The verdicts are in following a whirlwind week covering the ever-widening sex, drug and hush money scandal involving Ted Haggard and New Life Church. Meanwhile the flockless pastor spent the week feeding a ravenous media to promote an HBO bio-pic documenting his fall from grace. Not surprisingly, the judgments from the evangelical Christian community are a pretty mixed bag.
Christianity Today urges the New Life congregation to own its part of the saga in Holy Laughter: Remembering Haggard’s sin — and ours:
It is understandable that such churches — and sadly, there are hundreds of them — want to forget, as quickly as possible, the notorious sin and the scandalous pastor who brought shame to it. And that such churches would strive valiantly to tell itself and the world, “We’re not like that. Really. That doesn’t represent us. We’re much better than that.” That it would do its best to put the episode behind itself and move on.
But woe to the church that does that. We should wonder, in fact, about any Christian anywhere who does not look at Ted Haggard and say, “Oh yeah, I could have done that,” or more honestly, “To my deep shame, been there, done something very much like that.” Instead of thinking of Haggard and his ilk as ugly exceptions to our general moral uprightness, we should remember that we are part of his ilk.
A much more cynical tone permeates Belief.net’s take on the movie and subsequent interview on Larry King Live, especially St. Gayle Haggard:
She is, instead, thoughtful, kind, gracious, and forgiving. She has stuck with Ted through a truly horrific experience. She has accepted his remorse and granted him forgiveness. And, as a cherry on top, the Haggard’s eldest son, Marcus, joined them for the last bit on LKL and he was even more composed than Gayle. This is a truly extraordinary family…
…Or, they are positioning themselves for a new career. I’ve been told by one insider that the Haggards, basically broke, are hoping to establish an income by writing and speaking about their trials. Indeed, at the end of LKL, both Gayle and Ted said several times that they want to “communicate their story.” Fishing for a book deal? Speaking gigs? A reality TV show? Very possibly. So, my cynical side has to acknowledge the possibility that Gayle’s (and Ted’s and Marcus’s) grace and composure is actually a patina, covering a family in great distress trying to dig themselves out of a massive financial hole.
The power of redemption strikes at the heart of the real story, according to World Mag.com, in Haggard speaks: But can anyone hear over the roar of scandal? discussing the Haggards’ interview for The Oprah Winfrey taped before the second scandal made news:
To his credit, Haggard did clearly articulate a gospel of grace at numerous times throughout the interview, even admitting he’d never really understood it before: “When I was at my lowest point, when I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t read the Scriptures, I couldn’t seek Him anymore, He came after me and the Scripture came alive to me, Oprah, for the first time in a dramatic way. Jesus came for the unrighteous, not the righteous. And I qualify.”
Tragically, many onlookers may miss that message in the sea of scandal still swirling.
The Christian Broadcasting Network, the multi-media powerhouse run by Pat Robertson, has been relatively mum on the subject. It ran a couple brief news stories this week noting the involvement of New Life parishioner Grant Haas and a “six-figure settlement” by the church. Though those reports were largely taken from Associated Press news accounts. CBN hasn’t offered any commentaries unlike its response to the initial 2006 scandal involving gay male escort, Mike Jones.