The High Cost of Evangelical Piety

I haven’t posted directly on the Ted Haggard thing yet (and won’t here, either), though I did tangentially in my The Fine Art of not Apologizing:

It is so hard to stand up and say, "I was wrong."  Really.  It’s especially hard in the political arena (civic or ecclesiastical) where appearances are everything.  But that’s the price we pay for insisting on having perfect people in leadership over us instead of real people in leadership over us.

I came across this analysis today by Scott McKnight:

In evangelicalism, and the charismatic stream in which Ted Haggard swims, sin is bad and sin by leaders is real bad. This leads to a complex of features that creates a serious problem.

    1. Christians, and not just pastors, do not feel free to disclose sins to anyone.
    2. Christians, including pastors, sin and sin all the time.
    3. Christians, including pastors, in evangelicalism do not have a mechanism of confession.
    4. Christians and pastors, because of the environment of condemnation of sin and the absence of a mechanism of confession, bottle up their sins, hide their sins, and create around themselves an apparent purity and a reality of unconfessed/unadmitted sin.
    5. When Christians do confess, and it is often only after getting caught, they are eaten alive by fellow evangelicals — thus leading some to deeper levels of secrecy and deceit.


Sometimes I wonder if the "apparent purity" we create is really just about our desire to prove to ourselves and others that the discipleship system we’ve created is actually working, that mere ad infinitim and ad nauseum bible study and church attendance actually changes us instead of simply modifying our behavior.  "Of course we don’t struggle with sin–we’re good church people and are here in church all the time!"

If we were to get real about our problems, it might become evident that there is precious little essential difference between churchy people and rank-and-file pagans.  Which might lead to a discussion about what it takes to make a disciple instead of just a well-informed convert

Which might lead to the chunking of what we’re doing that we call "church"

Which might lead to communal discipleship

Which would lead to people becoming like Christ

Which would lead to revolution.


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