I read a couple of interviews this morning with Ted Haggard, former Colorado mega-church pastor who preached against homosexuality but resigned two years ago amid a gay sex scandal.
Haggard, now an insurance salesman, has a documentary coming out soon on HBO called The Trials of Ted Haggard.
In the documentary he says that he still finds himself attracted to men sometimes. He says he and his family are going strong. He says God has forgiven him.
He says all the things you'd expect from a man in his position.
But one thing really jumped out at me: In spite of statements in the documentary from religious leaders with whom Haggard used to work that they had forgiven him for the wrecking ball he took to his family and his congregation, Haggard says in the film that he's angry with his former church 'cause it essentially has told him to "go to hell" for his actions.
Haggard was so wrong. I'm not talking about him being gay or temporarily gay or bisexual, or whatever. I don't care, don't care, don't care. My problem is with his hypocrisy in telling his congregation it was damnable behavior while engaging in gay sex himself, the risk he put his wife in by having sex with a prostitute and then going home to her, the danger he put his whole family in doing illicit drugs, etc.
If his church says it forgives him, what else does Haggard want from those folks? Maybe it's just me, but it seems that people like Haggard use "forgiveness," when they really mean "forgetfulness." Along with forgiving their wrongdoing, they want you to automatically restore them to former glory, to their pre-trouble status.
But that's just not practical or natural. I've always thought that whole forgive-and-forget mantra was bogus when it comes to major offenses, 'cause I don't think it's in human nature to just forget.
Let's say Mrs. B hits me in the back of the head with a frying pan, one of those big stainless steel numbers - and she hasn't, but I once covered an attempted murder case where the wife did that 'cause her husband complained about her cooking - once my eyes got uncrossed and the swelling subsided and my speech was no longer slurred, I might forgive her, and we might subsequently live happily ever after. But I guarantee you I'd never forget...unless the blow to the head caused brain damage that made me forget.
Seriously, have you ever literally forgotten the wrong a person did you, even after you forgave that person? You may not dwell on the incident or dream about it or obsess in any way, but it's still in the back of your mind. Haggard says in the documentary that he and his wife are doing well now. Maybe, but I'll bet from time to time she remembers he played dueling wangs with a male prostitute.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. Sometimes you have to exercise compassion and a sense of humor and treat the person who offended you as though you have forgotten their offense. There's a moral lesson in that sort of compassion too. But save it for when your future president chops down a cherry tree that he shouldn't have, or when you catch your kid with his hand in the cookie jar, or when your spouse snaps at you 'cause she had a bad day at work and you know all the while that she doesn't mean you any harm.
But the Ted Haggards of the world don't warrant that sort of compassion. Give it to them and what you're telling them is that there are no consequences for big bad deeds.