None left behind

I did not see this story about disgraced pastor Ted Haggard when it first came out, but I am glad I did. It is a story about reaching out to Haggard and raising questions about why we Christians seem to turn our backs on the fallen among us.

The author finds himself reflecting on the words of friends who had told him that they will reject him if he reaches out to Haggard. And that stirs thoughts of Huck Finn.

The Ted Haggard issue reminds me of a scene in Mark Twain’s, Huckleberry Finn. Huck is told that if he doesn’t turn in his friend, a runaway slave named Jim, he will surely burn in hell. So one day Huck, not wanting to lose his soul to Satan, writes a letter to Jim’s owner telling her of Jim’s whereabouts. After folding the letter, he starts to think about what his friend has meant to him, how Jim took the night watch so he could sleep, how they laughed and survived together. Jim is his friend and that is worth reconsideration. Huck realizes that it’s either Jim’s friendship or hell. Then the great Mark Twain writes such wonderful words of resolve. Huck rips the paper and says, “Alright then, I guess I’ll go to hell.”

Twain did not believe in Hell, so far as I can tell, so I’m not sure what Twain thought of Huck’s sacrifice. Did he think Huck was taking an actual risk? I also note that the preacher or person who told Huck he’d go to Hell for not turning in Jim was wrong. But all that aside, the author of the article saw this as a case of sacrificial love in the mode of Jesus himself. Huck was willing to risk Hell to remain loyal to Jim.

I may be wrong, but I think this is the kind of sensibility folks such as the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree have about their choices regarding church law and discipline. Loyalty matters more than consequences. I reflect on this because I am working on a post about Ogletree’s argument that takes a look at the structure of his argument (look for it tomorrow). The Haggard story reminds me that these are affairs of the heart, maybe primarily so.

In case you are interested, here is a video of Ted Haggard talking about how Christians become arrogant. Listen and you’ll hear him say “All means all.”

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4 thoughts on “None left behind

  1. Are you willing to consider the possibility that some who disagree with you might be acting out of obedience to what God has revealed to them and out of a conviction that their witness would bring the United Methodist Church into obedience to God’s will and out of the sinful idolatry of the heteronormative nuclear family that is the bedrock of middle-class self-justification? The Biblical case for the traditional view is not nearly as strong and unequivocal as some think. I happen to think that the anti-gay movement functions largely an expression of sinful self-justification at the expense of people who lead holier lives than I do despite the fact that their life partners are of the same gender. I pray about these things constantly. I continue to ask God to show me if I’m wrong. Though I often say the wrong thing, He’s planted a burning inside of me that will not quench until my fellow Methodists are willing to seek out what it means that He desires mercy not sacrifice.

    1. I am open to the possibility of all sorts of charismatic experiences. Following others who are wiser than I am, I try to test such experiences by Scripture.

      1. Me too. I’m honestly trying. I don’t read selectively. I just read the Daily Office every day and try to discern what He’s telling me.

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