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The Wages of Sin

The case of Ted Haggard. Republicans confront defeat. Webb and Clinton. Santorum and Toomey. Plus more.

11.7.06

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HAGGARD AND HYPOCRISY
Re: Francis Beckwith's The Case of Ted Haggard:

I suppose that Mr. Beckwith is so confused by the Ted Haggard affair that he can find nothing better to do than launch an attack on "secular humanists" for some imagined lack of ability to define hypocrisy as wrong. This kind of fuzzy thinking is common with so many so called "people of faith." A hypocrite is a hypocrite, and it does not take a belief in God to recognize one. Religious people, contrary to what they would like you to believe, have no monopoly on morality, and wearing your religious beliefs on your chest does not guarantee that you are a moral person.
-- C. W. Bussells

The Reverend Dr. Beckwith pleads with us to have mercy for Ted Haggard, who recently disgraced the Christian faith, with an extra-marital affair. After reading the article in the paper last week my heart sank thinking about another minister disgracing the gospel of Christ. This man was deemed worthy by his brethren in Evangelical circles, that group which I belong to, so to have lived a facade and maintained a high profile yet deceptive walk within Christian circles and also to those others watching from afar, that to me is the real shame.

Yes, shame. It is a word seldom used lately. Scripture is replete with references about the seriousness of our Christian walk. Most certainly forgiveness and restoration are given when we sin or fail to be faithful in our Christian walk, but to walk in deception is a particularly repugnant. It leads many astray. For leaders the measure is higher by their own personal acceptance of choosing the walk of a leader. It is a singularly defined choice and one not to be chosen lightly.

In recent years too many leaders within our Christian denominations have been subject to sexual sin. Then within what seems like minutes they expect to be forgiven and restored to the place they once occupied. After Clinton's White House antics I personally know of more than 20 churches here in the State of Texas, whose leaders, be they Pastors, Youth Directors, or Deacons, were swept into the folly and shame of sexual sin. The crisis came for those churches because they did not know how to deal with this sin. I fully believe the reason we witness so many destructive behavioral sins such as these all stemmed from the fact that if the Leader of the Country is exempt from any sort of punishment for lying and deception and misuse of his personal power, then how can ordinary congregations deal with sin behavior such as this. It was quite remarkable and sad to watch.

I am not prone to judge Mr. Haggard or any other person for sin. That does not preclude me from discernment and wisdom about the depth of destruction his behavior has placed on the Body of Christ. By his folly he has led many astray and caused shame fall upon Christ. His accountability is before Christ. It is tragic those who will never see the Gospel because of this.
-- Beverly Gunn
East Texas Rancher

A true Christian sees a case such as Pastor Haggard's as overwhelming affirmation that we are all human beings and inclined to sin as the sparks fly upward (to coin a phrase). There is not one perfect man or woman among us, no, not one. And those who dance and sing on the graves of others will find others dancing and singing on their own graves sooner than they would care to think.

One of my sisters married a man who had been brought up by an atheist mother (the first actual atheist we had ever met), to the point where he didn't know the Christmas Story was in the Bible. Later he converted, but it didn't stick, sad to say, at least not so you'd notice. But his mother admitted before she died that her opposition to his marrying a Christian woman was solely that Christianity would teach him that his mother was living an irregular life; that there is such a thing as right and wrong, and she was doing wrong. This, I think, is not unlike the kids that go off to university and promptly do everything their parents taught them not to do -- and try to entice others to do the same. You can't convince me that those who are jeering at Pastor Haggard don't know in their heart of hearts of many sins of their own that, were they exposed to the pitiless view of humanity by a vindictive being such as Mike Jones (whose idea of dealing with his own sin is apparently to drag others down with him, rather than raise himself up), would cause others equal Schadenfreude. So they mock and jeer at him in hopes that the finger they point doesn't expose the four fingers pointing back at themselves.

