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Archive for January, 2009

Over the past couple of days, I’ve had the opportunity to watch both the HBO special, The Trials of Ted Haggard, and the interview that Haggard and his wife Gayle did with Oprah.

Some troubling stuff there.

Considering that both Oprah and Alexandra Pelosi are firmly in the camp that typically views Bible-believing fundamentalists as irrational nuts clinging to outdated ideas about homosexuality, I was really bothered that Haggard allowed his story to be used by them in such a way so as to further their case against most Evangelicals, who typically view homosexual tendencies as a temptation to be battled rather than an innate identity to be embraced. 

In both appearances, Ted Haggard comes across as a very nice man who was boxed into dishonesty about his sexual identity because he identifies himself as an Evangelical.  Pelosi’s documentary made Haggard look like the pathetic victim of a belief system that just needs to ditch its outmoded ideas about homosexuality and allow the poor guy to move back home and be loved by his church again.  Oprah’s interview showcased Haggard’s newfound “honesty” about his mixed-up sexual orientation.

For someone who is supposedly going through a “restoration” process that most Christians assume contains at least an element of Godly sorrow for how his sins hurt New Life Church, Haggard came across as disgustingly eager to throw his former church under the bus in order to make people feel sorry for him. 

Haggard had to have known that permitting Pelosi to follow him around with a camera as he showed off his sad new life of unemployment, disgrace, and relative poverty would make his former church and his board of overseers appear terribly mean-spirited to anyone who does not think that it’s a sin to be openly and actively gay.

Also, I have a hard time believing that Haggard didn’t deliberately paint his life as even more pathetic than it actually was, just for the sake of the camera.  For instance, at one point in the documentary, Haggard gestured to a U-haul truck and made the statement that it contained “all” of his family’s earthly possessions.  Considering that the Haggard family has now moved back into their Colorado Springs home, which they continued to own during the time that Pelosi was filming them in Arizona, that particular statement almost HAD to have been a blatant lie, as that U-haul truck obviously was not large enough to contain all the contents of their house.  Unless the Haggards had had a gigantic garage sale before heading out to Arizona, they still had a bunch of “earthly possessions” that were stored somewhere else besides inside that small U-haul truck.

Also, maybe I’m missing something, but I have a hard time understanding how the Haggard family could have really been in such dire financial straits so quickly, since it is a fact that New Life Church paid them somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 in severance.

It was bad to watch Mr. Haggard buddy around with Oprah on her show, too.  Not only did he seem just a little bit too comfortable with all the attention as he appeared to revel in the psychobabble about his “complicated” sexuality – he also never spoke up to clearly disagree with Oprah’s continued (and rather forceful) assertions that by denying his gay feelings (and not permitting himself to act out on them), he was denying who he was.

It was especially painful when Haggard’s wife Gayle attempted to state the typical biblical position that not every tendency is meant to be embraced…that there are elements of choice in terms of which behaviors we decide to pursue.  You’d think that the former pastor would have been all over that one – or at least, that he would have clearly stood with his wife, who has so faithfully stood with him.  But no.  Watch this portion of the interview for yourself:

(Random aside:  does anyone else join me in thinking that the Haggards’ body language toward each other does not bode well for their relationship?  They sit on Oprah’s couch with knees angled away from each other, putting practically as much physical distance between themselves as they can.)

The whole thing begs the question, why is Haggard willingly putting himself back in the public eye, particularly in venues where he’s got to know that his story makes traditional Christians – like the pasty-faced and poufy-haired “suits” who comprised the board of overseers responsible for setting the terms of his dismissal and restoration process – look bad? 

Anyone savvy enough to have once been the president of the National Association of Evangelicals has got to be savvy enough to understand that in the world’s eyes, nobody should ever “struggle” against his gay feelings in the first place. 

It’s a funny thing, but when Ted Haggard was initially disgraced for his bizarre secret life, I actually felt sorry for him.  Any honest Christian knows how far one’s own life all too often falls from the ideals that the Bible sets out.  We all have struggles, and we will all sin, even after we become “new creatures in Christ Jesus.”  Mr. Haggard’s particular sins were perhaps more dramatic than the run-of-the-mill stuff that most of us battle, but nonetheless, my heart went out to him.

Now, though, I’m starting to think that Ted Haggard has bigger issues than merely struggling with a sexual attraction to men.  He seems to have an almost pathological need for attention and sympathy.  Before he’s ever declared “officially restored,” I hope that he and his therapist explore what drove him to seek such attention and sympathy from those – Oprah and Pelosi, and also the world at large – who do not share his purported values.

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I’m really NOT obsessed with Pastor Smith (a pseudonym, as are all other names used in this post).

We have moved on. It’s been nearly two years since we attended our final service at Living Word Church. We are part of a healthy congregation now, where week after week we are privileged to hear normal, healthy expositional preaching from the Bible.

