The heading for this post is the quote that Tony Campolo uses to conclude an interview he did on the Ted Haggard situation. I found it very interesting and here's the link...
I guess the first thing to say about Haggard is that the lesson for pastors everywhere is don't put yourself in a position where you admit, to a reporter, in front of your wife and three of our kids, that you bought crystal meth from a gay prostitute you hired to give you a massage in a hotel room in Denver. That's just, bad, on any number of levels. I mean, what's the worst aspect of that particular moment? Admitting on TV, and thus to your 14,000 member church that you purchased illegal drugs (even if you never did inhale)? That after you denied ever knowing the man, a self-proclaimed gay escort, that now you remember that you hired him to give you massage? Or that you, the leading crusader against gay marriage on the basis that morally it will destroy the country, were in the presence of gay prostitute, and as a disciple of Jesus your witness was to hide your identity and buy drugs from the man? Or was it the conversation, the questions, and that confused look in the eyes of your wife and kids after you pulled away from that TV reporter?
Or was it the pain and lonliness you felt months, even years ago, that was so deep that maybe you were deceived into believing that not even God would accept you as you are?
Here's the weird thing about all of this.... I understand where Ted Haggard's head was at when he lost his way. I haven't hired any prostitutes or bought drugs, but I've found other means of escape that were legal, and while not nearly as overtly distructive, tore my inner life apart. I mean the pressure of being a pastor stems from you having to stand up in front of people and speak with conviction week after week, when maybe, in your own heart, there is doubt and some uncertainty. Speak honestly about this, "from the heart", and you cause an uproar (let's just say I know, unequivically, that this is true, and leave it at that). Hide the confusion, and you begin to withdraw, or get sick, or act out in strange ways you can't understand. And it doesn't matter if the sin is sexual in nature, or you find yourself watching TV until 3am every morning in a stupor.... the need to escape while simultaneously you are proclaiming that we should enter the Kingdom of Heaven is a horrible, horrible place to be. That's why, to me, the incidents in question, the "did he or didn't he", don't make a difference. You end up where Ted Haggard did today, trapped in that SUV, and faced with the choice of admitting on TV and in front of your family that you bought drugs, or issuing a simple "no comment", you choose to make the confession, you are hurting and that hurt runs long and deep.
That's why, unlike the Bryan of maybe four or five years ago, who would have lit into this pastor, now, I just feel bad for the man. I pray he finds some healing and peace on the other side of this. I hope he finds some true friends that will stand by him as he deals with all this stuff. That the pain of this moment will someday seem like a small price to have been paid to find himself, and in the process, a grace-filled God who whispers,
"You should have seen what would have happened to you if that whole gay drug thing hadn't broken when it did. I don't know what you were so afraid of... didn't you know I loved you, no matter what? Heck Ted, you really are better than the worst thing you've ever done."
Thank God, that is true for all of us. Let this be our message to one another, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.... that even death can't separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
P.S. Watched "Akeela and the Bee" with Aimee tonight (we didn't think it was appropriate for the boys, but it will be when they get older), and it was fantastic. I'll talk more about this movie Monday for the weekly "Ten Things...", but if you are looking for a good flick to rent this weekend, go ahead and bring it home. You won't be sorry.