A conversation here in the Scalzi household this morning:
Krissy: So, what’s in the news?
Me: The head of the largest evangelical Christian organization in the United States is accused of having a three-year-long adulterous affair with a man whore.
Krissy: I’m sorry. I probably shouldn’t be laughing.
Yes, well. Gobsmackingly ironic karmic retribution will do that to a person, won’t it. If these accusations are true (and apparently at least some of them are), then hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the absolute collapse of evangelical moral credibility. I mean, if you wanted the current set of evangelical marching orders to be cut off right at the knees, you couldn’t do much better than to have the married leader of 30 million evangelicals paying to have his pole smoked by another guy. On a monthly basis. For three years. I mean, Christ. Talk about intelligent design.
Mind you, I don’t expect this will stop evangelicals from warning all the rest of us of the dangers of homosexuality and same-sex marriage and how they threaten good old-fashioned morals and what not. But now the response to this can be “if it’s good enough for Ted Haggard, it’s good enough for me,” and that’s going to be a pretty effective rejoinder for a while, I think. Let’s recap: One of the most influential evangelical leaders in the country — a guy who gets on a conference call with the President of the United States every week — stands accused of being a drug-snorting adulterous whore-mongering sodomite. Which are all adjectives and nouns this fellow has apparently spent much of his career railing against. Now, we’re all human, and if you believe in the concept of sin, it’s pretty clear we all do it. But this fellow sure seems to be buying his sin in bulk.
How should those of us who are not evangelicals respond to the evangelical moral agenda? As ever, the Bible is a font of wisdom. Let’s read from the Book of Luke, chapter six:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
There’s a great big evangelical eye beam right about now, I’d say. What will be interesting is whether the evangelicals see it. Because the rest of us can see it just fine.
And what of Ted Haggard? What should we think of him? And of the evangelicals who have recently built so much of their power in the despising of others? Back to Luke:
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
If that’s too much to ask, consider this variation: “Forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them more.”
Personally, while I’m pleased to be at least temporarily relieved of the fiction that evangelicals have greater moral credibility than the rest of us simply because they talk about Jesus in churches the size of sports arenas, I also hope that the evangelistic movement takes this moment to look inward and work on its core beliefs. From the outside, it looks like evangelistic core beliefs are about division, acquisition and exclusion, none of which strike me as particularly Christ-like (or for that matter particularly evangelical). I’m never going to be an evangelical Christian, but I like Jesus; he was a righteous dude. It would be nice to see more of Jesus in the loud and showy thing that is evangelical Christianity. I don’t expect it. It would still be nice to see.
In the meantime, of course, I’ll be happy to remind the folks who want to busy themselves with the morality of others in the name of Christ that they’ve got their own house to get in order first. Luke 6:42 is going to be awful handy for this, and I plan to use it. Of course, I’ll say it with love. That’s what Jesus would want.
Update, 3:07pm — The story now is that Haggard contacted the male escort for a “massage” but never had sex, and that he bought the meth but just kind of stared at it instead of using it. In other words, he didn’t inhale. Either time.