Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sex, Ducks, and Dignity

Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family is standing with its patriarch, Phil, saying that if A&E will not allow Phil to tape any additional episodes because he identified homosexual activity as sin, then the rest of the family will not tape any new programs either. The family press release emphasizes that Phil would never “incite or encourage hate.” The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and their supporters are outraged and are congratulating A&E. Now many Bible-believers are crying fowl. They are saying Robertson had a right to say what he said, was just referencing the Bible, is a loving guy and is, himself, being treated unfairly and is being discriminated against.

Why the confusion? I believe Robertson does not want to encourage hate, but because of our history, the LGBT community does not hear him as loving. Instead, they know that talk like his has led to laws that hurt people like them. Could they have cause for alarm?

About the same time Phil Robertson’s remarks were published, American Evangelical Christian leaders encouraged the parliament in Uganda to pass a bill to toughen the punishment for homosexual acts to include life imprisonment. This bill also makes it a crime, punishable by a prison sentence, not to report gay people to the government.

Parliamentarians in Uganda argue that they compassionately weakened the bill, which is true. It originally proposed the death penalty for some offenses, such as if a minor was involved or a homosexual partner was HIV-positive. The parliament removed the death penalty and replaced it with life in prison. It should be thought provoking to all of us, though, that there is no similar law for heterosexuals who are sexually active with a minor, or if a heterosexual partner is HIV positive. Why?

When we use “sin” as the basis for civil law, we probably should be consistent, but we are not. This last summer, the Colorado legislature removed the law that made it illegal to commit adultery. There was no outcry. It seemed the Christians did not care even though adultery is clearly sin (1 Corinthians 6:9). Jesus said, “For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18). I’m 57 years old, and I do not recall any efforts on the part of our leaders to prevent those who Jesus says are living in perpetual adultery from having equal rights under the law.

No doubt, we Bible believing Christians understand that all sexual activity outside a heterosexual monogamous marriage is sin. We also know that there is a great deal of sexual sin within heterosexual monogamous marriages (Matthew 5:28-30). So where is our New Testament imperative that we sinners, saved by God’s grace, use civil law to make others godly? It seems as though Jesus’ point is that all of us are sinners and we only become righteous by his grace and mercy. But I think that because most of us are heterosexuals, we don’t insist on laws that punish us for our immorality. Yet, the evidence suggests that we do want to add legal burdens on those who are not like us.

Most New Testament believers know that external threats do not change our hearts, but instead we are changed from the inside out by repentance, the blood of Christ, the renewal of our minds, and by becoming a new creation in Christ. To think we can force our beliefs on others through civil law is often an error. The sponsor of the Ugandan bill said, “Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way. It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill . . . ” Supporters of the bill say it is needed to “protect traditional values,” and, under that banner have banned miniskirts and sexually suggestive material such as music videos. I am all for propriety and societal morality, but we have to remember that when legally mandated, this type of thing can go awry very quickly. Now local newspapers in Uganda have started publishing the names and addresses of people they think might be gay.

I know, I know. The United States is not Uganda. In this country we have fought a long, hard struggle for various groups to gain equality under the law. Certainly our civil laws do need to protect what is right and good, and they need to be moral. But not every Christian conviction is best promoted through civil law. All Christians should have a sophisticated, thoughtful process to determine when our biblical beliefs should be inculcated into civil law. It’s not an automatic “yes.” Sadly, we Bible believing conservative Christians have found ourselves on the wrong side of this discussion too often.

If the government wanted to take the vote away from women based on the New Testament teaching that wives should submit to their husbands and that women should not usurp authority over men, would we Christians support that? No. But that was the accepted position of many not too long ago.  What about denial of African-Americans’ basic freedoms because some Bible scholars say they are descendants of Ham, whose descendants were cursed by God and thus relegated to serve? Would we white Christians support that? Absolutely not! But many did. And what if the government wanted to limit the freedoms of Jews in our communities because they reject Christ? Would we allow that? No. Could it be that we Christians, raised in modern multi-cultural churches with wholesome families surrounding us, have no idea how people who have suffered hear us when we speak?

