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You Christians eat your own, Always have always will.

Thoughts?



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I didn't plan to care about Ted Haggard. After all, I have access to Google and a Bible. I heard about what he did and knew it was wrong. I saw the clips from the news and the HBO documentary about his life after his fall. I honestly felt bad for him but figured it was his own undoing. When the topic came up with others I know in ministry, we would feign sadness, but inside we couldn't care less. One close friend said he would understand it more if Ted had just sinned with a woman. I agreed with him at the time. It's amazing how much more mercy I give to people who struggle with sins I understand. The further their sin is from my own personal struggles, the more judgmental and callous I become. I'm not proud of that. It's just where I was at that time in my walk. But that all changed in one short afternoon.

Eating our own

A while back I was having a business lunch at a sports bar in the Denver area with a close atheist friend. He's a great guy and a very deep thinker. During lunch, he pointed at the large TV screen on the wall. It was set to a channel recapping Ted's fall. He pointed his finger at the HD and said, "That is the reason I will not become a Christian. Many of the things you say make sense, Mike, but that's what keeps me away."

It was well after the story had died down, so I had to study the screen to see what my friend was talking about. I assumed he was referring to Ted's hypocrisy. "Hey man, not all of us do things like that," I responded. He laughed and said, "Michael, you just proved my point. See, that guy said sorry a long time ago. Even his wife and kids stayed and forgave him, but all you Christians still seem to hate him. You guys can't forgive him and let him back into your good graces. Every time you talk to me about God, you explain that he will take me as I am. You say he forgives all my failures and will restore my hope, and as long as I stay outside the church, you say God wants to forgive me. But that guy failed while he was one of you, and most of you are still vicious to him." Then he uttered words that left me reeling: "You Christians eat your own. Always have. Always will."

Change of heart

He was running late for a meeting and had to take off. I, however, could barely move. I studied the TV and read the caption as a well-known religious leader kept shoveling dirt on a man who had admitted he was unclean. And at that moment, my heart started to change. I began to distance myself from my previously harsh statements and tried to understand what Ted and his family must have been through. When I brought up the topic to other men and women I love and respect, the very mention of Haggard's name made our conversations toxic. Their reactions were visceral.

Please understand, this isn't just my experience. Just Google his name and read what is said about him in Christian circles. Most Christians would say God can forgive him, but almost universally people agree that God will never use him again. When I pressed the question, "Why can't God still use Ted?" I was dismissed as foolish or silly. Most of these people got mad and demanded I drop the subject. Perhaps they saw something I was missing, but this response seemed strange. After all, I reasoned, Jesus restored Peter after he denied Christ. That's a pretty big deal. And what about the Scripture that teaches us that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable? So I felt I needed to meet Ted for myself. So I had my assistant track him down for a lunch appointment. I live outside Denver and he was living in Colorado Springs, a little over an hour away. Perfect!

We exchanged a few emails and agreed on a date and a restaurant. I took two men from my staff, and we met him for lunch. All the way there, I quietly played out in my head how he would act. Would he be reserved? Sad? Angry or distant?

Surprised by friendship

In less than five minutes of talking with Ted, I realized a horrible truth—I liked him. He was brutally honest about his failures. He was excited that the only people who would talk to him now were the truly broken and hurt. During our conversation a lady approached him. He instantly went into "pastor mode" and cared for her. Deep inside God was teaching me that true salvation is an ongoing process. We spent two hours together and decided to stay in touch. I began to call and ask him church-related questions. He possesses a wealth of wisdom. He even has a growing church in the very city that knows him for his biggest failures. I thought I had it tough as a church planter! But God is causing his church to really grow. I met his wonderful wife, Gayle. She is a terrific teacher of grace and one of my heroes. When I grow up, I want to be Gayle Haggard. And so I became close friends with Ted Haggard.

But then the funniest thing started happening to me. Some Christians I hung out with told me they would distance themselves from me if I continued reaching out to Ted. Several people in my church said they would leave. Really? Does he have leprosy? Will he infect me? We are friends. We aren't dating! But in the end, I was told that my voice as a pastor and author would be tarnished if I continued to spend time with him. I found this sickening. Not just because people can be so small, but because I have a firsthand account from Ted and Gayle of how they lost many friends they had known for years. Much of it is pretty coldblooded. Now the "Christian machine" was trying to take away their new friends.