I hope that Mamas and Daddies all over the evangelical world are using Pastor Haggard as an example to their children this morning, not only of the fact that all have sinned and fallen short, but also of the fact that "your sins will find you out" regardless of how you try to hide them. It's far better to confess at an early stage and seek help, than try to hide your sin and leave yourself and your family at the mercy of some vindictive failure whose sole pleasure comes in destroying you.

I am praying for Pastor Haggard and his family. I am also praying for the sneering, jeering media and those who believe that the way to deal with sinners is not to lift them up, but drag them down. That, I think, is a harder path from which to seek repentance and change, but with God all things are possible.
-- Kate Shaw
Toronto, Ontario

As a card-carrying atheist, I would like to comment on Mr. Beckwith's analysis of secularist indignation with hypocrites. I think the problem boils down to this: hypocrites like Ted Haggard are liars, and nobody likes a liar. You don't need an official moral system notarized by God to feel that way. Most of us are moral animals whether we like it or not, and hypocrisy like Ted Haggard's is merely a sign to free ourselves from subjugation to other people's fairy tales. Life would be simple if there really were a God who set and enforced the rules, but when I grew up I found out that some of us can do fine without that fantasy.
-- Abe Grossman
Pleasantville, New York

"The liberal-secularist ... cannot give an adequate moral account of why hypocrisy is wrong."

I doubt if that statement could survive a fair debate on points. Using pragmatic moralism, if one's saying and hypocritical doing don't come together, then one tends not to be trusted in business; and yes, Ted Haggard did lose his job.

But why bother with the heavy lifting of applying outsiders' hypocrisy standards? It's non-controversial to judge T.H. by his own standards of hypocrisy, especially when he has confessed.

As for the Schadenfreude aspects, those of us who strictly separate church and state can feel sorry for Ted the fallen church man. I say that as one who feels sincerity for the rector's prayer for "George our President" (in a regular litany of leaders). Simultaneously, I'm pleased that such a publicly unctuous moral advisor to the President and religious right, is probably departed to the obscurity of the gay brainwash-cure circuit. I have no moral problem with having both feelings, or declaring that I have them, when tactful to do so.

It's also well-deserved poetic justice. By well-deserved, I refer to T.H.'s profound lack of judgment in becoming so involved with politics, when he had such a serious political skeleton in his closet.

BTW, did you see (or read) the book for sale adjacent to your web article, titled In Defense of Hypocrisy ("You're a hypocrite and that's ok"). According to the Amazon.com reviews, the book is a narrow-case but slippery-slope promotion of relative moralism. If so, that's also what you were promoting in describing how not all hypocrisy is necessarily bad (though unlikely). I agree, but then I'm one of those pesky liberal-Christian relative moralists. Feeling the need for a shower?
-- Foxfire

I love how you say that no one should be happy about this man but, you fail to notice one thing, Karma.

WHY? Well he was a man who JUDGED his whole life. Made a career of it actually, and the beauty is he now is being judged. So my friend, just remember good old KARMA.

Who was first the chicken or the egg?

It seems Ted laid quite a large judgment egg on himself and now he's going to have to deal with it … OH WELL!

I don't feel sorry for him. Personally, I laugh at how karma kicked his behind! Hey it's done it to me too! I don't expect a pity party. I expect nothing less than what I give.

And that my friend, is being honest.
-- Tanya Diaz

Thank God for the merciful grace of Christ.
-- LT Michael Tomlinson, CHC, USNR

NANCY WEBB
Re: Sean Higgins's Jim Webb's New Friends:

History will show if it's a shame or not that James Webb resigned in protest from the Republican Party. But it is troubling and suspicious to see him jump so squarely into bed with Bill Clinton and the Democrats about whom he's had so much apparent historical angst and genuine repulsion. For him to jettison all he's said -- particularly about Clinton -- and join ranks with the Dems and Clinton betrays Webb as yet another who's consumed by political ambition and, yes, opportunism.

