Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard, the abuse of power, and the worst swear you ever said.

That which I would not do, I do; and that which I would do, I do not.

Songbird posts wisely (really, "wise" goes without saying when we're talking about Songbird, don't you think?) about what pushes our buttons about Ted Haggard. I started to comment over there and it got out of hand, so I'm throwing in my two cents here.

She says (I'm paraphrasing wildly, here, so correct me if I'm wrong) that this whole thing is really about power, and the abuse of power, as much as it is about sex. She also says that sexual sins upset us so much because they are hidden, unlike other sins which are right out there.

I agree that those reasons are part of why we are upset. (If you're not upset about Ted Haggard, I guess you can go ahead and stop reading right now.) And I would go further. This kind of thing dismays us so much because we don't, any of us, really understand incarnation. We don't really believe the mystery and the wonder that God came to us in a body, in the person of Jesus, which means that it is a cornerstone of our Christian faith to love our bodies as God-given gifts. In fact, most of us kind of hate our bodies when it comes right down to it. And yet, there we are, in our bodies pretty much all the time. So anything that smacks of body-ness both repels and fascinates us, just like our own bodies do.

But really the thing that gets us about Ted Haggard is that, for all the outrageous celebrity of the key players, the whole thing hits kind of close to home. We could be the wife in the passenger seat of the SUV, with the reporter's microphones in our faces. And we could be Ted, too.

Ok, maybe we're not snorting (shooting? smoking? what is it exactly you do with meth anyway?) or hiring prostitutes. Don't get me wrong. I'm with you in thinking that what Rev. Haggard did is a terrible betrayal to his family and his ministry. But the fact is that all of us, all of us, at times do things, even if they're small in comparison, that would shock or dismay those who rely on us. (If you think I'm wrong about this, think about the nastiest swear word you've ever said. Now imagine the sweetest lady in your congregation being there while you said it. See what I mean?) None of us can live up to the standards of the Christian people we want to be all the time.

You're saying "Yeah, okay, so I swear (or your gentle little sin here) sometimes. Big deal, it's not like I'm cheating on my wife, all the while telling thousands of people every week how wrong it is to cheat on your wife." All I'm saying is, it's just a matter of degree. And, okay, the degree here is taken to such an extreme, that it seems impossible that we could ever go there. But I'm betting ol' Ted didn't start out paying for massages. I'm betting he started small.

In his letter to his followers, Haggard says, The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. I'm taking that as a piece of advice. Here's what I'm reading between the lines: Be authentic. Keep praying, not that God will make you different, but that God will make you more of what you are already, only better. When you think you might be getting into trouble, tell someone about it. "Love God and your neighbor as yourself" means you gotta love yourself. If only Ted could read between his own lines like that. Now he's in the clutches of James Dobson and cronies, and I'm afraid the only way to come out of that little trip to the head shrinker is even more full of self-loathing than before. And self-loathing never healed anyone, as far as I know.

Last spring, I was at a workshop on Clergy Misconduct (er, that is, "Prevention Of")and this week, I keep remembering the message of that day: "Don't get too tired. Don't get too stressed out. Find some people who can really hold you accountable. You are responsible not to make yourself vulnerable to the possibility of mis-conducting." Here's the bottom line. It's not just power hungry megalomaniacs who sin, my brothers and sisters. It could be me. It could be you.

People with bodies doing things that we are capable of? That's why it upsets us. That's why we can't stop blogging about it.

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