Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why She Stayed

Last night Karen and I watched and discussed the recent Oprah interview of Ted and Gayle Haggard. Ted is the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of Colorado Springs' New Life Church who lost both of those positions when his relationship with a male prostitute (who was also his meth supplier) came to light in 2006. These revelations caused the usual high level of embarrassment for evangelicals nationwide, as yet another of our prominent spokesmen went down in flames amidst moral compromise.

Now it's three years later and Ted and Gayle went on Oprah to promote her new book, Why I Stayed. For many people, that remains a question without a good answer. In fact, though I'm far from a loyal Oprah viewer, it was fairly obvious that Oprah herself is skeptical of the answer given-that Gayle loves her husband and forgave him even this, a most terrible and embarrassing betrayal. Anyway, here are my stray thoughts on the interview:
  1. Where is the language of sin and repentance in the midst of all the talk of forgiveness? Ted used to a Christian pastor, the leader of a large evangelical organization, no less. Yet while he frequently mentioned his therapist, and frequently talked about his gratitude to his wife for her forgiveness, there was not a word about God, never mind about Jesus. I found this a bit strange, considering that it's surely his wife's faith (and his?) which makes this forgiveness and change possible. Also, there was no talk about sin, and no discussion of how he had repented. Weird.
  2. Apparently, this was not the first time Ted had a sexual encounter with another man while he was married and his wife knew this. Yet Gayle was shocked when her husband admitted to having a gay affair.
  3. Ted claimed to have completely conquered his same-sex desires. I find that, frankly, incredible. I believe that Christians can have victory over sin, but I also believe that, especially when a sin becomes life-dominating, even after victory there remains an ongoing decision to continue on the road to repentance. That is, I don't believe there is complete healing of the difficult of sins until glory. I think he may be setting himself, and his wife, up for another big, very public, failure.
  4. Oprah seemed genuinely incredulous that Gayle could genuinely forgive. Moreover, the underlying assumption behind many of her questions to Gayle seemed to be "You're simply not a strong woman. You're enslaved to your patriarchal notions of marriage and family when you should have dumped this dude." Yet it seems to me that it takes a great deal of personal strength to endure the public humiliation and still stay with your spouse. It was a very Gospel-centered move. The cynic in me hopes that the Gospel and God's glory displayed before a watching world were her true motives, and not some other, baser instinct.

No comments: