Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Post-Haggard thoughts

So, despite my theoretical schedule of getting the house clean today, i've spent half the morning so far poring over election results, and the other half reading and pondering about the Ted Haggard story. I find his story nearly terrifying- not because it causes me to doubt my faith or because i'm afraid of what effect his story will have on non-Christians.

I am concerned about the latter, but what really troubles me as i have seen a good number of Christian leaders fall in recent years, that it seems no one is immune - including me. As a lady minister i'm not particularly concerned that i'll end up addicted to porn or visiting prostitutes or the other common issues, although I won't deny that sexual addiction and infidelity occurs in women too. Still, i know there are plenty of hazards i'll be provided with, and that's what scares me. Often we tell each other that we need to be in an accountability group, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Rev. Haggard had one. I'd be shocked if I learned that he had become distanced from scripture, if for no other reason than that preparing sermons requires it. So i'm having less faith in the maxim that "This book [Bible] will keep me from sin, or sin will keep me from this book." I'd be shocked to discover that he had stopped praying, and for all i know he may have been faitful to take time off for rest. He might have had standards about when he was and was not allowed to be alone with women, but that doesn't do much good for male prostitutes. Large church pastors may appear to be especially susceptible, but i've known pastors of small churches to be found guilty of equally-serious sins.

All this adds up to make me wonder if there is any prayer, habit, boundary, or commitment that can keep a person from ending up in Haggard's position. And that's what scares me. Even Gordon MacDonald in a Leadership article makes the statement "No amount of accountability seems to be adequate to contain a person living with such inner conflict." (full article) Which makes me wonder if i have any ability to predict my future as it relates to what failures i may or may not commit.

I did come across one article on Leadership's website that was really long but totally worth it. Basically, the anonymous author doesn't say much about preventing getting trapped in private sin, but he does deal out a good dose of hope that it can be escaped from. It's called The War Within: An Anatomy of Lust. I'd really reccommend it if any of this is meaningful to you. It's good. He had prayed for years to be released and it hadn't happened. But the one thing that seemed to be present when he was finally able to escape that had not been present before was real confession, to a friend and to his wife. I wonder if that's the real key - when you're willing to admit it to those who matter. At that point the double life collapses and you can't hide it any more. But even before that there was a kind of awakening that was beyond his doing. It almost as if God said "It's time, i'm going to give you what you need to make the changes that you need to."

I'd love to find some research that shows one thing that all fallen ministers have in common - so i can avoid that thing and never get into trouble. Or, better yet, one exclusive trait of ministers who didn't get into trouble in the first place. But until i find it, the encouragement that someone was able to get out is enough for this morning.

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