NomDebPlume's 2½ Cents

Because I have an opinion about everything…

A “Fall from Grace”?


A Fall from Grace is defined as “a loss of status, respect, or prestige”, but is actually an idiom originally based on scripture:

You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  Galatians 5:4

Certainly Ted Haggard qualifies as one whose status, respect and prestige is now lost – I can’t even refer to him as Reverend Haggard anymore.  As to the question posed by the idiom’s Biblical source, ahh… that is another question altogether.

I have mentioned it before, and will mention it here again: My faith is a simple one, you could call it fundamental, even.  To complicate one’s faith would be to supply an excuse to disregard it.  There are those who insist on complicating the definition of Fundamental Christian, for example, somehow linking the term “Christian Fundamentalist” with “Islamic Fundamentalist”… and the Christians live with the negative consequences.  Truth be known, there is a very simple definition for Fundamental Christian, that being, they subscribe to the following 5 beliefs: the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.  Not all that complicated, really.

As an Evangelical, Ted Haggard also believes this.  What comes as the biggest surprise to most is that Ted Haggard is, in addition to these labels – and ones he has newly acquired – (dare I say it)… human.  In no way am I excusing his behavior, he was wrong.  On that, we can all agree.  But here is where it will get sticky – Where was he wrong, and why?

I have my thoughts, and they’re just my own opinions… so here goes…

To me, Haggard was most wrong for allowing the power of his position to blind him to God’s calling on his life.  In a nutshell, he became full of himself.  “Pride comes before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)  This is something each of us is susceptible to, but perhaps not to the degree of someone who has risen to national prominence and occasionally has the ear of the President. If hundreds of thousands of people listened to and read my words, would I suddenly have an over-inflated opinion of myself?  Would I think I was “all that” if GW asked my opinion on spiritual matters and then, maybe, decide I didn’t need to consult with God anymore. Gee, I hope not.

Betraying his wife and family is a biggie for me.  It matters little to me that it was with a man, except for the added shame it brings on his family.  It is the broken trust.  He has also betrayed his church family, but they should be discerning enough to know how important it is never to “follow” a man in place of God.  By taking drugs, engaging in homosexual sex, and then lying to cover up his transgressions, he has provided a duplicitous message to all eyes watching, but especially to his children. 

And this brings us to hypocrisy.  Anyone who knows me knows I have a big problem with THAT one.  Oddly, though, in this case, I find I’m not looking for a stone to pick up and cast first.  This is partly due to the fact that there are so few stones to be found after the media got their hands on the story.  Granted, this story is noxious with hypocrisy, but for me, it illuminated a finer point about our society.

The problem with being a Christian, but especially a publicly, well-known Christian, is to announce to the world, “I have set a bar of morality by which I’ve chosen to try to live”.  From that point on, there are people watching and waiting for you to fall short of that bar; they will trip over each other to point out when you have failed to meet that bar.   In my case, when this happens, I can only respond with, “Why are you so surprised?” :-)  Man, if I could always reach that bar, MY name would be Jesus!  But I strive toward the example He set, the “bar”, if you will.

In the case of publicly known Christians, those who are tripping over themselves include the media.  Camera crews and scurrying people with pads and pens chase down the sad person who has missed that bar.  (I’m so glad a camera crew does not show up every time *I* mess up!)  And, with Haggard, they hit the jackpot.

What has occurred to me through the Haggard situation is how each person has their own “bar” set for themselves, but it seems as though only those who set their bar as high as the Bible asks are the ones who get tormented this way when they fail.  It’s easy to be successful when the bar is low – heck, it’s even easier when you allow yourself to keep moving the bar to suit your life!  But let someone dare to take a stand, and fail… and we’ve got 24-hour news to keep us abreast of that failure.

For me, I am grateful that the grace this idiom is based on is not as fragile as that available in society… or as mutable as the morals found there, either.


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5 thoughts on “A “Fall from Grace”?

  1. I agree. Christians–instead of living at the level Jesus teaches us to live at–lower the bar and even lower God to where He is no longer a holy and righteous God and Judge to someone who has committed the same sins and as often as we have. I recommend Isaiah 1 where it talks about offerings and whatnot that are an abomination before God should be preached rather than how many 100s of ways can we preach on “be happy”.

  2. A thoughtful post.

    I wanted to say something about two different points:

    First, I commend you for pointing out a more concise and correct definition of fundamentalism. It gives me the thought that, when I use that terminology, I often imply that which I do not mean and I think the same is true of many other people. Definitely I will seek to clarify this in the future, both out of respect for my religious friends, Christian and otherwise, and out of respect for the precariously fuzzy science of epistemology.

