Take courage – now there’s a sport
An invitation to the state of rigor mort
And purity – a noble yen
And very restful every now and then
(from "The Seven Deadly Virtues," Alan Jay Lerner–Camelot)
The question has been raised in a number of places across the Internet: why do Christians consider sexual sin to be so much worse than other sins. Why, for instance, are we so upset about Ted Haggard’s sexual sin, when envy and pride and anger and greed and sloth and gluttony are sins, too?
I have some thoughts about the matter, and I offer them without meaning to judge anyone in particular.
The trouble with lust is that it is so easily hidden.
Let’s take gluttony as an opposing example. Unless you happen to also be bulimic, gluttony leads almost inevitably to being fat. Please accept my testimony as a full-figured woman, for I know what I’m talking about. And although there are medical reasons for being overweight, and heredity plays a part, that’s not my point here. If I am an overeater, it shows. (Believe me, it shows.)
I don’t like the word glutton. It sounds unattractive. It makes me thing of Henry VIII pitching animal bones aside as he grabs for the next one on the banquet table.
Since we’re talking about Henry, here’s a picture of him toward the end of his life, sporting a 54 inch waist.
It’s hard to hide this particular sin.
If I were to stand up and preach healthy eating to my congregation, to tell them that they are abusing God’s temple by being overweight, to tell them that their joint problems and diabetes are a result of their sinful actions, I would be hooted right out of the church because I am in no better shape than a lot of them. My sin, if we want to call it that, is right out there on the surface.
What Pastor Ted did was different, and herein lies the problem. He preached and preached and preached the value of heterosexual marriage over and against the "sin" of homosexuality. He was concerned about it because of his own desires, but because those desires were not obvious on his person, he got away with it for a long, long time.
Here’s my problem with Pastor Ted. Instead of facing up to what he considers his sinful nature (and what I would call who he really is), he encouraged his huge congregation, a church with a membership equal to the population of one of our neighboring towns, to live in a particular strict way while he traveled out of town to break his own rules, repeatedly, yet maintained an idealized family life for public consumption.
He has offered up his own explanation for what drove him to keep the secret: pride. And some have suggested that he had reason to wish to maintain his financial empire: greed, perhaps? But I would like to add another sin to the list and ask, where do we categorize abuse of power? It was power over others–his staff, his family, his congregation–that allowed him the freedom to travel out of town overnight to "write." It was an abuse of the "headship" so beloved by the religious right.
Now, in a fascinating display of dominance and submission, he will be under the authority of others, in an attempt at healing and restoration. They will do their best to restore him to his role as hetero head of household. They will rebuild the dungeon walls he created for himself, the walls that have been blown open in the past week.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he simply walked out the door to Jesus?