All of us who believe the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that we must be born-again, have to decide who we want to be in this chapter of world history. We have to consider: when is it “Christian” to protect people who will never be like us and will probably never be persuaded to be a Christian? “Now” would be my answer.

In 1959. Howard Griffin, a white guy, artificially darkened his skin to pass as a black man as he traveled by bus and hitchhiked through the racially segregated south. His journal of that experience was published under the title, Black Like Me. That book helped many whites learn what it was like to be a black man in America during that era. His book helped the cause for equality for African-Americans.

I had a similar experience, but the issue was not racism, and I have not yet written my book. However, I’ve discovered that our experiences do form how we hear other people.

Unless you have been the recipient of religious hatred, you cannot imagine the ruthless brutality. When I went through my crisis in 2006, some Evangelical leaders targeted me for permanent removal. Since I submitted to church authorities who required that I not respond to or explain anything, or even acknowledge that I had ever been in ministry, the flurry of random indictments flooded my way and to the public, all without response. I received up to 80 hate letters a day, the majority from Bible quoting Christians. My e-mail, twitter, and Facebook filled with threats, accusations, and condemnations, the vast majority of which were baseless. I am guilty of sin, and therefore, I am grateful for the healing Christ offers all if us. Sadly, though, condemnation from the church does not help healing (Romans 2:1-4). That season of my life convinced me that I never wanted to support any form of theocracy. It is too irrational.

We’ve got to apply to others the idea that while WE were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Because of that, we, too, can be like Christ and extend a hand of kindness to another simply because they are human beings. They may never choose to receive the full blessings already purchased for them by Christ, but even so, why should we make their time on Earth more difficult? If God Himself left Heaven, came to Earth to become one of us in order to save us, protect us, and help us, isn’t it logical that we, too, can leave our places of comfort to show some dignity to another. . . like Christ did? I think so.

I do not believe for one second that Mr. Robertson wanted to encourage hate, bigotry, or would support anything that would intentionally cause pain for someone else. But we are all old enough to know that people suffer horribly when government gets it wrong. We Christians can make the lives of others better by simply being who we say we are, Christ-like. God designed our Earth so that the blessing of rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. We can follow his example.

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Suicide, Evangelicalism, and Sorrow

Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Church, and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, both had sons take their own lives. I know of five other wonderful Christian families that also had sons who took their own lives. Some researchers are reporting that the suicide rate among Evangelicals is the same as that of the non-Christian community. How sad.

Back in my days as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, I knew Joel and Rick. They are both sincere, wonderful believers with ministries that are admired. I also knew some of the parents of the kids who took their lives here in Colorado Springs. Good families.

The news about Pastor Isaac Hunter breaks my heart. Great speaker, lover of God, and my guess is he loved the church. But he, like all of us, fell short. In the midst of divorce with accusations swirling, he resigned from the church he founded. He gave it his best shot, and his heart was broken. This makes me sick to my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sick that he fell short, that’s a given for everyone except Christ Himself, I’m sick that our message did not do what we all hoped – it did not fix the problem.

In the past we would try to argue that Evangelical leaders who fall were not sincere believers, or were unrepentant, or that they did not really believe their Bibles, or were not adequately submitted. And in the midst of these arguments, we KNOW those ideas are, in some cases, rationalizations. I can offer some guesses from personal experience as well as knowledge of others’ stories that, 1) Matthew Warren repeatedly prayed for God to heal his mind, and 2) Isaac Hunter frequently repented of the things in him that damaged his heart and marriage. I think Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and I know Ted Haggard, hated their sins, repented, prayed, fasted, memorized Scripture, and pleaded with God for personal holiness. I think there are very few hypocrites in our pulpits or on church staffs. I believe most people in ministry are sincere followers of Christ. But when God’s holiness is infused into our humanity, that sets us all up for some degree of struggle.

