The Haggard Effect


When I read about Ted Haggard’s resignation from the presidency of NAE, I immediately thought of his sermon, “How Much Is Your Sin Going to Cost Me?” which I heard a few years ago. It was an incredible sermon detailing the extended cost of our sins, not only on those nearest to us, but on people we never consider.

Haggard’s New Life Church is a successful megachurch by most standards, and many pastors have looked to the “life-giving” model as equal to the “purpose-driven” model made famous by Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. So what’s the deal with these allegations?

I wonder what it says about accountability. If Dobson’s right, why was Haggard the target? Why was he deemed vulnerable? I once heard that Billy Graham wouldn’t even enter an elevator with a woman alone. And somehow, he’s managed to remain the church’s aging statesman, a kind of Teflon televangelist, and perhaps a dying breed. (Despite an unfortunate appearance on Nixon’s Oval Office tapes.)

I happen to like Ted Haggard, but in the end, what I think doesn’t matter. In fact, Haggard’s guilt or innocence doesn’t matter. Because it’s made it into the national media, and because Haggard was perhaps the highest ranking evangelical in the country (from an official point of view), it will be a staggering blow to a church weary with scandal. The story adds to a burden that dates to the late ’80s and the demise of Bakker and Swaggart, continued through the public drubbing of Tilton and Hinn, escalated with the priest abuse scandals of the early ’00s, and will no doubt march on. In the long run, it does damage to the gospel–indestructible though it is and will remain.

I think it’s interesting that James Dobson immediately treated it as a media-manufactured October surprise, intended to derail a pro-marriage vote in Colorado. Maybe. If that’s true, I wonder if it says something about the very politically minded American church. I wonder if too many pulpits have become political soapboxes.
It’s another sad day for the American church. Our brothers and sisters in Sudan and China and Pakistan die for preaching their faith to anyone who will listen , and we are preoccupied with amendments and candidates and elections. Perhaps that’s our sin, and it costs them dearly.


UPDATE: Haggard has admitted to some of the allegations, according to New Life’s acting senior pastor Ross Parsley. Still no statement on the NAE Web site and New Life’s site is apparently bombarded today.

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