Dispatches from Dr. Joel Dvoskin: March 2007
Religion, Sex, and Politics
by Joel A. Dvoskin, Ph.D., ABPP
Diplomate in Forensic Psychology
University of Arizona College of Medicine
I have been reading with great sadness the intriguing case of the once-Reverend Ted Haggard. As you may recall, Mr. Haggard resigned under pressure from his position as President of the National Association of Evangelicals and was fired as head of his 14,000-member church after a male prostitute in Denver alleged a three-year cash-for-sex relationship. In the latest installment of an unlikely soap opera, we are told that "The Reverend (sic) Ted Haggard emerged from three weeks of intensive counseling convinced he is 'completely heterosexual….'"
Now, allegedly cured of his penchant for this particular sin, Haggard and his wife are reportedly headed out of town, because the evangelical Christian community of Colorado Springs can't seem to forgive him. As the Rev. Mike Ware of Westminster, Colorado, put it, "It's hard to heal in Colorado Springs right now. It's like an open wound. He needs to get somewhere he can get the wound healed." Apparently, a Christian community isn't a good place to heal. Go figure.
Of course, the saddest parts of the these "How the Mighty Have Fallen" stories are that the mighty never, ever seem to learn the right lesson when they are disgraced. In this case, Haggard and his spiritual advisors all seem to think that his sin was homosexuality. Mean-spirited hypocrisy, on the other hand, continues to be treated as a noble Christian quality, apparently so long as one doesn't get caught.
I have to admit that I find it amazing that a Christian minister would admit that a Christian community was a "bad place to heal." Somehow, the whole concept of Christianity—you know, stuff like love, forgiveness, redemption, kindness, and generosity—seems to have slipped right by him.
I have enormous respect for sincere religious and spiritual beliefs, whether or not they are in agreement with my own. I wish that some of my liberal friends were less intolerant and more respectful of other people's sincere religious beliefs, even if they don't agree with them. While my own beliefs are frankly humble and tentative, I have always believed that any higher power with any sense would know not to sweat the small stuff. To me, the label people apply to their deity is far less important than whether or not they live good lives. To take a not insignificant example, I can't imagine that God, who figures to be very busy, would spend more time on how people screw than whether or not they abuse and torture their own children. Yet where are the political communities of faith when it comes to child protection? The silence is positively deafening.
Cultural mores regarding sex vary significantly from one culture to another, but in virtually every culture on the face of the earth, at least among the people, there is a general consensus that it is bad to be mean. Yet these pompous, self-appointed moral referees continue to judge and condemn and stigmatize anyone who doesn't fall lockstep into their system of beliefs.
If someone wants to claim adherence to the teachings of Jesus Christ, I would prefer that they actually pay attention to what their Lord and Savior said, and more importantly to what he did. While the pompous and powerful repudiated Mary Magdalene, Jesus treated her like a human being. Somehow, I have trouble seeing these judgmental power freaks washing the feet of prostitutes.
Somewhere in the Bible, it is written, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Yet almost all of the rhetoric from the so-called Christian Right—by which I mean the political Christian Right—is cruelly judgmental. Jesus is reported to have said, "Love thy neighbor," and somehow this has been translated by Christian politicians to a call to condemn everyone who loves in a manner different than I do. (Or, in the case of the former Reverend Mr. Haggard, "as I claimed to.")
It's time for "Real Christians" to speak out. It's time to give voice to the things that Jesus seemed to care about. It's time for kindness and love and generosity to once again be associated with one of the great religions of the world. Specifically, if you want to pray for the former Reverend Haggard, pray that he learns a Christian lesson from all of this. Pray that he learns that he is not better than everyone else, that he doesn't know a darned thing more about morality than the people he condemned for all those years. Instead of apologizing to the moralistic leaders of his Church, how about apologizing to the millions of people he insulted in the name of God?
© 2007 Joel A. Dvoskin. All rights reserved.
For more information about Dr. Joel A. Dvoskin, or to read more articles by this leading leading forensic psychologist, click here.