Is there meth in Ted Haggard's heaven? Does it rot your teeth? In his 2005 Barbara Walters interview, Haggard says you can eat all the food you want in heaven and never gain weight. Can you shoot all the meth you want and never lose your teeth or grow emaciated? What about unprotected sex with gay prostitutes? Do you get divine protection against AIDS? Or only if you give regular spiritual advice to the President, and help the Republicans blame gays for America's family problems
Now that Haggard has been outed by a gay prostitute for having sex with him and buying meth, and has resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, I wonder what it will take for the good people in the pews to call leaders like Haggard, Jerry Fallwell, and James Dobson to account for their mean-spirited hypocrisy. And maybe even to approach the world with more forgiveness and less vindictiveness. I hope they won't just move on to other seductive leaders who similar project their fears and flaws on whoever they chooses to demonize.
It's might be too much to hope, but maybe this is an opportunity for the rest of us to reach out to those who call themselves born again Christians and challenge them to listen a bit more closely to the Jewish preacher whose vision men like Haggard, Fallwell and Dobson reoutinely profane. Maybe they could even find some other lessons in those Biblical texts to set their course by, lessons that genuinely prophetic voices like Desmond Tutu, Jim Wallis and Martin Luther King have made the core of a vision that actually promotes human dignity, instead of trampling it.
Paul Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books), named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and American Book Association. See www.theimpossible.org