Quotes from Gayle Haggard’s book: ‘Why I Stayed’

“If I left Ted, my life would be illustrating that some people mess up too badly to be redeemed and that some people are lost causes.  And I don’t believe that.  I don’t believe in throwing people away because they’ve sinned”

Mark Galli quotes Martin Luther as saying that ‘a Christian is at once and the same time a sinner and a righteous person.  He is a sinner in fact, but a righteous person by the sure reckoning and promise of God that he will continue to deliver him from sin until he has completely cured him.  And so he is totally healthy in hope, but a sinner in fact.  He has the beginning of righteousness, and so always continues more and more to seek it, while realizing that he is always unrighteous.’ If we live in this hope…we will not be puzzled or despondent when our public heroes fall or church disappoints or our own lives are as wretched as Paul’s.  Instead, we’ll join him in saying, ‘thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  There is therefore now no condemnation (not from God, not from ourselves! for those who are in Christ Jesus.’

Reading this book provokes two thoughts in me:

1.  The gospel was made for people like Ted Haggard and me.

2. We must pray desperately that when our friends fail and our leaders sin we have the grace to greet their repentance with the same love and mercy that we ourselves have received.

14 thoughts on “Quotes from Gayle Haggard’s book: ‘Why I Stayed’

  1. Is homosexuality still deemed to be a “sin” by christians or is it just the extra-marital nature of his affair (plus all the drug taking and lying about it) that requires “repentance”?

    1. Hey Russ! Hope you’re doing great and that you had a ton of fun when Leanne came to visit! Canada is cold. This is all I know about it. And people talk funny.

      I’ll try to answer your question the best way I know how. I might wish that my answer was going to be more pleasing to you, but the sneaky thing about Christianity is that it can’t be uniquely catered to an individual’s preference. God defines it, not me. And He’s defined it in the Bible. Which (as Ted would agree) defines homosexuality as a sin. But – before you tune out- let me say a couple of things:

      1. homosexuality is not the main issue. Separation from God is the main issue. If I convinced everyone in the world to be straight – we would be no closer to God. I am not primarily a sinner because of what I do – but because of who I am. Sin is rejecting God’s provision; He says one thing is best, and I call Him a liar. That’s sin. So, this happens in a million ways – from murder to simply treating God like a means to an end (like the prosperity gospel). No sin creates more or less guilt before God.

      2. Christianity is unique. Instead of Jesus telling people to get their act together so they can get God, He told people to just confess that they couldn’t get their act together and accept a trade – where God would do it for them. This wasn’t just a one time exchange to get us in the door to have relationship with God – it’s constant and life long. A billion moments will pass this day when I do exactly what Ted did – I will reject what I know God has said is best because in my arrogance I think I know better. And God won’t just look at me and lower the standard, He’ll look at me and see the life Christ lived. And the exchange will continue.

      I don’t have a stone to throw at Haggard. He’s a screw up. Me too.

      As far as your question goes, I think the most helpful lens is the lens that redefines ‘sin’. It’s a disposition of unbelief. That’s why Jesus can say that hate is the same as murder, or a thought about a woman is the same as adultery. Because the way our heart’s disbelief plays out looks different in every person. And the issue isn’t the external action of the unbelief as much as the heart.

      I’m not sure if that makes ANY sense.

      ps. (repentance also needs to be redefined. It’s not trying to pay God back or make up for your sin. Instead it’s turning and trusting God. It’s confessing that I didn’t believe Him and worshiping and trusting Him that His son paid the penalty and promises to give me more faith. )

      phew.

  2. Hey Fabs, sorry I neglected the pleasantries; I quickly drummed out that question and completely forgot to say “hi” and the like. Canada is indeed cold, although the majority of people here would probably claim that I’m the one who talks funny (perish the thought).

    I just find the inconsistency with reference to homosexuality the most interesting amongst religuous people in general, perhaps because it is the most stark example of the drastically different ways that people interpret the same book; people that are all apparently receiving “guidance” from the same “god”. I think there is a trend amongst younger christians (as there is in society generally) to regard homosexuality as something that people do not suddenly choose to pursue (or are tempted into doing by ‘the devil’ – man that sounds crazy, ha ha), it is something much deeper on a cognitive or biological level rather than a willful transgression or lustful experiment.

    Does it not say something similar to this in the old testament:

    “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. (NKJ, Leviticus 20:13)”.

    Put to death? That seems pretty unequivical to me. How can there possibly be any confusion on the matter, even if it wasn’t a particularly big topic on Jesus’ agenda once he came on the scene?