One wonders what kind of deal he made with them all. Has Webb, who Peggy Noonan said "sounds like Nancy Pelosi with medals," been enlisted to replace the tarnish of Clinton and Kerry, something Wesley Clark could not and cannot do? Has he been enlisted to attempt to bring the Second Amendment toward the Dems? Has he been recruited to bring the good-ole-boy vote back to the Dems? What?
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia

Jim Webb, a racist and misogynist, is now where he needs to be -- in the political party led by sexual predators, land swindler and phony war heroes. Don't expect anything good to come from this sleazy character if he unfortunately wins.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Crownsville, Maryland

SANTORUM'S FATE
Re: Jeffrey Lord's The Patriot:

I have to wonder what Pat Toomey, genuine conservative challenger in 2004 for the seat of notoriously Republican-in-name-only Arlen Specter, would say about Jeffrey Lord's canonization of Santorum. On what great principle did Santorum base his support for Specter over ideological blood brother Toomey during that campaign, aside from party and/or personal preservation?

While there is much good to say about Rick Santorum, to paint him as a would-be martyr to principle just flat-out doesn't square with the non-trivial matter of 2004, and one wonders whether because of that there will be voters today who will blank their ballots in quiet tribute to their own principles.
-- Francis M. Hannon, Jr.
Melrose, Massachusetts

Jeffrey Lord's elegiac tribute to the merits of Senator Rick Santorum does, I believe, accurately describe a man whose devotion to his God, family and country are unsurpassed by any other lawmaker. Why, then, would a politician described by Lord as "...hav(ing) long-since emerged as the rare politician unafraid to speak his mind..." be in jeopardy in his bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania?

The meeting that Lord describes in Carlisle in the waning days of the campaign is not necessarily a representative venue, but Santorum's performance in highlighting his core beliefs does show his mettle. Lord, though, may have, indirectly, touched on what may be Santorum's most serious problem: Lord writes that Santorum "refused to back away from George Bush, and that may have hurt him." May, indeed!

In my comments on these pages on April 28, 2004, I wrote: "...if there is one big loser in the primary election (Arlen Specter was opposed by Pat Toomey) it is the credibility of Pennsylvania's other senator, Rick Santorum. Spector and Santorum are polar opposites on social, (such as the abortion license), as well as economic, issues. While writing as a columnist in a Catholic monthly, Santorum often decried the need for representatives/senators similar to Pat Toomey, but, probably coerced by the White House, endorsed the Specter candidacy." I still believe that "refus(ing) to back away from George Bush," in the Toomey vs. Specter primary fight seriously undermined Santorum's re-election chances.

Let me be clear on this matter: I hope that Santorum is re-elected, but I suspect that there may be many -- too many, perhaps -- of Pennsylvania's conservative voters whose disgust with GOP policies across a broad range of areas may force them to decide to sit this one out, and not bother to vote. In the end, though, Lord is partially right in this regard: Santorum's "refusal to back away from George Bush," lessened Santorum's re-election chances.

Which leads to the ultimate irony: that Santorum, against his better instincts, but possibly coerced to do so, helped elect a man whose policies he could never support, and, in so doing, may lose his re-election.

Pax tecum,
-- Vincent Chiarello
Reston, Virginia

In an age of Kerry's, Pelosi's, Kennedy's, et al., Rick Santorum stands alone. Would there were many like him.
-- Buzz Gunning
Grants Pass, Oregon

DENIAL AND DEFEAT
Re: David Hogberg's Losing the Senate Too and other recent posts:

Unfortunately, it is likely that the English story today about combining human embryos with cow eggs came too late to affect the Missouri Senate race and cloning initiative. Indeed, the Catholics who signed a letter supporting embryonic stem cell research in Missouri didn't mention this possibility, because they didn't know about it. Nor did they show they have taken into account the reason the English are considering this project: The kind of research the Missouri initiative clearly supports places a terrible burden of women, both in the risk and in the numbers required. Hence the human-cow project. One could also ask whether the Missouri initiative would also prevent making the English project illegal; indeed the initiative might both legalize and prevent any making illegal of that kind of project. The word "chimera" means a combination of a human and an animal (a monster in Greek mythology), and "chimera" also means "an illusionary scheme." These projects are delusion by illusion and illusion by delusion.
-- Richard L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

During the last several weeks, I've noticed a defeatist attitude at the usually upbeat Spectator.

