ted Haggard, and say, “but by the grace of God go I.” And we should never call anyone, not least ourselves, losers. That’s from the pit of hell, and an utter lie of our enemy.

    It’s sad to see a post like this be so lauded, when all it seems to me is a gloating post that says, “Aha! See how one man fell! See…they really don’t get it, do they?” It seems to me that it’s very un-Christlike to use one man’s fall as an apologetic tool that says, “Gotcha, evangelicals–oh, we gotcha!”

    Just pray for the man.

  42. Lighten up, Dan.

    The word “loser” came from Ted Haggard’s own mouth, so the letter was a follow-up based on his own description of himself.

    As sinners, we are all worse than losers. As redeemed and regenerated believers, we are all valuable and glorious, including Mr. Haggard. But sometimes you must realize you are a loser – i.e. you can’t make it on your own – before you realize what you have in Christ.

    When a woman called herself a dog seeking to eat the crumbs from the table, the Lord didn’t correct her. She was a Gentile dog, and the Lord commended her for her faith, and “fed” her. The man who wailed and said, “Be merciful to me, Lord, a sinner,” went away justified.

    So Ted is a loser, and so are you, and so am I. Those of us who know we are losers recognize we need a Savior. This post which so offends you was actually rejoicing that Ted now can find Christ in a way he never has before.

  43. Dan in Michigan says:

    Sorry Treebeard, I won’t lighten up. Reading the Internet Monk write “Loser. YES!,” followed by a chastisement of the evangelical revival story, complete with “movie and band,” shows that this post was less about Ted Haggard and more about the evangelical movement. It wasn’t motivated out of love, but rather was a bludgeon against evangelicalism. To use one man’s fall as an apologetic tool loses sight of the sacred involvement of Christ in one man’s life.

    And this:

    “And some of the things you’ve said since your fall? How you were fixed with a few sessions of counseling? Not good, Ted. Not good. A very bad place. Avoid it.”

    Where’s the love in this? Once again, condescension of the utmost degree. Would any here actually say such a thing to Ted Haggard?

    As to Ted’s proclamation that he was a loser, because one labels himself as something doesn’t mean that it is true, or that we should use that label for him, or for ourselves. As to Christ and the woman who called herself a gentile dog, Christ died for her. She is no dog. As to the man who said, “Be merciful, for I am a sinner,” he spoke the truth, but admitting that we are fallen creatures is a very different thing than calling ourselves losers, a lie if there ever was one.

    Ted is no loser, and nor is anyone on this earth. Labels mean something, and the truth of who we are as children of God demands that we view ourselves as God sees us. Indeed, we are all sinners, in need of a merciful savior. But if Christ were here today, would he ever call you, me, or Ted Haggard a loser? By no means would he do so, and so yes, even though Ted said it himself, I personally find the basic premise of this post problematic.

    Overall, it seems that under the guise of wooing someone to the seat of supreme grace and love, chastising someone for movies, bands, and Disneyland revivals is not going to do the trick. It’s not a post for Ted–it’s a post for anti-evangelicals to feel smug about the rightness of their belief. It’s hogwash that this post, and this thread are actually motivated out of love for Ted Haggard. It’s just a vehicle for anti-evangelical rhetoric, painted over with a shellac of charity towards Ted Haggard that can be scraped away with a toothpick.

    Love the man, a man made in the image of God, just like the all of us. I think of C.S. Lewis and his essay, the Weight of Glory. If we were to see Ted Haggard in his resurrected state, (and we all believe that he will be resurrected, don’t we, even if he happens to like movies and bands at church?), we would be sorely tempted to bow down and worship at his feet. That’s the TRUTH of who he is, in light of God’s love and grace, and in the light of eternity.

  44. Dan,
    Thanks for your reply. I understand better now where you are coming from.

    (An aside to iMonk: I sincerely hope that this is on topic, and my conversation with Dan is not an example of hijacking this thread. One of the things I enjoy about your blog is the dialogue that is often provoked in your comment threads.)

    What I understood from iMonk’s original post, and the comments that followed, is that Ted was now coming to grips with who he really was (and is). Ted’s word for that was “loser.” I would equate “loser” with “wretched man,” as Paul called himself in Romans 7. The fact is, in some regard, we are all losers, in the sense that we cannot fulfill God’s law, and that we cannot fulfill even our own standards. We are not what we should be or what we want to be. But once we realize we are truly “wretched” and hopeless men, “losers” if you will, then we can go on to realize what we have in Christ (Romans 8). There is now no condemnation, and we have a new law of life that delivers us from sin.

    The reason I appreciate iMonk’s critique of the contemporary evangelical church, in the context of Ted’s fall, is that you can be fooled into thinking all is well and good when you are in the midst of evangelical culture. You can forget that you are a “wretched man” (or a “loser”) in urgent need of salvation, not just once for all, but daily. Someone like Ted Haggard obviously was not experiencing what he was preaching. He railed against the very sins he was practicing, while riding the wave of evangelical popularity. All the evangelical stuff was not really working for him. And it is a word of love to Ted to make the strong point, “Don’t go back to that. Don’t do what evangelicals always do and then say you’re alright. You need something real, something deeper. You need to be honest with yourself, and find Christ in your new, humble condition.”

    Specifically, you pointed out this quote from iMonk’s post:
    “And some of the things you’ve said since your fall? How you were fixed with a few sessions of counseling? Not good, Ted. Not good. A very bad place. Avoid it.”

    Then you ask, “Where’s the love in this?” I would respond, “There is a lot of love in that. That shows far more love than letting Ted fool himself again. To allow Ted to think he is “fixed” is not love, it is enabling him to live a lie.”