    I can’t begin to accept that anyone actually believes that all “sins” are equal; that means that it is no more severe to exploit your position as a trusted spiritual leader as a means to sexually abuse children (the latest example being in the Belgian catholic church) as it is to be jealous or to dislike / hate someone? So those that worship other “gods” are no less a sinner than those who murder, rape or torture people in the eyes of your “lord”? Come on!

    Also, is Ted Haggard not living a lie by maintaining the facade of his marriage when he is obviously a homosexual?

  3. Thanks for answering my questions by the way, I am frequently left dumbstruck by how people in the present day still pay any attention to what I personally view as a collection of ludicrous fables so it will be nice to have someone to direct my indignant bemusement at! (lucky you, ha ha).

    1. haha. i hear that. I understand and welcome indignant bemusement. It was my companion for many years. (although mine was a lot more like outraged indignation)

  4. Great questions and points! I love that you think about this stuff, and that you’re smart enough to have done your homework!

    (and I should let you know I do kind of agree that you talk funny)

    I also find the inconsistency on this issue a little strange. It’s also strange to me that a belief or disagreement on the root of homosexuality (choice vs. biological) somehow effects whether or not it’s right. There are a million desires I have that are biological, in one sense – even ‘natural’ – but if I believe the Bible, I also believe I was born sinful. Just because I was born with a certain desire by no means equals it being pure. the problem with my desires is when I put them above and before what God says. I don’t believe I can trust my ‘heart’ or ‘instincts’ to determine what is right or true over God.

    I also agree that it’s not really gray area in the bible how God feels about this issue. But the bible itself predicts that there will be people who are able to twist the truth in order to tell people what they want to hear: ways to ‘follow’ God without sacrifice or true surrender and death to your self. There will always be people who try to teach that you can have the best of both worlds. Unfortunately this is totally contradictory to the life and teaching of Christ.

    I am one of those people who might fit in your category as crazy because I do actually believe that all sins bring equal guilt before God. And I don’t say this to lessen the guilt of what you might think of as horrific acts, but I say this to bring that same weight to the sins we might think are not big issues: like envy or anger.

    I’m not saying rape isn’t horrible. I think it’s more horrific than we even know. I’m saying that we must not make the mistake of lessening the horror of spitting in the face of an inconceivably good and a just God by proclaiming equal wisdom as Him – played out in the ‘smaller’ ways.

    My answer to this: “So those that worship other “gods” are no less a sinner than those who murder, rape or torture people in the eyes of your “lord”?” is a resounding yes. Because the horror of sin doesn’t fall so much in the act of a specific sin, but in who the sin is against. Eg. if i lie to my mom, it’s no biggie, but if I lie to the supreme court – that will get me in jail. Why? How can this be? Because the weight of a crime is based on the dignity of the offended party. Sin is sin not because it’s ‘bad actions’, but because it’s sin against the only uncreated being; the only one just and pure and right.

    But – of course I understand that this is all be nonsense from a world view that doesn’t revolve around Him as that perfect creator.

    As far as your final comment – I think Ted Haggard is living the most honest life possible if he confesses that he (like every one else who claims the name of Christ) needs Jesus; if he proclaims that he trusts Jesus to determine what is truly ‘true’ for him, instead of letting his feelings decide that. As a believer, he is no longer the one who gets to decide what is true about who he is. Now he trusts God to tell him what is true about himself.

    I think that’s probably a maddening and offensive statement from any worldview that doesn’t also hold God as the only good and wise being. I get that for sure.

    phew again! It’s so hard to type this because sometimes words on a page can come across as hard truth. As inconvenient as it is, I stand on the word of God, but that being said – when I read the words from God they – like my own words – are spoken with love and grace. I’m sure you’ve met too many ‘Christians’ who don’t communicated either love or truth (as defined by the bible). For that – I’m sorry. the message of the cross is pretty distorted in this culture.

  5. What do you mean you were “born sinful”? That is a pretty bonkers statement right there. I can’t help but think that all of the phrases associated with the things that you claim to feel are so negative; so morbid and self loathing. It’s all sacrifice, surrender, death and repentence – hardly the stuff of peace of love right? It was no suprise to me that Ted Haggard turned out to be a bit of a deviant; I often think that the very nature of devout religulous belief can cause a level of perversion in men who become obsessed with strange ideas of “sin” and “repentence” (combined with sexual abstinence – if anyone still really follows that one nowadays).

