Jan. 31, 2009 — Hapless Ted Haggard and his former flock at New Life church in Colorado Springs are taking another drubbing over his sexual peccadilloes.
The current pastor of the trouble-plagued 10,000-member megachurch, in a news conference last week, revealed that congregational leaders have known for more than two years about kinky hanky-panky between Haggard and a male church member.
This latest revelation involves Grant Haas, who met Haggard when he was 22 and before the Haggard sex and meth capers with the guy who blew the whistle on him and the scandal in November 2006. Haas said he contacted the church immediately and that the church struck a legal settlement to pay him $179,000 as long as he did not speak publicly about the relationship. Haas claims the church didn't follow through on promises to pay for his counseling and college tuition.
Brady Boyd, Haggard's successor as pastor at New Life, called it "compassionate assistance — certainly not hush money."
Haas expressed a different take on the arrangement. In an interview with a local radio station, he said "Their main focus was, you know, cover it up, don't say anything," he said. "You'll regret it if you come forward."
I cannot join the dogpile swarming over the flamed-out evangelical superstar. Actually, Im inclined to think hes experiencing ecclesiastical overkill, suffering the consequences of an ethos he helped create, a victim of the self-righteous legalistic religion he proclaimed.
And when unrighteousness surfaces in sins of the flesh the fine is doubled.
In healthy religious climates, even a clergy-type guy can mess up badly, take his lumps, get his stuff back together, and everybody moves on. Folks may remember his fall, and repeat performances may elicit some what-can-you-expect? comments, but the AP doesnt spread it nationwide over the wire service.
There is a religious mentality that is disposed to assess success in terms of the number of bodies in the pews and dollars in the plate, and to attribute their accomplishments to divine blessing bestowed because of their righteousness.
Haggards most serious sin may be that he embarrassed so many people.
There is no biblical record of Jesus condemning any sin involving hormones. The harshest words he spoke were not against open violators of Jewish law, but against the self-righteous, religious stuffed shirts who promulgated a purity they would not practice.
The church is one of only two organizations in town which have as their only membership requirement that one be a sinner.
Maybe organized religion should take a page from Alcoholics Anonymous. They dont advertise themselves but make themselves available to anyone who needs them. They render no judgment on each others personal lives. If a member gets falling-down-drunk the others picks him up, brush him off, and help him get his walking legs under him again. And nobody else is embarrassed.
"Christians Anonymous." Has kind of a nice ring to it.
Editor's note: W. Jackson "Jack" Wilson is a psychologist, an Episcopal priest, a sometime academic and a writer living in Colorado. He writes with humor, whimsy, passion and penetrating insight into the human condition. And in Pushkin, Russia, a toilet is named in his honor.
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