    You then add, “Once again, condescension of the utmost degree. Would any here actually say such a thing to Ted Haggard?” If I had the opportunity, yes, I would say it to his face. I would even be a little angry about it, because his public fall has hurt the cause of Christ. It is not condescending to tell a person to stop fooling himself. Rather, it is condescending to pretend everything is okay.

    I agree with you that Ted is not really a loser, he is a child of God. The love God has for him in Christ is eternal and unwavering. Ted will be wonderful and beautiful in the next age, and these negative things will be forgotten. But in this age, when we struggle against sin, recognizing the depths of our inabilities is a very healthy aspect of the Christian life, because it points us to the Lamb on the throne.

    On a personal note, I began this morning telling the Lord I loved Him, asking Him to forgive me for who I am, and thanking Him for what He has done for me. I know I need Him. The reason I know I need Him is that I honestly believe I am a loser, a wretched man. I know that from experience. I don’t think the Lord disagrees with me when I recognized that I am a loser. On my own, I cannot be what I should be. But when I recognize this and tell Him so, there’s love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. And I find then that I am much closer to what I should be than what I was before.

    My apologies to you and iMonk for the long ramble.

  45. Dan in Michigan says:

    “The reason I appreciate iMonk’s critique of the contemporary evangelical church, in the context of Ted’s fall, is that you can be fooled into thinking all is well and good when you are in the midst of evangelical culture.”

    And if you’re not evangelical, you’re guaranteed to never be fooled into thinking all is well and good?

    I find this a strange contention, for two reasons: I am constantly aware of my need for Christ’s intervention in my life, as an evangelical (who hates the label–I prefer fellow believer), and indeed, I hear that teaching from the pulpit of my church as well. And secondly, it’s really specious to believe that because one is Catholic, one will never be deceived into thinking that all is well and good. It’s part of the human condition to deceive ourselves. There are many men and women of all stripes of Christendom who have believed and thought that all was well and good, and yet they will hear from Christ, “I never knew you.” Being a Catholic, or being an evangelical, is no guarantee that we are more keenly aware of our need for Christ than by being in any other branch of Christendom.

    What about all of those priests who held secrets such as Ted Haggard did, for so long, and didn’t reveal them? Catholicism wasn’t their savior–Christ, was, and still is. Didn’t they lie to themselves and others, just as much as Ted Haggard did? It’s very strange to point out Ted Haggard as an example of what’s wrong with evangelicalism when so many priests lived in similar ways, hiding their struggles. It doesn’t wash. Ted Haggard tells us less about evangelicalism, or Catholicism, than he tells us about the human condition. The bottom line is this: we need to love those priests, and Ted Haggard, with the love of Christ, and recognize that it is His love that allowed them to fall, and there but by the grace of God go I.

    God is not limited by denominational divisions in order to bring His children to Himself. There have been plenty of evangelicals who will be welcomed into His arms, and plenty sadly that thought “all was well,” and He will say, “I never knew you.” The same can be said of Catholics as well.

    I have lived a life long struggle with same sex attraction, and so I know the daily struggle of Ted Haggard. I suppose that’s the reason why this post drew my ire so much. I find it sad that Ted Haggard has battled with such a difficult demon, and I thank God that He continues to pursue him, and I see in Ted Haggard the sign of God’s grace. It’s abhorrent to me that his story has been used as a veiled attack at evangelicalism.

    But I’ve said enough as is.

  46. Dan and Treebeard,
    This is a minor thing, but it makes a difference and pertains to this discussion. The woman didn’t call herself a dog. Jesus called her a dog and she didn’t correct Him. Go check it out in Matthew 15 or Mark 7. She is commended by Christ for agreeing with His assessment of the situation. In the same way, I have to see myself as God sees me before I can come to Him. Struggling with sin is the same for everyone. We may not struggle with the same sin as the next person, but no sin or struggle with it is “harder” than any other. It is a struggle of viewpoint. Do we trust our view of things or God’s view?

  47. My long journey has awakened me to the futility of trying to free myself of my sinfulness, of trying to make myself worthy of God’s love when He already loves me as I am, and patiently waits for me to become willing to let Him free me from my seemingly endless imperfections by removing the causes hiding in my Secret Place. For my sinfulness is a only a symptom, not the problem. Only God can deal with the problem. No man, not even me, can through his own will do this. It is a God job and I am not God (though I have often acted as if I am God). One begins by really checking out the log in his own eye before pointing at the speck in the other’s eye. I really enjoy examining that log in my own eye for I love truth and find it is always more interesting and amusing than trying to judge the speck in the other’s eye. So many of us seem to have a desperate need to avoid log inspection in favor of speck spotting. As for Evangelicals, Catholics, and the rest, they are all churches in progress and should not be judged by what we see now nor their past. The Holy Spirit is at work in them (and among non-Christians) to bring them together into one community of God’s children one day. Each of their members is a child of God and loved accordingly no matter how far they fall from the lofty tower they attained by means of their self-will. We really ought to pray together to advance the arrival of that day. In any event, the Founding Fathers of this blessed nation knew that putting trust in any human or human organization is vanity, a chase after the wind. (Duh!)That is why on the Great Seal of the U.S. prominently displayed on the dollar bill we see the words “In God we Trust”. No fools they. In conclusion, I suggest we all spend more quiet time and energy learning what it is that Jesus came to reveal by mining the scriptures at every level of the many levels of understanding to be found in them. And, then benefiting ourselves by thinking and acting as suggested therein.
    Sorry, to go on and on but it is fun.

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  49. Micheal, I have interest on your opinion about spousal abuse (physical) and divorce for this reason. Kind Regards-