    Obviously you’re pretty clear that all non-christians are going to hell but how do you rationalise the idea of other “faiths” and their belief systems? There are many muslims or sikhs (etc.) who are as convinced as you that they live their life in accordance with the scriptures of the ‘one true god’, who are as convinced that they are receiving guidance from some form of omnipresent omnipitent spirit guide and that their entire lives are some form of moral examination for where they spend enternity once they die (wow, it’s not until you write it down that you trully appreciate just how mental it all sounds!) – according to them you’ll spend eternity in their bonkers equivilent of hell, how can those belief systems co-exist? What makes christianity any more credible than any of the other “faiths” that you could think of? Is it just a coincidence that it is the one to which you were introduced first do you think? Or is there perhaps a greater amount of tangible evidence for why the christian god is more likely to have created the universe than, say, allah?

    And when you mention the perfect creator, do you honestly think that the stories in genesis are an accurate description of how the world came to be? I know some people have now shifted to the viewpoint that there was an initial creator at the inception of the universe (to the point where it can be traced through scientific methods) and that the “intelligent design” is actually the realisation of the universe as it is now (and will continue to be) through pre-determined avenues (for example; on earth, man evolved through a process of evolution by natural selection but that was how it was always intended to be) – I’d be interested to hear where you sit on this issue.

    I know what you mean about the ‘words on a page’ stuff (it’s hard for me to have to use so many inverted commas for instance, ha ha) but it’s nice to be able to give measured responses that can be considered and rephrased which is a luxury that is obviously not afforded to actual discussions.

    1. Yeah! Still good questions/points and they are so familiar to me cause I pointed out all the same things to Christians before I was one. I think the main problem is that my source of authority and truth is a book that you don’t believe. So, nothing I say will make any sense. There are reasonable answers to all those questions, but they are founded on one major assumption that we don’t share.

      It was no surprise to me either that Ted Haggard had struggles. But not because I think the biggest problem in his life was exercising too much self-restraint. I have miscommunicated the call of Christ if I have conveyed it mainly as a call to come and die. It’s a call to come and die so that you might have life and life abundant. It’s not a life that asks you to give up everything this is good; it is a life that produces faith in something better. The life of a Christian is not a life of asceticism, but a life of gain and a life of abundance. I am able to give up fleeting pleasures, not out of some great moral strength, but because I believe in a better and more lasting pleasure at the right hand of God.

      My faith isn’t arrived at through logical or rationality. Nor is it arrived at through an emotional experience. I spent years scoffing and scorning Christianity for all of the very rational reasons you outline above. And the foolishness of Christianity was emotionally offensive to me. It wasn’t some sudden mental breakthrough or a different piece of evidence that brought me to Jesus. It was Jesus. Jesus brought me to Jesus. And so I have no defense. He has left me without any explanation that will give me a shred of pride to explain my lifestyle.

      I don’t believe in Jesus Christ because He’s more credible. I believe in Him because He called me and made me alive. And I have no defense (nor do I want one) for how crazy that statement sounds. I could answer your questions about what I believe about evolution, but I think the main issue again – is that my source of authority is wildly different (and if i’m not wrong – wildly foolish) in your eyes. Still – if you do want to hear the biblical position on this I can certainly send you some interesting links/articles.

      Another great resource if you want to hear smart Christians say ridiculous things is desiringgod.org. I share their world view that the Bible is truth, and so we would answer pretty much any question you have in a similar way. Plus – they are far more articulate than I am, so might be a great place to get you riled up with some crazy Christian fun 😉

  6. Did they also dodge answering them with daft statements about faith and spirituality when you pointed them out? (ha ha). I don’t think the words “truth” or “reasonable” have much of a connection with any answers that can be found within religuous texts, the bible included. Even if it wasn’t otherwise built on nonsense; the sheer notion of living for eternity (ETERNITY!!!) is an exceptionally bizarre one to me. I know you’d say that I couldn’t begin to comprehend it as “I don’t know Jesus” or something like that but it’s such a weird and bonkers thing to Actually consider that you’re going to live forever as some sort of spiritual incarnation of yourself with everyone who has ever believed in the same bunch of implausible nonsense- how does someone of obvious intelligence find themselves in a position of such overwhelming delusion?

    When you say Jesus “called you”, that can only have happened because you had been made aware previously in your life? I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing that you probably didn’t attend a variety of religuous teachings growing up, or that you spent time studying the texts of other faiths (correct me if I’m wrong). If you would have been brought up in a muslim country for instance and spent a lot of time in the mosque would you now be extolling the virtues of Allah and Muhammed instead? How religious people (especially ones who otherwise seem really smart – yourself and Leanne included) interpret what happens in the heads of people of other faiths fascinates me – what do they think is occuring in their minds when they believe that they are receiving guidance from “above” (is it still above? I know these texts were recorded when people still regarded the earth to be flat – think of that!), when they think that they see evidence of their deities working mysteriously in their lives or when they seek mercy or assistance through prayer or worship? I’m fortunate enough to be able to regard all of such antiquated and ludicrous ideas in the same way but, for those who choose to allign themselves with a particular brand of (the remarkably similar) ‘holy creator origin / ethical guidance / eternal afterlife reward’ they must be a difficult thing to dismiss as mere delusion (they seem pretty convinced too!).

