This post is inspired by a FoxNews piece updating the situation of disgraced megachurch pastor Ted Haggard. Haggard was a major leader in evangelicalism until he was brought down by evidence of sexual sin and drug use.
May I call you Ted? Not “Pastor Ted,” “Reverend Haggard” or any other ministerial name.
You may not feel like it, but you’re at a good place. Finally. It’s taken a while, but you’ve made it to the place where the Gospel of Jesus has its power. On the verge of the fourth Sunday of the season of waiting, you’ve made it to the place where all that can happen now is for a savior to be born to a virgin. Your savior, no less. Yours and all the other losers.
Yes Ted, honesty, your best gift now has arrived.
“Disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard says in a new documentary that he still struggles with his sexuality yet is committed to his marriage for the sake of his children.”
“He now sells insurance and, in the documentary, says he isn’t successful. ” At this stage in my life, I am a loser,” he says.”
Ted, I hope I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but all those years that you lived in the center of the evangelical circus, all those years you covered up your struggles and desires, all those years you were taught to lie, deny, obfuscate and yammer on and on with various high-octane versions of the evangelical revival story (complete with band and movie clips), you were far, far away from the truth.
You were living a lie and you were teaching a lie.
And some of the things you’ve said since your fall? How you were fixed with a few sessions of counseling? Not good, Ted. Not good. A very bad place. Avoid it.
Now, Ted, now…now you are starting to see the light. You can say “I was abused as a second grader.” “I struggle…..I’m a loser.” This is major progress.
My recommendation is to find a good group somewhere that will understand how you feel and what you’ve experienced. You see, the evangelical version of that you can say you strugglED and you WERE a loser, but now everything is all right because you prayed a prayer, got saved and got called to preach. You know that’s not true- you’re not all right. You’re a walking wreck and lying about it has just made things worse.
What you hid, denied and buried rose up out of the dark place where you stuffed it and took over your life. I know that feeling very well. You’re suddenly a person without integrity. The truth isn’t in you. You’ve lived a lie and now the truth is going to have its day.
So here you are selling insurance. I suggest you stay right there, or someplace similar, for a very long time.
I suggest you find some other “losers” and compare notes.
I’d like to affirm your instinct that just any place in evangelicalism probably won’t do right now. Some evangelicals will be good companions, but most won’t. You understand this, but let’s explain this to those still fascinated by the coffee bar in the common area.
Ted, gentle readers, is now living proof that “it” doesn’t work the way “it” is supposed to work. Ted is now a living demonstration that, darn it, we aren’t fixable. A good church with a kickin’ band? Great shoes and suits? Sermons researched by assistants and delivered with the proper film clips and jokes? Nope. Tear filled illustrations? Prayer groups? Sermon series on mp3? Book? Seventeen verses of the latest “I love you Jesus” song? A big smile?
All worthless for real sinners like Ted and yours truly.
No Ted, it’s resurrection or nothing. It’s Jesus does the whole deal or there is no deal.
I see that hand. What? Can’t we have transformation and victory now?
Transformation….yes. Transformed from lying to telling the truth. Transformed from this religious act to honest confession of sin. Transformed from this celebrity saint to this loser on his knees at the table of the Lord. “Even the dogs get the crumbs.” Yes, transformed so that the Gospel’s diagnosis and truth make sense in the deep, dark places of your life.
But fixed? Cured? “Victorious?” “Your Best Life Now?” No. The deepest disease of the soul isn’t sexual sin or meth or lying. The deepest sin of the soul is prideful autonomy, the very thing evangelicals demand in their celebrities. There’s only one cure: dying and rising. Until then, believe the Gospel with an open heart, and walk in the power of the Spirit- who keeps you on your knees depending on Jesus- until Jesus finishes the job.
By all means, Ted, find a community. Find a church that gives you the Gospel over and over and over again. A church that has no time for the evangelical circus.
But know that the community of “strugglers” and “losers” centered around the Gospel and the Table aren’t going to be there behind most church signs. Still, don’t give up. Jesus wasn’t lying about his church. It’s on earth, but you have to be willing to touch the leper, embrace the adulteress, include the sexual struggler, love the loser. You have to see the ugly, the broken, the lonely, last, least and lost to see that community.
And you have to see Jesus in the simple Gospel proclaimed, in the bread and the wine. In the things that don’t make megachurches anymore. In fact, you may be surprised where you find that community, Ted. Jesus is famously unconcerned with the kind of people he calls his friends. I hope you’re learning that.
You’ve been given a great gift in your honest struggle and confession of being a loser. You’re on the way. You’re on the road. Don’t whine about it. Don’t make the mistake of seeing the broad evangelical Disneyland as your destination. You’re at that point where George Bailey stood on the bridge. You can despair….and jump. Or you can know that God has sent his hope, love and good news to you in a barn, where shepherds worship in tearful silence; where a man receives a gift he never created; where a virgin says yes even to the unthinkable that grace can do the impossible.
Go there, Ted. Find that place. Go as a struggler, a loser, one with nothing. Go and know that this, and all it means and will ever mean, is for you. For you….a savior. A savior of strugglers, losers and worse.
your friend and fellow loser,