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.”