I‘ve long been aware of, and irritated by, the Christian Right’s Traditional Values Coalition. But recent comments made by its head, Rev. Louis Sheldon (left), are more than irritating. They are, to put it bluntly, infuriating.
In an interview with Larry Kohler-Esses, editor-at-large for Jewish Weekly, Sheldon said that he and “a lot” of others close to Ted Haggard knew about the latter’s homosexual leanings “but we weren’t sure just how to deal with it. Ted and I had a discussion,” Sheldon told Esses, and stated Haggard revealed his struggle at one point: “He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn’t. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that.”
There’s plenty I could say about that last sentence. But I’ll hold myself in check for now on that score. If you knew, Rev. Sheldon, he was covering up, why didn’t you confront him? Did you push him toward getting counseling? Did you insist he confess these temptations to his Church board and his fellow leaders amongst the National Assocation of Evangelicals? Did you ask him if he struggled with porn use, internet porn, or had ever acted out sexually? Did you urge him to join, and monitor his progress in joining, Sexaholics Anonymous or another such group that helps those struggling with sex addictions?
I do happen to believe that gayness is not genetic. I have seen real gays change, including my friends John Smid and Mario Bergner. But I also don’t believe it is easily battled or even easily discussed. Yet not discussing it can result only in the many who struggle with same sex desires within the Evangelical Church being left in a double-bind. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” — that’s the way we do it, huh? Leave the Haggards of the world in a situation where everything is okay on the surface, but don’t let me see beneath the surface to who you really are as a human being in all your darkness and pain and hurt. After all, that might reveal my own hurt and darkness. Better to leave all this untouched, while advocating a moral America which never did, and never will exist.
And what does this teach the watching world about our attitude toward temptation — any kind of temptation? Is it wrong for someone to be tempted homosexually? The answer is no. Yet if we make it dangerous even to mention that we are tempted, what will be the inevitable outcome? Temptation undealt with leads to failure — sin. If we cannot even be honest about homosexual temptation — heck, sexual temptation period! — how can we hope to model in our actions and lives a morality that is anything more than the most hypocritical puke?
This all makes me angry. And to you, Rev. Sheldon, along with all the others who knew and allowed this struggle to remain a secret, shame. Ted’s sin may be less than yours. I ache for the day when this sort of “super-spiritual offal” is finally shoveled out of our pulpits, radio shows, and maybe even lives. Real Christianity can’t even get started while the centerpiece of our lives is all about appearances. Why? Because real Christianity is about shedding them.