Pastor’s actions do not represent entire evangelical community

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    Christianity has been grossly misrepresented.I opened the paper Sunday and saw that Ted Haggard of New Life Church in Colorado Springs had been fired because of “sexual immorality,” according New Life Church’s statements.

    Haggard acknowledged Friday in the Gazette Telegraph that he had paid a Denver man for a massage and for methamphetamine. The man claims the two had a “long-term sexual relationship, though Haggard said he did not have sex with the man and did not take the drug.

    Haggard was also the president of the National Association for Evangelicals, and while he has always preached a message of grace and has championed many outreach efforts, he did represent a church that openly opposed gay marriage and, as any church should, built his ministry on the foundation that people must be truthful – with themselves, each other and God.

    For a curious skeptic attending his church, I would think it would be very hard to return. I can’t imagine the feelings of betrayal his congregation must feel, let alone someone who was just beginning to open up to the idea of Christianity.

    While I have always shied away from this mega-church, it has been one of the cornerstones of faith in Colorado, and I hope his actions do not taint the good he and his church have done.

    Everyone struggles with something. Many pastors, possibly including Haggard, are involved in facilitating counseling for various issues where they try to work people through crises with God and scripture as their guide – something that comes off much less genuinely when the pastor is secretly struggling with the same issues.

    Members of New Life have expressed their forgiveness toward Haggard and their commitment to the church. I hope this is the attitude that prevails – not one of bitterness toward the misrepresentation Haggard presented, though this would be understandable.

    We should expect these things since humanity is not perfect. No matter how committed one is to God, Christ or the church, he or she will continue to sin.

    That’s why there’s forgiveness. That’s why there’s grace. Because we don’t deserve it, because there’s nothing we can do to earn it, because it’s just there. Not a “get-into-heaven-free pass” but a genuine offer for a relationship that comes through genuine belief on our part.

    I hope Haggard can save his marriage, or work through his situation so that he’s happy with it.

    But, I can’t help but feel this is another strike against us; another chance for skeptics to see Christians as hypocrites.

    Haggard is not the only one. We all heard about the scandals in the Catholic Church and the issues in the Episcopal Church.

    Then there are the small things, the day-to-day encounters that are even more important than the stuff that fills the papers.

    There are the people who shout and shove fliers in your hands on downtown street corners urging you to confess or go to hell. There are the Christian organizations that spend more time judging others than trying to help them and the people who go to church but don’t translate any of its teachings into their daily lives.

    I know there’s a place for evangelism in cities. But I was always taught that relationships were more effective than fliers, especially ones that attempt to instill fear by preaching fire and brimstone.

    Various headlines about Haggard’s situation insinuated he had brought down the church.

    Don’t blame the church for these inconsistencies.

    The church, no matter what denomination, is not Christianity. The church is manmade and is therefore flawed by design. So are the people in the church.

    So just as Christians should not be judging, I hope the rest do not judge Christianity based on the actions of a few.

    Kathleen Thurber is a news-editorial journalism major from Colorado Springs, Colo.