The recent revelation of sexual misconduct and drug abuse on the part of Rev. Ted Haggard is a tragedy – not only for him and his family but also for American Christianity as well.Though many Christians – including myself – disagreed with his political beliefs, that doesn’t mean his fall was any less calamitous. His fall is an unfortunate example of lofty spiritual ideals being toppled by the sordid reality of the dark side of life.
The supreme irony is that Haggard was a man who preached about the ability of God to overcome the temptations of life, but instead was humiliated by the very thing he fought so hard against.
Haggard obviously isn’t the first preacher or politician to fall from grace. He is just one in a long line of those who thought their charisma and popularity would forever court God’s favor.
Yet, it is easy to point the finger at Haggard and laugh while ignoring the blatant evil in our own lives. It’s always easier to make excuses for our own misconduct but be merciless when someone else, especially someone in the public eye, does something wrong.
I don’t know what personal issues Haggard was dealing with that would cause him to purchase drugs and seek sexual alternatives. Maybe the pressure of the ministry and his involvement with politics were too much of a burden to bear. Whatever the reason, he is a man from whom we could learn sobering lessons.
One such lesson would be, as 1 Corinthians 10:12 says in the English Standard Version, “Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” No one is so pure, so holy and so righteous that he or she can assume he or she will always do what is right all of the time. Heart-searching humility is the supreme antidote to a messianic complex.
Another lesson that could be learned is to never put your absolute trust in any human being – friend, parent, mate or minister. They will all, at some point, let you down. The worst thing you can do to a person is set them up as an idol that can do no wrong. No one is strong enough to bear the burden of another’s divine expectation. After all, we are flesh and blood and walk on the ground – not on clouds.
What Haggard needs the most is not your judgment and condemnation. He’ll receive those from God, the law and his own conscience.
What he needs, indeed what we all need, is a strong dose of reality. We must realize we are not, nor could we ever be, perfect little angels. At the same time, we are not condemned, hopeless devils either. We are actually a little of both – striving, hopefully, to let our better side win just one more battle so we have at least one more chance for personal fulfillment.
In order to fulfill the promise and hope each one of us has, we must be honest about who we are when no one else notices. It is when we become lazy and allow the devils of our nature to take control that we find ourselves in the situation Haggard is in right now. The challenge is realizing that the battle is a daily one that must be fought with diligence and persistence.
So, before the voices of judgment escape your lips, make sure the life you live isn’t headed down the same unkempt road as Haggard.
Erick Raven is a first-year graduate student in the School of Education from Grand Prairie. His column appears every Friday.