Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Haggard's Aftermath: NAE "Spin"

"Haggard represents a new direction and a new kind of evangelical leader. He pastors an independent, charismatic megachurch. He has no advanced degrees. He rarely wears a suit and drives a pickup truck with a Napoleon Dynamite "Vote for Pedro" bumper sticker. He is ebullient, not cautious. The NAE has gained media attention with him in the spotlight."
["Good Morning, Evangelicals," by Tim Stafford, Christianity Today] [emphasis added]

The honeymoon with Ted Haggard is over. The National Association of Evangelicals is already distancing themselves from Ted Haggard since this weekend. It is unfortunate that they didn't do this years ago when they were warned by Mike Oppenheimer and Sandy Simpson, as documented in yesterday's Herescope post.

But now the NAE has a mess on their hands and they are trying put the best spin on things -- at Haggard's expense. Here is the latest "spin" by the NAE, issued today by Christianity Today:

"National Association of Evangelicals Sifts Through Ashes of Haggard Scandal
Leaders are distancing group from its former president.

"Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service posted 11/07/2006 08:51AM

"As the Rev. Ted Haggard expresses sorrow for being a 'deceiver and a liar,' leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals are distancing their organization from the man who led it for three years.

"'Most people—I'm not sure everyone—separate this tragedy from NAE; they consider it a tragedy of a man, a pastor and not an NAE scandal — that's the good news,' said the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental relations of the Washington-based NAE.

"'The bad news is it surely impacts the evangelical world, and that includes the NAE.'…

The Rev. Leith Anderson, who has been chosen to replace Haggard in the interim was quoted in this article as hoping that "most evangelicals will not tie what happened with Ted Haggard to NAE."

And here is the evidence of the NAE spin machine cranked up in high gear. The article states:

"The immediate steps taken by the NAE indicate that the scandal is individual, not institutional, said the Rev. Luder Whitlock, executive director of Trinity Forum in Orlando, Fla. …" [all emphases above added]

It is sad that the NAE didn't deal with Haggard earlier. First, at the beginning of his term when warned by discernment groups that Haggard was closely associated with the New Apostolic Reformation heresies and leaders. And then later when some odd things about Haggard began to surface.

Case in point, another Christianity Today article from 2005. This article cites numerous instances of Haggard's use of deception and dominionism theology, and to the author's credit, even raises some questions about it. The author begins by noting Haggard's attempt to cloak or hide his spiritual warfare dominionism:

"Early this year, Haggard did send a memo to his congregation, tutoring them in proper behavior with TV reporters. 'If a camera is on you during a worship service, worship; don't dance, jump, etc. … Jumping and dancing in church looks too bizarre for most to relate to. … Don't talk about the Devil, demons, voices speaking to you. … Instead, tell your personal story in common-sense language. … Don't be spooky or weird. Don't switch into a glassy-eyed heavenly mode.

"Haggard believes in territorial spirits, demonic oppression, visions, and voices from heaven. New Life worship is free and physical. Yet Haggard was coaching his congregation to act the way he does, which is anything but spooky or weird."

A second instance refers to an article about Haggard in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Paul Nussbaum. The CT article, commenting on this other article, noted:

"Haggard loves to talk, and Nussbaum has caught him making an off-the-cuff pronouncement he is unwilling or unable to substantiate."

Haggard apparently muted his own church doctrines in order to achieve an ecumenical unity both locally in Colorado Springs, and nationally in his role as NAE head:

"Haggard's publicly stated goal is that all 'life-giving' churches in Colorado Springs grow. He urges each church, including his own, to keep their doctrinal specialties inside the walls of the church, while broadcasting a common-ground 'mere Christianity' outside."

This Ted Haggard tragedy illustrates the trouble with evangelical Christianity from its very inception. The National Association of Evangelicals was founded with an organizational precept that intentionally eschewed the biblical doctrine of separation. The founders of the NAE wished to engage the culture rather than separate from it. Cultural engagement at the level of sexual sin isn't what the founders had in mind. But they ignored the fact that this doctrine was clearly given by God for the protection of believers from temptations.

The Christianity Today article about Haggard commented about the changing evangelicalism:

"In Haggard, one can see the new confidence of American evangelicalism. Previously consigned to the margins of respectable society, today's evangelicals are on a roll. Those like Haggard enjoy their newfound influence and haven't paused to sort out a philosophy of cultural engagement. They're too busy making a difference.

"But personality-driven and media-centric organizations don't necessarily develop strong institutional foundations. Politicians are notoriously fickle. Today's darlings are tomorrow's has-beens.

"And as the Bible amply warns, success is seductive. Haggard's optimistic evangelicalism could become self-congratulatory religion-lite, baptizing the American way. …It could neglect the Cross altogether." [emphases added]

And this lack of discernment is precisely the trap that the NAE fell into by promoting Haggard to a level of national leadership -- even after being forewarned about his deviant doctrines and distortions of the truth. Knowing this, it is a bit difficult to separate the "sins" of the NAE from the "sins" of the charismatic Haggard that they promoted and used to gain popular "media attention" that put themselves "in the spotlight."

The Truth:

"Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure." (1 Timothy 5:22)