As with every federal election since 9/11, a great deal is at stake today. Too much, in fact, for the leading Conservative pundits to go all wobbly on us, yet with the exception of Rush Limbaugh and a few others, that seems to be exactly what's happened. Rather than drag your feet and say "woe is me", the Spectator should be rallying the troops. Instead, article after article seems to predict inevitable defeat for the Republicans and the for the President
(who isn't even on the ballot).

I've just settled into my desk at work; I voted early this morning. I have no idea how it's going to turn out today, but I'm more optimistic than most. As a Republican, I don't plan on turning my back on the votes I cast in '00, '02, and '04, because I understand what's at stake. In other words, nothing's changed for me, and I have a hard time believing that it's changed a great deal for those in the red states. I firmly believe that a lot of what we've been hearing the past two years (Lott, Delay, Foley, Haggard, et al.) is nothing but Democratic noise made all the louder by their willing accomplices in the media, and the Spectator (as well as a lot of Conservative pundits -- Fred Barnes, Robert Novak -- seems happy to parrot their nonsense instead of fighting against it. I've honestly never been more disgusted with this attitude than I am now.

I'm predicting the Dems will not be victorious today. I may be wrong, but I don't think so. If I am, feel free to print this letter. But if I'm right, then I hope you'll feel obligated to print it.
-- Gavin Valle
Peapack, New Jersey

I have predicted now for a long, long time that the Republicans will hold both houses. I really think there has been a campaign led by the Democrats and their cohorts in the media to let us believe differently. I just cannot believe that the majority of the American public is not seeing the Islamic threat. The Democrats cannot be trusted with our national security, period. The conventional wisdom that it is the Iraq war, that is on the mind of the voters, that is in my book nonsense as well. I want to see us WIN and kick a… in Iraq and I don't think that I am alone in this. I think that what is on most voters minds, is illegal immigration.
-- Regina Jaegermann
Richmond, Virginia

How interesting that all of your writers within the N.E. corridor and the D.C. area are hanging crepe in your offerings today. There seems to be much proverbial pre-"arse" covering in anticipation of today's election results. A bit of a bash, don't you think? How many columns have been "pre-written" so that you can come out "whining" tomorrow with your "I told you so's"? Perhaps the rarified air of your geographic locations has something to do with it. It is time for you to travel the country, concentrating on those who live in the "middle" and all of the West. It could be enlightening. Stay out of the urban areas and perhaps you will experience a "refresher course" on what makes America great. It is not located in D.C., nor anywhere near it.
-- Edda Gahm
Diamond Bar, California

REDISTRICTED
Re: Patrick Basham's Wednesday's Headline: GOP Keeps House Majority:

The GOP's "Surprising Seven" will prove victorious in Colorado's 3rd district, Georgia's 12th, Illinois' 8th (Phil Crane's former seat), Louisiana's 3rd, New York's 27th, South Dakota's at-large district; and Texas' 17th. These pick-ups will not occur courtesy of retiring Democratic incumbents, as we do not foresee any Republican gains in open Democratic seats.

I think he means NY-26. NY-27 will be safely held by Brian Higgens (D).
-- JCH

BRAVO ZULU
Re: Michael Tomlinson's letter, under "Military (Heart Sign) Bush," in Reader Mail's Holding On Tight:

Thank you for confirming the patriotic fervor and pure delight of the crew of the Abraham Lincoln on the occasion of their Commander-in-Chief's visit. How anyone could have seen that historic moment and read into it any resentment on their parts, is astonishing to me.

My husband was pleased at the "Bravo Zulu" -- he is (was ) Navy, too. An LTA (Lighter Than Air -- "blimps") pilot, flying convoy off the East Coast during WWII. How is that for a bit of carbon dating??
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

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