I was so ashamed in 2006 when my scandal broke. The therapeutic team that dug in on me insisted that I did not have a spiritual problem or a problem with cognitive ability, and that I tested in normal ranges on all of my mental health tests (MMPI, etc.). Instead, I had a physiological problem rooted in a childhood trauma, and as a result, needed trauma resolution therapy. I had been traumatized when I was 7 years old, but when Bill Bright led me to the Lord when I was 16, I learned that I had become a new creature, a new person, and that I did not need to be concerned about anything in my past, that it was all covered by the blood. I did become a new creation spiritually, but I have since learned that I needed some simple care that would have spared my family and me a great deal of loss and pain.

Contrary to popular reports, my core issue was not sexual orientation, but trauma. I went through EMDR, a trauma resolution therapy, and received some immediate relief and, as promised, that relief was progressive. When I explain that to most Evangelical leaders, their eyes glaze over. They just don’t have a grid for the complexity of it all. It is much more convenient to believe that every thought, word, and action is a reflection of our character, our spirituality, and our core. They think the Earth is flat. Everyone is either completely good or bad, everything is either white or black, and if people are sincere Christians, then they are good and their behavior should conform.

Not so. There are more grays in life than many of our modern theological positions allow. It would be easy if I were a hypocrite, Bakker was a thief, and Swaggart was a pervert. None of that is true. Because I’ve not communicated with the Warrens or the Hunters since late 2006, I do not know for sure, but my experience would suggest that the Warren’s have received some hurtful communications from other Christians saying their son had a demon that could have been taken care of if they would have simply taken their son to them for deliverance. No doubt Isaac also received some brutal mail from Christians after his resignation from his church. My sin never made me suicidal, but widespread church reaction to me did.

I can only imagine 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.

In my case, I was taught that life transformation took place at salvation and the power to overcome was inherent with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. My early Christian training was given by those who did not respect the mental health profession, nor the field of neural science. So I believed the solution to my struggle was exclusively spiritual, which turned out to be counterproductive.

If I prayed and fasted, I was more tempted. If I just worked in ministry, I experienced relief and was not tempted. I thought it was spiritual warfare. It was not. My struggle was easily explained by a competent therapeutic team.

But many in the church-world had to demonize the facts. My accuser failed his lie detector test and refused to take another, and I passed four lie detector tests given by three different polygraphers saying that his accusations were false. This  so confused the narrative the church wanted to publicly present, they hid the tests from the public. The lead overseer actually told me, “Brother Ted, we do not believe in this psychological mumbo-jumbo, but we need to send you to therapy for the sake of the public. Then when you get home, we’ll get this demon out of you and your family and sweet Miss Gayle will be just fine.” He then established a “Restoration Team” purely for the church and press to get the impression that there was a restoration plan, which there was not. I learned a great deal about power, money, and how the powers that be can manipulate the press during that process. I thank God for the therapy. It answered 30 years of prayer. I became the man I had always prayed to be because of the process I went through during the crisis. Though I do believe there is a need for deliverance in some situations,  for that sincere overseer, the world is way too flat.

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. Jesus has been faithful to all of us in the midst of our pain, our suffering, and our disappointments. Why don’t we tell that? Every one of us have had sin horribly intrude in our lives after being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, and God is faithfully healing us or has healed us. Why don’t we tell that? He has never left us or forsaken us when we’ve said and done the wrong thing. Why don’t we tell that? And when our children disappoint and hurt us, or we disappoint and hurt them, God sees us . . . and them. Why don’t we tell that as well?

My heart physically hurts for the Warrens, the Hunters, and the five families that lost their sons. The pain is incredible. I don’t know that it will ever heal this side of Heaven. I also hurt for Pastor Zachery Tims who died alone in a Times Square hotel room trying to get some relief, and for Pastor Cedric Cuthbert who was accused of watching child porn at work, and for Pastor David Loveless who was let go after his affair was revealed. Shall I go on? I do not believe we have a problem because these and so many others are insincere or because we have not adequately emphasized holiness. I think we have a core, fundamental, essential problem with our application of the Gospel. We need to re-read the New Testament and modify some of our interpretations. The Bible is true. God is faithful. But at this point, too many are missing the mark.

