There are more grays in life than many of our modern theological positions allow...
I can only image what many Christians must go through trying to reconcile the things we Evangelicals say are true with the realities of their own lives. Do we actually believe that the many pastors who have been characterized as fallen decided to be hateful, immoral, greedy, or deceitful? I think not.
… Saints, I have a high view of Scripture and am persuaded that the theological underpinnings of Evangelicalism are valid, but I am growing away from the Evangelical culture we have created. I think our movement has abandoned the application of the Gospel, and as a result we spend too much time on image management and damage control. Maybe we should be willing to admit that we are all growing in grace, be willing to be numbered with the transgressors, and stop over-stating and over-promising.
Snakes in the desert
Such "image management" and "damage control" is only needed in an evangelical culture where celebrity has become a spiritual and practical "necessity."
Humans, I think, are too easily enchanted by a stage. Christians—ministers even—are no exception. Sometimes we elevate our leaders like Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness. As something to pin our hopes to. Something to heal us, because we sense, somehow, that we are sick and need saving. Something to look to vicariously because we are desperate for something of God that we can barely articulate. Something up there.
So, we take the beautiful, the talented, the fortunate from among us and lift them up on a stage. We fawn over them. Feed them. Praise them. Buy and sell their books, or books written in their name. Look to them, if we are honest, with more hope than is healthy, fair, or godly.
And because our expectations are for "miracles," the celebrities disappoint, and will always disappoint. The Haggards and Hunters fail. Unlike Moses's bronze snake (or the Lifted One that it prefigured) we do not find healing for our ills in gazing upon them, or any of our elevated leaders. Instead, our love of celebrity is a mirror, showing us that we've not yet learned to either live well or love the right things.
Haggard, later in his post calls for repentance. I agree with that call wholeheartedly. Not just for a culture that cannot handle failure, but for a culture that lifts people up too far above the sand.
An editor of PARSE, Paul is also associate editor for Christianity Today's Leadership Journal and PreachingToday.com. A writer and grassroots pastor, he holds an M.A. in exegetical theology from Western Seminary.
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