Scot McKnight of Jesus Creed has written a thoughtful post suggesting that Ted Haggard’s fall is evidence of a systemic problem in Evangelical churches generally. I think he’s right, and I’m going to quote an extended passage for you to chew on. Read Scot’s full post here.
But, what I find here is what I want to call the evangelical environment. In evangelicalism, and the charismatic stream in which Ted Haggard swims, sin is bad and sin by leaders is real bad. This leads to a complex of features that creates a serious problem:
1. Christians, and not just pastors, do not feel free to disclose sins to anyone;
2. Christians, including pastors, sin and sin all the time;
3. Christians, including pastors, in evangelicalism do not have a mechanism of confession;
4. Christians and pastors, because of the environment of condemnation of sin and the absence of a mechanism of confession, bottle up their sins, hide their sins, and create around themselves an apparent purity and a reality of unconfessed/unadmitted sin.
5. When Christians do confess, and it is often only after getting caught, they are eaten alive by fellow evangelicals — thus leading some to deeper levels of secrecy and deceit.
What we saw with Haggard is not just about leaders; it is about all of us.
Thus, a proposal, … evangelicals need to work hard at creating an environment of honesty. It is dishonest to the human condition to pretend that Christians don’t sin; but as long as we are afraid to confess to one another we will continue to create an unrealistic and hypocritical environment.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? And if you agree with Scot’s premise, how do we go about “creating an environment of honesty” about sin in the church?
I totally agree. I’ve been blogging about similar things lately.
Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with what Scot says!
What is just so too bad is that it takes an event like this to bring the issue to the fore. People just don’t seem to want to deal with it, or don’t know how. But yes, at its core it’s about honesty. James said it: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” James 5:16
When we cover up our sin, we are no better than the rest of humanity! We are not separate from the world if we live by pride and pretense; we are of it.
It’s a theological issue too. We hear so much about what God does that we can’t do for ourselves, but what do we say about all the people in the world who suffer and die daily from lack of their basic needs being met? Why doesn’t He deliver them? Perhaps to shame the rest of us?? Perhaps He’s saying to us, get up off your b*tt and DO SOMETHING!!
The first step in any 12-step program is admitting our sin and that we are powerless to overcome it. Ted Haggard has admitted his now, publicly. Did he admit it before, to himself and God? It seems so, from what he’s said. But obviously he hasn’t overcome it.
I think it is partially the Church’s fault. But it’s mostly his fault for not being honest with his wife and close friends. He’s got some of the best friends in evangelical-dom; I’m sure he could’ve gotten help had he sought it.
I’m not sure how we can create an environment of honesty about sin in the Church except to be honest ourselves, and to extend mercy, friendship, and counsel to those we can. We need leaders to model this too.
Thanks for this post, Charlie, and for linking to Scot’s.