The short answer is “no”. But, we can move on.
I’m not a big fan of the modern concept of forgiveness in that it implies that the slate is wiped clean and everyone acts like they have amnesia and the past never happened. Of course, we are all a product of the past and it actually did happen with consequences that still reverberate.
Contemporary “forgiveness” also lends itself to a syrupy phoniness and opportunistic reinvention that I want no part of. That is why it is so popular among socially conservative evangelical churches. Those places are often packed with people who made a hash of their lives and hope that if they get new hairdos, quote an ancient book, and throw money into a hat they will be redeemed.
Well, the trouble and tears left behind won’t be easily cleaned up by pious professions of faith.
In the case of Ted Haggard — he spent his entire life promoting the worst face of Christianity and clubbing around with politicians determined to harm LGBT families. He was the ultimate hypocrite who was a lot more intolerant than his current efforts to spin the past lets on. He wasn’t only against gay and lesbian people, but quite hostile to anyone who held different beliefs in his effort to turn Colorado Springs into a fundamentalist Christian paradise. These facts simply can’t be conveniently forgotten — because we are still fighting tooth and nail with the forces he helped elevate to positions of power and influence.
That said, if people legitimately want to become better human beings, they ought to be given the opportunity. Ted Haggard — out of necessity and survival — has created a new project, the St. James Church. It is a somewhat inclusive church (it is still against marriage equality, but for civil unions).
I say we neither viciously condemn nor wholeheartedly embrace Haggard. Let him live his live in peace and prove through his actions that he has changed. While the past will never disappear, Haggard has time to do good work and create an overall legacy that he can one day be proud of. Although he is a man of smooth words — it is his actions over a period of time that are worth watching.
While we should not entirely “forgive” — there is also no point of holding a grudge and living in the past. In the case of Haggard, we should keep one eye on the past and one on the future. If only, because there are bigger fish to fry.
I’m curious what our readers think.
Read the full story by Andrew Harmon in The Advocate magazine. It is a really well-written piece and worth the read.