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.