    I’m going to guess from the way that you sidestepped the issue that you do believe that Genisis is true (because it’s all the word of god right, that’s what you guys believe?), and, like many other ‘informed’ christians, you probably don’t want to hold it up to scrutiny because you know (you must know) that it is absolutely ridiculous. I started reading it the other day and was annoyed and baffled in equal measure that anyone who wasn’t stupid could read more than 50 words without concluding that it was complete and utter nonsense (seriously, it was like reading a children’s story – one aimed at not particularly bright children too I might add). I know I’m not pointing anything new out (and they’re obviously things you’ve thought of many times if you were as doubtful as you’ve mentioned) but how does someone of intelligence satisfy themselves with such a ludicrous explanation of the origins of man in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary? (if you take the time to answer any of my questions, PLEASE make it that one). I’ve never read or been offered an explanation of how people can continue to put so much faith into a book that opens with a chapter that we now know must have been written by people at a time when they were obviously so incredibly ill-equipped to speculate on such matters. I just can’t begin to describe the frustration that I feel that, people who are otherwise intelligent, could hold to be true ideas that are so obviously of another time, that were so evidently invented with the intention of exercising control over people’s lives and giving them an incentive / deterrent for behaving in a certain way.

    I really do appreciate your efforts to answer my questions (I’m not just using you as someone to bark hackneyed agnostic sentiments at, I promise!) and of course we’re going to disagree completely on almost everything we say. This isn’t your first blog post I’ve read by the way, it’s just the first one I’ve replied to (in typed words rather than incredulous spoken expletives that is, ha ha). I will have a look at that website you sent me, I’vee no doubt it will raise more questions than answers but I’m always game for a laugh!

    1. Haha. Well – I’m not sure how profitable all this is seeing as I’m pretty sure you know how I’m going to answer the questions, you just don’t like the answers. I wasn’t at all meaning to side-step or dodge your questions. I absolutely believe all scripture is breathed out by God. And I do believe in the creation account as recorded in genesis.

      I’m not sure what the question is though. For me, it was critical to consider things in there proper order. I believe God became man and lived a perfect life and died paying the penalty for my sin, and was raised from the dead. If I didn’t believe that – who cares if I believe in creation? But if I do believe that (which I do) then of course I believe God can do all things and of course I trust Him with my life.

      It seems some of your distaste for Christianity comes from the arrogance of the assumption that I have the truth and that everyone else believes in a lie. But I’m not sure how that’s different from your position. Also, knowing both of our families, I might just as well level your question back at you – how do you know that you don’t just think and believe as you do because of how you were raised? It seems, at least in mine and Leanne’s families – that we are the oddities. It seems like your world view is fairly consistent with what you have been taught. If following Christ was the cool, popular thing to do, no one gave my friends or family that memo. The gospel is counter to every ideology I was raised with. In my home- the only thing that mattered was what you could prove and defend.

      The main question you seem to have is how can intelligent people believe in this ‘fable’? The answer isn’t going to satisfy you. We believe because we see something you don’t see. I know no other reality. And I know no greater reality. If the question is ‘how am I satisfied with trusting something I can’t prove’ – the answer can only be that I’ve been shown beyond shadow of a doubt that their is a larger reality then the one I experience with my senses. I have encountered Jesus Christ. I know Him. I trust in that more than I trust in anything else. Foolish? Sure. In the Bible’s words: God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. I became a fool that I might become wise and I will continue to be a fool for Christ’s sake.

      Not sure what else to say! I might wish that my answers would be more helpful, but the root of all your questions seems to be the same: can I really believe all this madness. and the answer will always be the same: yes. I do. You should check out the book Reason for God. It might prove an interesting read.