It would do some Christians good to stay home one weekend and watch the entire DVD collection of HBO's Band of Brothers. Marinate in it. Take notes. Write down words like loyalty, friendship, and sacrifice. Understand the phrase: never leave a fallen man behind.

Where's the love?

I had a hard time understanding why we as Christians really needed Ted to crawl on the altar of church discipline and die. We needed a clean break. He needed to do the noble thing and walk away from the church. He needed to protect our image. When Ted crawled off that altar and into the arms of a forgiving God, we chose to kill him with our disdain. I wrestled with my part in this until I got an epiphany. In a quiet time of prayer, Christ revealed to me a brutal truth: it was my fault. We are called to leave the 99 to go after the one. We are supposed to be numbered with the outcasts. After all, we are the ones that believe in resurrection. In many ways I have not been aggressive enough with the application of the gospel. My concept of grace needed to mature, to grow muscles, teeth, and bad breath. It needed to carry a shield, and most of all, it needed to find its voice.

Grace must pick a side in the light of day, not just whisper its opinion in the shadows and dark places where we sign our name Anonymous. When a leader falls and then repents, grace picks a side. Grace is strong. Grace is a shield to those who cannot get off the battlefield. Grace is God's idea. Like a spiritual Switzerland, we stay in our neutral world where we can both forgive and judge but never get our hands dirty caring for the fallen. And when we don't pick a side, the wrong side gets picked for us. Crematoriums are more sanitary than hospitals. Let's change this!

Of course, I understand that if a person doesn't repent there is not a whole lot you can offer. But Ted resigned, confessed, repented, and submitted. He jumped through our many hoops. When will we be cool with him again? When will the church allow God to use him again? It's funny that we believe we get to make that decision.

The Ted Haggard issue reminds me of a scene in Mark Twain's, Huckleberry Finn. Huck is told that if he doesn't turn in his friend, a runaway slave named Jim, he will surely burn in hell. So one day Huck, not wanting to lose his soul to Satan, writes a letter to Jim's owner telling her of Jim's whereabouts. After folding the letter, he starts to think about what his friend has meant to him, how Jim took the night watch so he could sleep, how they laughed and survived together. Jim is his friend and that is worth reconsideration. Huck realizes that it's either Jim's friendship or hell. Then the great Mark Twain writes such wonderful words of resolve. Huck rips the paper and says, "Alright then, I guess I'll go to hell."

What a great lesson. What a great attitude. I think of John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." Maybe it's not just talking about our physical life. Perhaps it's the life we know, the friends we have and lose. Maybe I show love when I lay down the life we have together to confront you on a wrong attitude or action. Maybe we show no greater love than when we are counted with people who others consider tainted. Becoming friends with Ted was a defining moment in my life, ministry, and career. Sure, I lost a few relationships, but I doubt they would have cared for me in my failures. So really, I lost nothing. If being Ted's friend causes some to hate and reject me—alright then, I guess I'll go to hell.

Michael Cheshire is pastor of The Journey Church in Conifer, Colorado and author of How to Knock Over a 7-11 and Other Ministry Training (2012) and Why We Eat Our Own (2013)

How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


by on Jan. 23, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Replies (21-30):
survivorinohio
by René on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:08 AM

I am very happy for you that you have found a home. It is not easy.

Quoting Mom2Just1:

It is.  At one point I almost gave up finding a church.  It was sad because I felt I had this calling to teach sunday school. I thankfully found a great church, I teach sunday school, and I am also a youth leader for teens. My husband and I help teens with issues they face and if they just need to talk.  


Quoting survivorinohio:

Thats why I posted it. Its a sad state of affairs :(

Quoting Mom2Just1:

Christians are often the worst. I say that as a Christian.  We accuse others of not being the "right" christian all the time.  We also tend to not follow the bible very well.   But some will beat you over the head with that said bible.





