There seems to be an air of self-congratulation running through certain Christian circles these days. I am, of course, talking about the various Christian responses to the Ted Haggard scandal. Time and time again, I read about Christians being “humbled” by Haggard’s scandal and Christians so rapidly offering forgiveness.
“Look,” we all seem to be saying, “see how quickly we forgave Ted? See how humble we have all been? You know, because ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ and all that jazz. Look at the radical welcome and acceptance we have shown to somebody we could have cast out for betraying us and tarnishing our image. Look at how radically we are all committed to following Jesus’ example of compassion!”
To me, it all rings a little false, it’s all just a little too, well, self-serving. Of course, I’m not arguing that grace should not be shown to those who fall within the Christian community (although one might do well to remember Paul’s words in 1 Cor 5), but I am deeply troubled that such acts of grace are rarely (if at all) extended by these same people to those who need it most desperately. When have these oh-so-gracious Evangelicals extended such compassion to other members of the GLBTQ community? When have these oh-so-welcoming Evangelicals extended this welcome to the poor and the sinners, the prostitutes and the meth dealers? When have these oh-so-radical Evangelicals ever extended genuine love to their enemies (whether those “enemies” be militant Muslims or those on the far Left of the American political spectrum)? It seems to me that this is more a case of Evangelicals “looking after their own” and protecting their marketable brand identity than it is about a genuine act of grace and reconciliation. Are these Christians going to go on and embrace other homosexuals? Not likely. Are these Christians going to go on and advocate on behalf of their brothers and sisters in Iraq and elsewhere around the world? Hardly. Are these Christians going to rethink their opinions of drug addicts, homeless people, and other social outcasts? I doubt it.
Therefore, I call bullshit on most of the Evangelical talk of forgiveness that has arisen in response to Haggard.