03 November 2006

He paid male prostitute for sex. Therefore, what?

Last night the Letterman Show was interrupted by the local CBS affiliate with what they called ‘breaking news.’ Ted Haggard, former President of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had admitted that certain allegations made by Mike Jones were true.

Wow. Not that I mind seeing Letterman interrupted. But wow.

The allegations, as is now well-known, were made by Jones because, he says, he needed to expose the hypocrisy involved in Haggard’s sexually deviant behavior and his opposition to same sex marriage. It sounds good, I suppose, admirable even. Do the honorable thing: expose hypocrisy.

According to the
Denver Post, these allegations could shape the votes on Amendment 43. Jones says he hopes they will.

They probably will. But they shouldn’t, not logically. (And, of course, that’s the problem: logic. Not a whole lot of it goes around under the best of circumstances; and it’s the first thing to go during election season.) But, really, logically the ‘hypocisy’ question should have no bearing.

For one thing, I don’t see the hypocrisy. Haggard paid for ‘gay’ sex, therefore he ought not be opposed to same sex marriage? Assuming the worst (i.e., that Haggard is either gay or a MSM) it just doesn’t follow that he must be in favor of same sex marriage. As sexual libertines keep informing us: sex has nothing to do with marriage. Or is it the other way around? I can’t recall. I no longer have any statistics at my fingertips, but not all gays believe in marriage. Many heterosexuals don’t either. I once didn’t. Many think that other sex marriage is freedom-inhibiting, unnecessary, anachronistic even.

But even if there were some hypocrisy involved here, I don’t see how that should change anyone’s vote. Are people in Colorado supposed to change their view on same sex marriage? “Oh,” someone is supposed to say, “Ted Haggard, who was my reason for opposing same sex marriage, is a hypocrit. Therefore, since he really ought to be in favor of same sex marriage, and I’m in favor of whatever he is in favor of (and opposed to whatever he’s opposed to) I will now vote in favor of same sex marriage.” Or something to that effect, I guess. Thus we are treated to another tacit assertion that people on the ‘religious’ Right just follow their ‘leaders’ around blindly and mindlessly. (I know quite a few religous leaders. It does not look to me like their people just follow them around! Quite the contrary, in fact.)

This ‘scandal’ raises in my mind a different sort of question, especially as a Catholic friendly Reformed Protestant. Whenever there is some scandal involving a Roman Catholic priest and a young male, someone (including unbelievers, Protestants and even a few Roman Catholics) inevitably blames the rule of clerical celibacy. If those priests weren’t required to live such sexually unhealthy lives, the argument goes, they wouldn’t be abusing young boys.

Ted Haggard was under no obligation to live a celibate life. If the allegations are true, that didn’t help him.

This ‘scandal’ also raises another question for me, as a Christian thinker—a question about Chrisitian ethics and morality. (For me, the ethical person knows what is right, but may not do it, ever; the moral person knows what is right and does it, usually, though not always.) The question is this: Ought Christians to ‘change their story’ about ethics (especially sexual ethics) and morality, since so many of their leaders can’t live up to the standard?

In a word, No. Christian ethics is not about what Christians do, or are able to do. Christian ethics is about what God has said is right or wrong. Christianity is what it is; and so, therefore, is Chrisitan ethics. We can do very little about it. And neither are we prevented asserting the standard as the standard just because we fail to achieve the standard. Indeed, there would be very little, if any, talk of failing to meet a standard if there were not a standard to try to meet!

If we would give up the standard, then we must give up the Christian faith itself. The reason for this is that our failure to meet the standard is what tells that we need, and can never stop needing, precisely that which Christianity offers. And the chief offer of Christianity is not a standard of ethics. Pick any system of ethics that you want. Christianity will still assert that you need what is offered, because regardless the ethical system you choose you will at some point fail to meet that standard.

I am not surprised to find that Ted Haggard needs precisely what he preaches about most. And what he preaches about most is not Amendment 43 (despite the media talk). What Ted Haggard preaches about most is what the Church (by which term I mean ‘the entire body of practising Christians’) has always preached: Jesus Christ.

In the interests of full disclosure: Ted Haggard is not my pastor; he isn't even a member of my denomination. And I am not a fan of his--not that any Christian ought to be a 'fan' of any pastoral office-holder.

UPDATE: Just heard on Dennis Prager's that Jones failed a polygraph test.


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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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