I know this is too long, and I would like to stop, but I can’t . . . not until I say one more thing. Everyone I’ve mentioned here has fallen because of obvious sin. But I did not mention the proud, envious, gluttonous, angry, greedy, blamers and scrutinizers in the body of Christ who have equally fallen but their sins are acceptable in our culture so they do not even realize their sin or need for repentance. Why? They are too busy with the sins of others. Often we actually laude these Pharisees and Judaizers because of their stand against sin, not realizing that they are still not teaching us the New Testament solution to mankind’s sin problem. When the New Testament becomes Torah in their hands, that law, too, stimulates sin.

It’s time for us to stop what we’re doing and weep. We need to repent, enter into the prayer closet without cameras, notes, or any announcements that we’re praying and fasting, and repent for what we have created until our hearts are soft again. Our children are dying. Our relationships are broken. Our attitudes are arrogant. And our hearts are left confused.

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Mandela Schools Modern Evangelicals

(This is an e-mail I sent to some of the members of St. James Church on December 9th, 2013)

Several people have written me today asking for the Nelson Mandela quote I used yesterday in church. When President Bill Clinton was going through his scandal, many world leaders withdrew from him and many Evangelical leaders were determined to use his sins against him in every possible way. Clinton asked Nelson Mandela why he remained such a faithful friend during that time, to which he responded,

My morality does not allow me to desert my friends.

I think this goes to the core of our message. Our response to another person’s sin reveals whether or not we are Christ-like. If we are authentic Christians, we respond to others the way Christ responded to us in our sin, with healing and redemption, desiring to befriend us.  In contrast, if we respond by seeing ourselves as superior and are willing to use others’ sins against them, we may actually become enemies of Christ’s work. We Christians are advocates of repentance, forgiveness, redemption, transformation, healing, and resurrection. Enemies of the Gospel, though they may call themselves “Christian,” reveal themselves by trying to deny another’s resurrection. Strangely, enemies of the Gospel’s work in another often believe in resurrection for themselves.

Another person’s sin is our opportunity to model what Christ is doing in us. When another sins, it should never be surprising to a Bible-believing Christian. Though we believers are to be dominated by His righteousness, we are perfected only when we see Him face-to-face. So another’s sin simply validates the Bible’s teaching about our human condition and every person’s need to grow in Christ. God saw our sin and revealed his heart toward us by sending Jesus, a sure solution for our sin problem.

For us to be like Him, we respond to another’s sins with the New Testament solution; forgiveness, hope, healing, and restoration. Another person’s sin is our opportunity to be like Christ, to be a healer and a minister of redemption. Too often, though, Christians have confused their morality as superiority and see another’s sins as the enemy, not the opportunity. Why? I believe many have not settled in their own minds the biblical solution to mankind’s sin problem, so rather than applying the Gospel, they naturally resort to natural law, which is judgement, punishment, humiliation, dehumanization, and death. The New Testament says we have a new and better way.

I do not know what Nelson Mendela’s faith position was, but I do know that the Holy Spirit has the ability to work with whomever He chooses (Acts 2:17), and that maybe during Nelson Mandela’s time in prison, the fundamental ideas of the Gospel and their inherent power came alive in him. As a result, he developed an understanding of friendship that makes allowance for the faults of others (see Ephesians 4:2 and Colossians 3:13), and helped advance the cause of equality under the law in South Africa through forgiveness of past grievances. He understood and demonstrated the power of forgiveness. He modeled healing as a response to the sins of others and as a result, changed the world one more time. And for this, the world honors him among its greatest men.

We all need to apply the Gospel, not simply believe it.

Blessings.

Pastor Ted

I Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

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