06 November 2006

Ted Haggard and Giovanni Battista

News about Ted Haggard still manages to make the front page in my local paper. I suppose, given where I live, some bit of local news should make the front page. And Ted Haggard is local news.

I spend a great deal of my time thinking about psychology, which, as a Christian, I consider to be still a branch of philosophy and not a natural science. But I digress.

Haggard has admitted that homosexuality is something he has struggled against all his life. This made my wife wonder why he even bothered going into the ministry. I told her it’s what I call the ‘Nostromo Syndrome’ an idea I got from the Joseph Conrad novel, Nostromo.

The novel is set in the fictional South American country of Costaguana. It is a time of political unrest. In this atmosphere, a man named Charles Gould, who who controls a silver mine and is trying to save it from the corrupt government, becomes obsessed with saving the silver from the mine and employs two men, Decoud and Monygham, to aid him. They turn to Giovanni Battista Fidanza (a.k.a., “Nostromo”), a popular hero, who sails with Decoud to hide the treasure. But disaster strikes and they collide with an enemy boat. They arrive on an island and Decoud remains behind to protect the silver while Nostromo leaves to continue his mission. However, Decoud goes insane alone on the island and shoots himself before drowning, tied to some of the silver. When Battista returns there is of course some silver missing. Battista’s reputation as an honest man (not necessarily well deserved, by the way) is at stake. If he returns the silver minus even one bar he will lose his reputation; for it will be thought that he stole the portion that is missing. So he decides to grow wealthy slowly, which he does, maintaining his reputation in the process. In short, Battista “becomes” dishonest in order to keep his reputation as an honest man.

Ted Haggard’s ministry began small enough, in his basement. As can happen, certain talents which he may never really have credited, got him propelled along on a path which he may never have chosen for himself. Over time he acquired, whether legitimately or not, a certain reputation, even a certain amount of prestige and position. Some time along the way he should really have put up his hand and said, “Enough.” But to do so would require some explanation, to someone. A man of his (arguable) ability doesn’t just say no to a ‘promotion.’ He must explain himself. Certainly, he can cite ‘family reasons.’ But that would mean explaining, even if to no one else, to his family (at least only his wife) why he’s refusing. Think of it. By this point in time (i.e., prior to three years ago) he is who he is known to be and so far everything’s fine. Somehow, by God’s grace, he’s managed to keep himself under control. Tell his wife that he can not go further along because he stuggles with homosexuality or whatever? Unthinkable. Better to go along, keep things under control and wait for the day when it’s all over and he can rest. (That is, rest from the energy-consuming struggle to keep under control burdens which no one else could help him carry because he foolishly kept the struggle to himself.) I would guess that Haggard was relatively successful in the early days at keeping himself in line.

But ‘keeping oneself in line’ requires a great deal of mental energy. And every promotion he accepted only deprived him of energy which he desperately needed to spend keeping himself ‘in line’. Paradoxically, Ted Haggard may never have slipped up if that church he founded had not got much further than out of his basement. Also paradoxically, had he told his wife before he married her that he struggled with a form of sexual temptation that most males don’t, he might still have done well. His problem is that over time he found himself keeping the wrong secret; and he became a dishonest man by trying to maintain a reputation which, at least in his case, he initially deserved.

It’s something like the ‘
Peter Principle’: Ted Haggard simply rose to the level of his incompetence (i.e., his competence both to minister and to control himself).

None of that, of course, means that Haggard isn't responsible. And it sounds, from what I hear him saying, that he knows that.


About Me

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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