Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rev. Louis Sheldon Admits He, Other Christian Leaders Knew About Ted Haggard's Homosexuality

I've long been aware of, and irritated by, the Christian Right's Traditional Values Coalition. But recent comments made by its head, Rev. Louis Sheldon (left), are more than irritating. They are, to put it bluntly, infuriating.

In an interview with Larry Kohler-Esses, editor-at-large for Jewish Weekly, Sheldon said that he and "a lot" of others close to Ted Haggard knew about the latter's homosexual leanings "but we weren't sure just how to deal with it. Ted and I had a discussion,” Sheldon told Esses, and stated Haggard revealed his struggle at one point: “He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn’t. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that.”

There's plenty I could say about that last sentence. But I'll hold myself in check for now on that score. If you knew, Rev. Sheldon, he was covering up, why didn't you confront him? Did you push him toward getting counseling? Did you insist he confess these temptations to his Church board and his fellow leaders amongst the National Assocation of Evangelicals? Did you ask him if he struggled with porn use, internet porn, or had ever acted out sexually? Did you urge him to join, and monitor his progress in joining, Sexaholics Anonymous or another such group that helps those struggling with sex addictions?

I do happen to believe that gayness is not genetic. I have seen real gays change, including my friends John Smid and Mario Bergner. But I also don't believe it is easily battled or even easily discussed. Yet not discussing it can result only in the many who struggle with same sex desires within the Evangelical Church being left in a double-bind. "Don't ask, don't tell" -- that's the way we do it, huh? Leave the Haggards of the world in a situation where everything is okay on the surface, but don't let me see beneath the surface to who you really are as a human being in all your darkness and pain and hurt. After all, that might reveal my own hurt and darkness. Better to leave all this untouched, while advocating a moral America which never did, and never will exist.

And what does this teach the watching world about our attitude toward temptation -- any kind of temptation? Is it wrong for someone to be tempted homosexually? The answer is no. Yet if we make it dangerous even to mention that we are tempted, what will be the inevitable outcome? Temptation undealt with leads to failure -- sin. If we cannot even be honest about homosexual temptation -- heck, sexual temptation period! -- how can we hope to model in our actions and lives a morality that is anything more than the most hypocritical puke?

This all makes me angry. And to you, Rev. Sheldon, along with all the others who knew and allowed this struggle to remain a secret, shame. Ted's sin may be less than yours. I ache for the day when this sort of "super-spiritual offal" is finally shoveled out of our pulpits, radio shows, and maybe even lives. Real Christianity can't even get started while the centerpiece of our lives is all about appearances. Why? Because real Christianity is about shedding them.


hewhocutsdown said...

Hey Jon.

Been reading your blogs for a while. It's affected me on a lot of levels.

This is f***ed up. I honestly don't know how to respond at the moment.

I have to say though, I do the same thing. Still trying to muster the courage to work things through with God and community.

Thanks for the encouragement.

-B said...

You know? Truth be told? I'm starting to wonder about this WHOLE thing. America seems to be obsessed with this ordeal and Christian celebs who fall into sin. I'm wonder'n if we are buying into same cultural phenomenon that we hate. Kinda centering us around something to talk about at the local donut shop. Sure Haggard's sin is hypocritical but aren't we making something of a sport of it all? People are not so concerned or serious about the wrongness of Haggard's hypocrisy per se. Because if they were, they would be attentive to the human condition and know that they are just as suspectible to sin's temptation as any other. Maybe instead of our "gloating" in other's failures, (not saying you're doing this Jon. I don't believe you are. But it seems the Christian community is obsessed with Ted's failure) this should spur us on to finding practical and workable ways in which to show forgiveness, grace, redemption and strenght to carry our own crosses.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't talk about it or worse, ignore it? But I think it's time to move on and let Ted and his family heal from this. Yes. I think this is the way to go now. Let's begin this process.

Anonymous said...

This article is a breath of fresh air. Some evangelicals don't even know where to begin when dealing with our human nature. We need to be honest with who we are and be in community where we can be healed. Luther said, "sin boldly."

chris said...

Here are the full contextualized words of Luther's "sin boldly" statement in his letter to Melancthon. They do seem to fit well in this conversation:

“If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”

(LW 48:281)

Rich Kennedy said...

Wait a minute. Will no one call Sheldon to account on his flimsy evidence? Must everyone who believes homosexuality to be genetic be gay? Since when is assenting to a proposition, true or false, evidence of desire and or behavior tangential to the proposition?

Jon Trott said...


Your logic is good. But I was bothered even more by the outright hatred of gays reflected in that response, which is why I could't really respond to it while trying to also address Rev. Sheldon's admission. For those of us who believe homosexuality is not God's will, yet also see the gay as our neighbor, this sort of reaction (Sheldon's) is maddening.

Lainie Petersen said...

(JFYI, this is not really a comment, but I thought you'd be interested.)

Anson Shupe weighs in on the Haggard debacle:

donnav said...

"Real Christianity can't even get started while the centerpiece of our lives is all about appearances. Why? Because real Christianity is about shedding them."

I pop in every once in awhile because I like your writing and miss getting it in my c-stone fix...and Jon...really, this is one of your best works.....I love the quote of yours above...maybe because this issue hits close to home for me...thanks for your heart...I like where it's at!!

Damery the sinner said...

My 2 cents:
1) Homosexuality is not genetic it is a lack of self control. same sin as adultery or violent anger etc. you not only hurt yourself but you hurt others too.
2) Church is either full of sinners or liars. If you cant believe he is a sinner then you are lying to yourself. The church should be about forgiveness, repentance and becoming holy.
3) Only when leadership depends on Christ for their strength and lets go of the false life will the sheep follow.

ok, 3 cents. As, a lying sinner I hope you forgive me.

Scott said...


Longtime writer (going back to C-Stone in print), first time commenter. I'll keep it short:
Good words!


Pastor Phil said...

Hi John,

I have to agree with Rich's assessment here. How can a Christian leader take a moment like this to posture with some sort of "I knew it because God told me," response?

It certainly comes across with all the typical Christian verbiage which ostracizes evangelical Christianity from the gay community, but until we change our approach, vocabulary, and more deeply our hearts we will continue to sound like this. It is no different than anything else he has said in the past - except there is a posturing of religious authority, and insight - a great moment to get some press, and sound connected to God in some special way.