The Evangelical Farce Factor – Scandal After Scandal. In the national news lately has been the story about Victoria Osteen (Joel's wife) and the law suit brought against her by the Continental Airlines Stewardess. I must say, at this juncture at least, the truth is not clear. It is possible that Victoria Osteen did attack the stewardess and then again, it could be that the stewardess either made up the whole story or at least embellished it. But this situation does bring back to the front burner the whole problem of Christians behaving badly. I will mention events that have more validity than Victoria’s.
This brings me to Ted Haggard . . . a situation with far more certainty and more remarkable. It was more remarkable because Ted was not only the main pastor of a mega church (as is Victoria) but he was also a national Evangelical leader AND his behavior was much, much more conflicting with the way he presented himself. I mean, he had a enduring-secret life of hiring male prostitutes and even smoking meth with them while preaching against both from the pulpit.
But poor Ted is old news. The real reason this was brought to my attention in the last few hours was neither Victoria's nor Ted’s behavior. Locally we have had two major evangelical scandals of late.
The first one was about three weeks ago when the principal of a major Christian high school was discovering having a double life. In secret he had a juvenile runaway girl hidden in a secret room of his school, where he allegedly was having sex with her, and bringing her alcohol and drugs. He was an upstanding Christian leader in the community for years and considered a great family man.
The last sad episode broke just last night. I was on my way home from work yesterday and I saw a Seattle mobile TV crew heading across the bridge to our island, then down to the next island. I didn’t find out until the 11 o’clock news that, unfortunately, a 21 year-old “youth worker” at a local Evangelical church has admitted (after being caught red-handed) of having sex with as many as 30 small children. Yesterday was certainly a tragic day for his church and his family . . . and all of Christendom.
When most evangelicals hear of such terrible stories, they usually react in one of two ways. The first one I will call the “Persecution Complex” and the second one, “The Rare Exception.” I will describe them.
The Persecution Complex: In this reaction, evangelicals will say, the sad story in the news is not true. It simply never happened but the evil, secular news media is out to persecute some poor, innocent Christian. I heard this as an initial reaction to Ted Haggard by some of his church members and I’ve been hearing in the Victoria case.
The Rare Exception: In this response, evangelicals will say, that the person, such as Haggard, is a very rare exception to many, many godly saints who would never do something like this. Somehow he slipped through the cracks. In a knee-jerk reaction they will say, “We need to create a better screening process for our church so we never hire anyone who would do something like this.”
The true, non-dualistic view of these situations would be different. The monist would believe that (but for the grace of Christ) that we are all capable of doing things of such malevolence. While I may not be tempted to meet with male prostitutes, nor to molest children it may be within me to commit adultery or lie, or become an alcoholic (I say that because my father was . . . and my brother is, so at least genetically the potential is there).
When you are a dualist, you believe everything of importance is spiritual. Our brain-based emotions, personality etc. therefore has no significance. So, the spiritual is very fluid and is dependent simply on obedience. But if I give the physical body the merit it deserves, I would realize that change comes at a snail’s pace.
If someone is sexually abused as a child and then develops a sexual attraction to kids, that doesn’t magically go away through the simple act of conversion. The damage emotions are still damaged. The altered neurons are still altered. Yes, God can heal them in time but it may take a lifetime.
So how should we react to these terrible events? The real key reaction (and action to prevent future mistakes) is to recognize that the only think that separates us from the Ted Haggars is a membrane of wet tissue paper (speaking figuratively). This gives us a humility that we ARE vulnerable.
If you have a whole church with this attitude, then there would be a great feeling of security within that church. The great pretending that we are pure saints could be dismissed. When you are around other Christians, you could honestly say, “Hey I feel vulnerable to having an affair,” and the other brothers and sisters’ jaws would not drop in horror. But they would smile and say, “Me too. Let’s keep each other accountable!”
So when you live in a Christin world that is a farce (everyone pretending to be saints) then the risks of Christians living a double life is much higher. So in conclusion (before I drag this on too long) the bottom line is "High Standards" nor "Screening Process" does not guarantee against Christians behaving badly. But the best insurance is having a church that is a true sanctuary, where people can be honest about themselves, their weaknesses etc. without condemnation . . . knowing that we are all covered by Christ's righteousness. We must get rid of the superficial facade of righteousness so we can talk in honesty about our temptations etc.
If you believe # 2 above (that bad behavior is rare) I will post some of the links I found on Google. These are only the tip of the iceberg. So the illusion that we are good people isn't working.