How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


Mom2Just1
by Gold Member on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:09 AM
1 mom liked this

I agree. I talked to my pastor about it and he really just helped me see that my relationship with God was personal and not to care what other people thought.  It was not their place to judge me anyways.  (:


Quoting survivorinohio:

I think there is a need in some to divide.  There is Scripture that can be twisted (IMO) to justify this.  I believe that our relationship with Christ and His Holy Spirit id very personalized and was meant to be.   If you are active in a relationship with Him you will be enlightened as to your own sin, not that of your brethren.

Yes Jesus loves you for you :)

Quoting Mom2Just1:

I have also felt the scorn of fellow Christians. I left a church because they deemed me not Christian because I am liberal, refuse to homeschool my children,etc. I figured Jesus loves me for me...


Quoting survivorinohio:

You dont think that the title has any merit?

I see it here, I see it in real life and I have felt the scorn of my brothers and sisters.

Is it wrong to identify and discuss this issue?

Is this issue responsible for the anger of atheists and even agnostics as well as those from other faiths?

Quoting Meadowchik:

 Of course.  It's a purely commercial flame-title, naturally. That's the only reasonable explanation.

Quoting survivorinohio:


Quoting Meadowchik:

 "You Christians" ??

 

Its a quote from the piece.

FTR I am a Christian.

 







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Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:10 AM

I have a lot of negative feelings about religion in general, predominantly the christian religions. I don't choose to transfer those feelings onto individuals. I will admit that when people appear to be 'preachy' it makes me uncomfortable. I have weird reactions to people who end many of their sentences with 'amen' and or 'praise god', but it's my issue and not theirs. I have little or no respect for 'religious' people whom I know to be hypocritical and or behave contradictorily to their words/actions. Most of my friends are christian and many are devout.


thecoffeefairy
by Bronze Member on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:11 AM
1 mom liked this
I pay attention to views different from my own so I don't become close minded. I realize I'm not always right. Seeking a larger world view helps me to be a better, more well rounded person. It also helps me interact with a more diverse group of individuals. I need that.


Quoting MeAndTommyLee:

I don't even know who this man is.  Why do people pay attention to people they dislike and the stupid things they say on the regular basis?  Does it fuel and further the liberal or atheist  agenda? 


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Mom2Just1
by Gold Member on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:11 AM
1 mom liked this

Me too.  I wanted my children to be brought up in church like I was. Like my husband was as well.  (My dad is a pastor so I have been to church since before birth.)


Quoting survivorinohio:

I am very happy for you that you have found a home. It is not easy.

Quoting Mom2Just1:

It is.  At one point I almost gave up finding a church.  It was sad because I felt I had this calling to teach sunday school. I thankfully found a great church, I teach sunday school, and I am also a youth leader for teens. My husband and I help teens with issues they face and if they just need to talk.  


Quoting survivorinohio:

Thats why I posted it. Its a sad state of affairs :(

Quoting Mom2Just1:

Christians are often the worst. I say that as a Christian.  We accuse others of not being the "right" christian all the time.  We also tend to not follow the bible very well.   But some will beat you over the head with that said bible.







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survivorinohio
by René on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Love this reply.

Quoting thecoffeefairy:

I pay attention to views different from my own so I don't become close minded. I realize I'm not always right. Seeking a larger world view helps me to be a better, more well rounded person. It also helps me interact with a more diverse group of individuals. I need that.




How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:17 AM
3 moms liked this


Quoting MeAndTommyLee:

I don't even know who this man is.  Why do people pay attention to people they dislike and the stupid things they say on the regular basis?  Does it fuel and further the liberal or atheist  agenda? 

I think it can fuel any agenda and not specifically liberals and/or atheists. I think to just name those two, specifically brings an entirely different negative connotation to the article. JMO

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:18 AM


Quoting yourspecialkid:

 Oh good grief.  Enough already.

I have no idea who the people in the article even are.  I do not identifiy with the kind of people they are talking about.  Yet I continue to get lumped in.  It seems like another opportunity for a bash fest.

 

I get why you might be bitter. I think the way you've replied is adding fuel to some people's fires.


tscritch
by Silver Member on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:21 AM
1 mom liked this

 I liked the article, thank you for posting. 

 

survivorinohio
by René on Jan. 23, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Thank you.

Quoting tscritch:

 I liked the article, thank you for posting. 

 


How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


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