This morning, while trying to undo autumn’s leafy deposits across the backyard, I found myself–much to my surprise–praying for Ted Haggard. To be sure, Haggard represents almost everything I loathe about the Religious Right and the Babylonian captivity of evangelicalism (captured so well in Jeff Sharlet’s Harper’s piece a while back). And news of these allegations has made leftist bloggers just downright giddy.
But it’s curious how this explosion in Haggard’s life could be a reminder that, despite our political differences, Ted Haggard is still a brother. (And maybe this is a tiny little confirmation that, despite all my protests to the contrary, I’m still an evangelical.) Recent video of Haggard in his SUV, with his wife in the passenger seat, was one of the most painful snippets I’ve seen in a while. Forced to revise his story (I think common sense should tell us to expect further revisions), Haggard’s tired eyes keep darting to his wife’s face as he has to confess to compromises and failures (the camera’s gaze is almost merciful in not showing her face).
While sociologists are constantly looking for the defining features of “evangelicals,” I wonder if the Haggard case might provide a more visceral criterion: if you see what Haggard and his family are going through, and are moved to consider their pain, and have a haunting but persistent sense that “there, but for the grace of God go I”–then you’re an evangelical. Evangelicals in their best moments are painfully aware of the brokenness of our world, and of our very selves–even our redeemed selves. And thus struggle to answer the Spirit’s call to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).
“Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).