    Secondly, I wanted to say–just as an aside, really–that I agree there is great difficulty in avoiding hypocrisy in attempting to live up to a predetermined standard of morality, but I believe there is equal difficulty in avoiding hypocrisy outside of any such standard. As you pointed out, this certainly is no defense of conduct which is harmful to others, be it on the part of Mr. Haggard or anyone else. Where we might part ways on the subject would be in that I find the entire idea of a moral code absurd, since my experience tells me that each interaction between a conscious mind and its environment entails an exchange of information which is ample enough to allow the mind to make a morally sound choice regardless of the existence or nonexistence of a predetermined code or standard of conduct. Put another way: since any given moral law cannot possibly be codified with due consideration of events which have not yet occurred—precisely because the future is never wholly predictable in a testable way—strict adherence to a predetermined moral code in fact unjustly relieves the mind of the responsibility to independently act morally in any given situation, a point which becomes increasingly salient as conditions deviate over time from those under which the morality was codified and so cannot accurately predict. The type of hypocrisy we are talking about—for which I believe every human being has a certain capacity, myself foremost among us—is, in my feeling, more realistically viewed as a failure of the mind to act in accordance with the information being exchanged with its environment in the course of any given interaction, than as the failure to adhere to a code of conduct. Thus, the rigidity of the moral code appears to be logically unnecessary to begin with and therefore almost seems to beg ridicule on logical grounds (although many of the baited breathers doubtless wait and rub their hands just for an opportunity to make themselves feel better about their own hypocrisy, as you’ve suggested). I am merely attempting (poorly, probably) to point out that there are logical grounds for this kind of moral skepticism, regardless of all the vulgar “I told you so’s” who seek, quite sadly, to persecute those who are simply trying to live responsibly with greater effort than the persecutors themselves.

    But many Christians, Muslims, and other respective faithful believe that these codes are edicts of a power higher than man, which in effect provides justification for the observation of these codes regardless of any sort of empirical analysis, whether vastly more intelligent than my own or not. That I find extremely irrational, but rationality has never been prerequisite to religious faith nor does logical positivism entitle me to disrespect the right of the faithful to believe as they choose, and that is surely for the best for all concerned.

    Excellent post.

  3. To TheLamp:

    Thank you for visiting and for sharing your insights. I agree that too many Christians find it easy to water down the scriptures to suit their needs. Perhaps the “Joy of the Lord” would be a better pursuit than fleeting, wordly “happiness”.


  4. Curt,

    I am happy to know that the definition of ‘Fundamental Christian’ has been clarified for one person… and, in turn, the people who will now benefit from communicating with you! :-)

    Now to your second point: Eliminating the premise that God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, enables the “illogical” tag to be used confidently, and allows for the argument that one’s own intellect is satisfactory in creating his own set of moral guidelines. If we reject that our intellect is created by God in the first place, it is easy to promote this argument. I believe the problem in the understanding of this concept begins when we compare ourselves, as a “creation”, to some sort of robot or puppet with God as the puppet master. No one relishes seeing themselves in this role and this is, in fact, a warped interpretation.

    On a more practical level, if each of us relied on our own mind to exchange information with the environment and then make a decision in context with our own version of morality, we could have a gamut of moral views creating an environment tantamount to chaos. What if the environment includes a person stealing and one person exchanged that information in his mind to make a decision to cut off his hand? Another person decides that the act of stealing was conceived in the brain, so the thief should be subjected to a lobotomy. Still a third feels the only correct action is to shoot the person in the head, preventing his brain and his hands from ever stealing again. It’s all relative… Moral Relativism.

    To me, this is one of the reasons we, as people – as a society – need a Higher, established code to live by… not something fluid or adaptable.

    Always interesting, Curt…


  5. Wow, you and Curt have some very interesting exchanges. I have a somewhat different view. I don’t believe the mind is in charge of a person’s morality. The mind is a tool a person uses just as one might use a computer to do research. The mind is that thing which facilitates thinking but does no thinking of its own. IMHO. If that were the case one wouldn’t refer to their mind, would they? Wouldn’t the mind refer to the person as their person? I guess my point is – who’s in charge here?

    A person, I believe is ultimately a spiritual being who has a body and a mind and who hopefully uses it to not just their own benefit but to the benefit of others. If you want to break down morality, isn’t it just a code agreed upon by society so that we can live together in a well ordered fashion? Haven’t morals historically evolved as a means of mutual behavior so that all in society can live and hopefully live freely.

    I don’t think that people have moral standards because they find it a useful tool to make others feel less than them – but rather they have moral standards because they have determined that to truly have a full and fulfilling life one must consider their conduct as it affects others as much as it affects themselves.

    People bristle on the terms right and wrong these days because we have become a society that cates to ‘me’ and no one else. That in my opinion is a very hollow existence. The very idea that someone should consider another person or their feelings or the affect they might have on that person or persons seems outrageous to some. But the fact is, if we all want the peace and harmony that so many yammer about constantly we have to start considering and realizing that we are not alone on this planet – and that every other person on it is just as important as you are.

    As to Mr. Haggard – I feel for him – because more than anyone else he has sorely disappointed himself and his own beliefs. The beating he is taking from the press I’m sure is nothing compared to the beating up he is doing to himself. Those who take pleasure in seeing his fall likely have their own secret agonies of failure and shortcomings (as judged by them not others) and find it a relief to beat up on someone other than themselves.

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