Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ted Haggard, A Tell-All Book, and Evangelicals

The man with whom Ted Haggard had his affair, Mike Jones, has written a book describing their liaison and the fall-out that resulted from the “outing.” His book tour begins soon in New York, but then he quickly makes his way to Denver. But not to Colorado Springs. The two major bookstore chains here have denied book signings. According to the stores here, the decision is about business and even community health.

“Although the (Colorado Springs) stores will be selling the book, they did not feel that there was enough community interest to support holding a book signing,” said Carolyn Brown, director of corporate communications for Barnes & Noble.

A Borders spokeswoman said bringing Jones to Colorado Springs “would have opened up a wound just healing. This would have not created a comfortable environment for the author, our customers who live in this community or our staff who also live in the community.”

The article in The Gazette details Jones’ feelings on the subject, and in all honesty, the whole thing is awful.

Being a pastor in Colorado Springs, I am asked from time to time what life is like in the wake of Haggard’s fall. (It was interesting enough before it.) I typically respond in honest regret about several things, but the wake of this tragedy is clearly larger than just being a pastor here. Jones himself is of the opinion that this story raises larger issues about the evangelical church itself.

“But the biggest thing in this book is that this is much more than Ted Haggard. This is about the evangelical church in America.”

Really?

There is a rash of “hate evangelical Christians” out there, and it is a highly-contagious condition. Evangelicals are easy and socially-acceptable targets in our culture today, but is it really true that the actions of one man say something about the evangelical church at large? The complex answer in this case, I think, is “yes,” but not in the way Jones means it. But complexity and nuance might get me in trouble.

The straight-forward answer is, “no.” The actions of one man do not comment significantly on evangelicalism. Though he was relatively influential, his actions were his own. To the extent that he agreed to or diverged from orthodoxy is also his matter, and not a reflection on a larger movement. Though there are many like Jones who would like to comment on evangelical belief and homosexuality through the lens of Haggard’s double-life, time and reality won’t let that stick. God’s truth, whether spoken by an evangelical pastor, a Quaker wife, or an Orthodox priest, will always be true no matter the cultural context, or the latest scandal.

2 comments:

The Gyrovague said...

Well said. As a New Life Member I am really upset about this book, lets just get on with it. Healing is just beginning.

If evangelicals in the public square have been giving the impression that we all have it worked out and that we would never sin...boy do we have work to do.

we are all sinners saved by grace. I literally got sick though when I saw the book and had to remind myself not to sin in my mind.

Phil Steiger said...

I have heard similar reactions from other New Life congregants. It can't be easy having to deal with this.