Ted Haggard and the Progressive Christian Response

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Ted’s a sinner, a deceiver and a liar, so he acknowledges.

As a progressive evangelical who disagrees strenuously with most evangelicals (right-wing or otherwise) who constantly condemn homosexuality and homosexuals, I have every reason to dislike Ted. He’s one of the most prominent evangelical leaders against homosexuality.*

And yet, while I could be happy with his fall from grace and the fact that his cause (of which I’m not in agreement with) would suffer as a result, I am not. It is saddening to read his confession. (By the way, it is not my role to judge whether he is truly repentant or not. Rather, I’ve always believed in giving people the benefit of the doubt and I do so here). My heart goes out to him. While not condoning what he has done, there is no place for condemnation of him. It is a sad day for Christianity – no matter what tribe of Christianity you’re from.

It is most saddening for me to see progressive Christians gloat about what happened to Ted. I’ve read responses (especially by gay Christians) like, “What a hypocrite he is!” or “I’m so glad he’s been exposed” or “Justice at last!” I cannot agree with such sentiments. If anything, one of the things that attracts me to a more progressive form of Christianity is its focus on love and forgiveness. It is meant to have a more tolerant outlook and a less dogmatic one. There ought not to be any place for laughter at our enemies. Indeed, people like Ted ought not to be treated as our enemy in the first place.

Ted was and is imperfect, but so are we. He was a leader of millions but deceived them all. That’s probably a greater sin than many of our sins – and yet we all are also sinners. Big sins or small sins: both led Jesus to the Cross. Yes, he ought to be disciplined, but grace also ought to be extended to him. There is no sinner too great that God’s grace cannot reach. If that is true, then who are we to glory in his downfall? Only the self-righteous who thinks he’s better and more righteous than him will do so.

How ought a progressive Christian respond to the downfall of one of the most prominent conservative Christians? There’s only one way: in love and with grace. For if we choose to respond in any other way, we are but hypocrites ourselves. But if we respond in overwhelming love and acceptance towards someone who has done much wrong to our kind, we may just win others over to our progressive views. Just as the Amish did recently in Lancaster. The whole world (Christian and non-Christian) were amazed at their brand of Christianity – one that elevated love and forgiveness above all else.

I lean more towards pacifism and believe in non-violence simply because I believe love will overcome. It may not overcome all in this world, but it will in the end. Love is what we’re supposed to do, not fight back, not get even, not laugh when our enemies fall. To show love and acceptance is one of the greatest things a person can do. It is to reflect what God did in sending His only Son Jesus Christ to die. Love, forgiveness and acceptance is what we ought to extend to Ted, without forgetting to extend that same love and compassion to those hurt by him.

* Note, however, that Ted wouldn’t be considered a Right-Wing Christian. Although accepting the typically conservative Christian condemnation of homosexuality and abortion, he also has a heart for more progressive issues like the environment and world poverty.

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