      Don’t give those Canadians too hard a time, eh. 😉

  7. But how can you believe in the creation account as recorded in genesis when it is so obviously wrong? I can’t say for sure whether or not there is some form of god, I doubt it very much but there’s no way I can be 100% sure. What I can say with unequivocal certainty however is that the universe was not created in seven (six?) days between 6000-12000 years ago – it’s not just improbable, it’s ludicrous. How can you read about discovery of fossils that are estimated to be over 250 million years old and just think “nope, I’m just gonna ignore that” – do you just ignore it or have you got some sort of alternative explanation?. The formation of the Rocky Mountains (to use an example local to me) is believed to be between 50-150 million years ago, Leanne and I attended a canyon tour recently when the guide spoke extremely cogently about tectonic plate movements and ice ages – not once did he mention the garden of eden, Adam and Eve or talking snakes. It makes my brain want to explode that people can ignore overwhelming evidence in order to cling on to a bunch of nonsense, I’m sorry to say that it completely undermines the opinions of anyone who claims that they believe such ridiculous myths to be facts.

    We weren’t raised to be religuous or otherwise; we were sent to a bible camp type thing with my religuous Aunt and Uncle every summer (mainly so my parents could get rid of us for a week or so!) but I was never encouraged to regard religion with distain, not in the slightest. I have numerous problems with religion in general and do not believe that it is a positive thing in the world whatsoever. We’re both lucky that we come from countries where the worst it does is isolate people from their families and insult the intelligence of those who value logical thought; I don’t think the people of Northern Ireland, Israel or Afghanistan (to name but a few) are quite as fortunate (and before you say it, no I don’t think for one second that the world would be a perfect place if there was no religion – I do however think that people would perhaps have more respect for human life if they knew that they only had one).

    The reason I question you on your thoughts on other religuous people is that you might have some greater insight into their mental processes than I, being as you obviously experience comparable sensations / thoughts as they do. I also thought that you might be able to provide me with a reason why christianity is more legitimate than any of the other faiths, if you think of any reasons let me know (I mean actual, factual, tangible evidence – there might be some, who knows?). I always revert back to people of alternative faiths who could say the exact same things as you; that they have seen things that non-believers have not and that their lives have been touched in mysterious ways by their own versions of “god”. Would they not be equally certain that there’s was the one true message and the only way to spend the afterlife in their version of heaven? What do you suppose is generating those certainties in their minds, is it just the power of their imaginations running wild or is it something else do you think? (that isn’t a rhetorical question, I’m genuinely interested to hear what you think). If it is “the devil” communicating to them (an incredibly weak explanation that I was once offered by a christian aquaintance of mine) then what chance do the children raised in, say, muslim countries have of getting to heaven (the christian version) if the doctrines of that particular faith is shoved down their throats from birth? Seems a bit unfair, no?

  8. I hear ya. I think a great resource for you would be the books ‘case for christ/faith/creator’. They include that logical/rational evidence you’re talking about.

    I don’t have a problem believing that God could create the world in a day and yet the earth be marked with signs of age far beyond one day old. After all, i believe Adam was created in a moment, but already was an adult.

    I’m not going to satisfy your need for an explanation for faith. And I understand how frustrating it must be. I actually believe there are probably far more true believers in countries like China than there are in America, but I can’t prove that.

    I really would love to encourage you to read those Lee Strobel books (the ones I mentioned above)! And let me know what you think!

  9. So the whole ‘god created man in his image’ stuff is true too right? The all powerful all knowing creator of everything in the entire universe looks pretty much like a massive, invisible (?) version of me… blimey! I’ll leave it with the questions for now but can’t promise I won’t comment on any future updates that you put on here (unless you tell me to of course, I don’t want to become a pain in the *ahem* “ass”).

    I’ll try to find some excerpts online from those sources, I’m not really in a position at the moment to be wasting money on books that I will probably conclude to be, at best, a bit daft and; at worse, a load of old cobblers. I checked out the Timothy Keller website and read the downloadable introduction and have to say that it seemed pretty reasonable (they’re hardly gonna start with the real wacky stuff in the preview though right?), I then downloaded the study guides on the same page and they seemed to talk quite a bit about angels…. so…. well…. you know (it’s funny how you don’t see so many angels about nowadays, what with all the cameras and recording equipment around).

    I won’t give you a list of sources that I personally think contain greater truths than anything associated with the bible or musings upon the legitimacy of its ramblings, I could point you in the direction of Jonathan Miller, Kurt Vonnegut or Richard Dawkins (I know he’s a bit of a wally but he has a lot of important things to say!) but I doubt that you would glean anything from their works at such an advanced stage of what I can only classify as some form of mild hysteria / schizophrenia (I’m not a doctor though you understand, ha ha). I will leave you with a video of the late and great Bill Hicks though, as he provides a comical look at evangelical christianity and the subject of creationism (although I’m definitely not suggesting that you look unevolved, please don’t think that!).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qmglGWMsdk

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