"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction" -- Blaise Pascal
My great grandfather was a Methodist minister in the South. He had a sense of humor, and his rural congregants loved him. When a parishioner suggested he ask God for rain to relieve a drought, he told the individual that he would if he could but that he was in sales, not operations!
It seems today that the era of the humble minister is long gone, replaced by televangelists and mega-church "charismatics" who are all business. Many of them take themselves very seriously, are overtly political, and do not lead by example. As a result, they seem to be losing touch with those of their followers who are not zealots. Truly, religion has been Swaggart, Haggard and Bakkered of late, and as a result, trivialized. (And this doesn't count the priest who ex-Foley-ated a future congressman on a boys' camping trip.)
The troubles of Reverend Ted Haggard, the disgraced former head of the National Association of Evangelicals and founding pastor of a 14,000-member Colorado Springs mega-church, are emblematic of the problems facing contemporary evangelic churches. These huge churches choose their pastors based on charisma, marketing sense, and their ability to be trusted with sensitive personal information. It's much the same way Tom Cruise picks a wife.
After denying that he ever met the gay escort who says he had a three-year relationship with the reverend, Haggard finally confessed. But really, who among us has not summoned a gay male prostitute to our hotel room for a massage and to score a little methamphetamine using church money? As Jay Leno pointed out, "You talk about robbing Paul to pay for Peter!"
My guess is that Reverend Ted plays the fake-addiction card and goes to drunk camp for 30 days, then comes out all cured of his gayness and ready to preach again. There is nothing the pious like to do more than to forgive someone, as it makes them feel superior.
There are some who pray on their knees on Sunday and then prey on others the rest of the week. And in my view, there is no bigger crime than to get someone's trust, using the fear of God, then to take advantage of them. There's a special place in hell reserved for these folks.
If you are going to set out lofty goals for your flock, you have to be an example for them to follow. These men of the loincloth do untold damage to religion. Those who live by the sword often die by it. And in these cases, they really should have left their sword in their pants.
The church has done so much good for so many over the years. It is there to relieve anxiety, comfort the afflicted, and provide a sense of community. It is human nature to want to be loved. And some are even willing to join a hate group to get it. Yet is equally wrong for some liberals to vilify all churchgoers as dumb white trash, devoid of logical thought.
What makes Haggard a national story is his hypocrisy, in that he fought to keep gays from wedlock. His best chance to get out of hot water with the other evangelicals is by making the case that he just slept with a dude -- he didn't marry him!
It has been my experience that men who spend an inordinate amount of time persecuting gays are often fighting their own insecurities, which are bubbling near the surface. Secure men -- even though we may not like to think about the mechanics of gay sex -- do not persecute gays.
I've concluded that gays are pre-wired homosexual. Folks, you just don't "catch" gay. So, since God is responsible for the pre-wiring, how can it be so damnable if done between consenting adults? If He made them that way, then Christian logic would follow that they too are children of God. When churchgoing people react with such hate, it makes me wonder just what sort of Christians they are.
Not only are churches becoming more political, they now aggressively teach sexual abstinence. When I was growing up, they never taught such things. Folks in my church would have blushed even talking about it. The way I learned abstinence was the old fashion way -- dating a Catholic girl.