A couple of weeks ago Kristin text me a link to this article by Michael Cheshire about his fallen and shunned friend, Ted Haggard. Most people within Christian circles (and a good many without as well) are familiar with Ted’s “fall from grace” so to speak, it hasn’t been pretty.
I’ve never been comfortable with the way the Christian community handled Ted Haggard and when I read Michael’s article I wanted to sob and cheer all at the same time. This part especially stood out to me…
“A while back I was having a business lunch at a sports bar in the Denver area with a close atheist friend. He’s a great guy and a very deep thinker. During lunch, he pointed at the large TV screen on the wall. It was set to a channel recapping Ted’s fall. He pointed his finger at the HD and said, “That is the reason I will not become a Christian. Many of the things you say make sense, Mike, but that’s what keeps me away.”
It was well after the story had died down, so I had to study the screen to see what my friend was talking about. I assumed he was referring to Ted’s hypocrisy. “Hey man, not all of us do things like that,” I responded. He laughed and said, “Michael, you just proved my point. See, that guy said sorry a long time ago. Even his wife and kids stayed and forgave him, but all you Christians still seem to hate him. You guys can’t forgive him and let him back into your good graces. Every time you talk to me about God, you explain that he will take me as I am. You say he forgives all my failures and will restore my hope, and as long as I stay outside the church, you say God wants to forgive me. But that guy failed while he was one of you, and most of you are still vicious to him.” Then he uttered words that left me reeling: “You Christians eat your own. Always have. Always will.”
I encourage you to read the rest of the article, you won’t be sorry.
Eating Our Own
What brutal imagery, brutal and yet so very true. I don’t think I’ve heard a better phrase for describing the way we treat the fallen among us. It made me think, though. While I agree with Michael’s friend that we offer much more grace to those wounded on the steps of the church than we do to those who are bleeding inside, what about those who we’ve decided have fallen too far? What about those who have committed crimes of horrifying proportions? What about those who no longer have the option to repent? What about the leaders who become liars and cheaters and disappointments? What about the families who are left in the wake of their loved ones devastation? Sometimes it seems as though we take all of our frustration at evil in the world and pour it out into these people who do the unthinkable, and it seems ok because of what they’ve done, but we never think about who they’ve left behind. If we eat our own then we starve these others to death.
The day after the Connecticut shootings I went to work to open with my Boss. She came in a little late and looked as though she had barely slept. She has a first grader and had spent most of the night watching the news coverage of the shootings. I had watched a lot of the coverage myself and mourned with the rest of the world for the parents and family members who had lost. I have young nieces and nephews and the thought of losing them to something like that is literally unthinkable. It breaks my heart to even think of them having to live through an experience like that. I cried every time teachers described how they got the surviving children out of the school with their eyes closed so that they didn’t have to see the lifeless bodies of their classmates. What happened there could be no less than the product of pure evil, and yet as I had watched the stories on the news and stood and talked to my boss about it, I realized something that was really troubling me in the midst of all of the obviously troubling events. The whole world had joined with Connecticut to mourn the loss of all of those innocent lives, but who would mourn with Adam Lanza’s family? Adam Lanza was once someone’s baby, he was someone’s brother, he was someone’s student. Those who loved Adam, because I cannot believe he walked this earth being unloved, lost too, but they don’t get to mourn like the victims families. In addition to their loss they get to carry the burden of what their loved one did, they get to wonder for the rest of their lives what they might have done differently that could have prevented this horrible horrible thing. They get to bear the weight of the angry and the hurt of all of those affected. Christians are called to be counted among the outcast, but do we ever stop to think of those who aren’t allowed to mourn the loss of their children because their children were the guilty instead of the innocent? Do we know how to mourn the loss of life when it’s villain instead of the victim?
Live Strong Fallen Hero
Last night I watched the first part of Oprah’s big Lance Armstrong confession. I hadn’t followed Lance’s big fall too closely, but I was surprised when I saw him in this interview how unlike himself he seemed. And by that I mean, in the past he’d struck me as kind of a jerk, and I expected to see someone who looked angry and defensive and instead I saw the opposite. My dad mentioned at one point that he looked like he was at peace, and I agree. The entire time I watched the words, “Come to me, all those who are weary, and I will give you rest” kept coming to my mind. As Lance described the great deception he had been living for years, the titles he won and didn’t deserve, it seemed exhausting to me. I appreciated that he took personal responsibility and didn’t seek to take others down with him. Then we changed the channel only to see people rip his confession to pieces. Facebook, twitter, and just about every other social media outlet has been full of people’s disappointment and sometimes rage.
I believe that public figures should be accountable for their actions the same as any other person walking the earth. It’s my personal belief that if you are going to step into the role of a public figure that you ought to do so with the understanding that many many people will look to you and you, in a way, become accountable to them as well. It’s a consequence of living your life in front of millions. But in the face of confession Christians and non-Christians alike continue to tear the man to bits. Why does our society have this mentality that attacks a person when they are already down, and the more important question for me is, why do we, as Christians, participate?
We Have To Change
Understand, I don’t say any of these things to minimize the actions of the people mentioned. However, sin is sin and I am a sinner along with these people. I am just as deserving of eternal separation from my Creator as any one of these. I can’t fully acknowledge what Christ has done for me if I can stand in judgement of anyone of these men or be without compassion for them or the families and friends they have left behind. I know nothing about grace if I cannot find it within myself to show grace when it is hardest and most needed.
“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Matthew 25: 42, 43, and 45