Even though it’s quite large, with more folks in attendance than Pastor Smith ever had at Living Word, there are no frills at our new church. No loud, pulsating music that could doubtless be more effective than a defibrillator.  No bodyguards surrounding the pastor.  No church mailings to remind people of the special offering being collected for the “First Lady’s” birthday.  Actually, nobody would dream of calling the new pastor’s wife the “First Lady” at all!  It’s obvious she considers herself to be just another church member – she even works in the children’s ministry, regularly teaching one of our children’s classes.

We have moved on, and we’ve moved on to greener pastures – spiritually healthy, biblically NORMAL pastures.

But – that being said, I still like to keep tabs on Living Word Church.  As twisted as this might seem to some, I take an odd comfort in listening to the sermons that are regularly put up on iTunes.  Hearing the sorts of blatant heresies that Pastor Smith continues to spew helps me to know that we did the right thing in leaving.  I know it sounds a little bit crazy, but there still ARE occasions, every once in awhile, when I will experience a swift pang of longing for the good times we used to have there at Living Word.  Sometimes, if I drive past the church facility, I will glance over at it and feel a sad stab in my heart, much like one would feel over a lost love.

So listening to Pastor Smith’s current sermons from time to time helps me to remember why we left.  It helps me know that we did indeed do the right thing in getting out of there.

I hadn’t perused the Smith sermons on iTunes in quite awhile.  In fact, the last one I’d listened to in its entirety was the one I transcribed and posted here last October. 

In that message, which Pastor Smith had preached sometime around the end of September, he had given his congregation a major pep talk about how God was going to turn things around and “break the economic drought” that was gripping our nation.  You can read the full sermon, along with my analysis of it, by clicking here.

But today I’d like to focus on just a small segment of that message, because in his most recent iTunes offering, Pastor Smith harkens back to it.  It’s really quite providential that we have the full text of every word that he spoke in that older sermon.  It will be quite interesting to read his words from September and compare that to what he is saying today.

While, as I said, the full message is still available on this site, here is a piece that probably provides a good summary.  Remember, Pastor Smith preached this around the end of this past September:

How many understand that on an economic level, America is in some serious times?  I wanna say something to you, and I don’t want you to receive it, I don’t want you to receive it in just an evangelistic, emotional way.

THE DROUGHT IS BROKEN!

Now, you say, “Pastor, there’s just absolutely – the stock market hit lows like it has never hit in the history of the stock market since the Depression, we are seeing things happening, shifts, uh, the, the, rescue or bail-out plan, whichever we want to call it, doesn’t seem to be impacting the economy the way that it should.  Fear and panic selling is at an all-time high on the stock market.  We have got some deep trouble.

Now for me not to acknowledge that would prove that I am ignorant.  And I am not ignorant.  But I want you to understand something, when there was no evidence of breakthrough, and when there was no evidence of anything shifting or anything changing, the prophet said, “I hear the sound of an abundance of rain.”

Now ladies and gentlemen, we are facing some times that can have a trickle-down impact – and probably “trickle” is not an appropriate word – a flow-down impact that impacts every sector of society.  But I don’t know why God spoke to me the way that He did.  Because back on the last day of August, technically, uh, earmarking the first day of September before any of this stuff begin to happen, the Spirit of the Lord spoke something to me.  He said, “Over the next hundred days, you will see some of the most unprecedented things happen.” 

Some of you never come to Sunday night services, so I have to relay some things that God speaks prophetically in that service.  And God begin to prophesy to us that over the next one hundred days, we would see unprecedented things begin to happen.  We would see legislations that we never thought would be passed.  And – and – and – and – the Lord prefaced in, in the prophecy, this does not have to do with the election, this has to do with the circumstantial surroundings of your nation.  And, but the Lord told us in that word not to be afraid.  He told us in that word that He would make a way where there seemed to be no way.  Now all of a sudden – this is before the 778 point drop that hit, because God begin to speak to me, then, the drought was broken.  So I go and plow in and say, “Let’s preach a series on this.”  So when I preached the first part of it, “I hear the sound of an abundance of rain,” the next day the stock market falls 778 points. 

Y’say, “Pastor, you just missed it.”  No I didn’t miss it.  Cuz you’ve gotta understand something.  There are words in season, and then there are words out of season.  Y’say, “What do you mean by that?”  When you are standing here today, we are in the fall of the year, but how many understand, the next season is winter.  And then the season after that is spring, and then the season after that is summer.  God spoke a word out of due season.  And that word specifically said to you, “I’m going to break this drought.” 

When I initially heard this message, I was quite impressed that this prophecy Smith speaks of actually had a bit of a timeline attached to it.  Most of the time, Smith’s prophetic “words” were more vague than this one.  You can read this one and essentially come away with the main thrust, which is that during the 100 days following this sermon, God was going to turn America’s economy around.

On many levels, there could be no doubt that Pastor Smith was equating the “abundance of rain” with an abundance of money.  First of all, there were his own words.  But even if YOU can now read a bit of ambiguity into some of what he said, it was obvious from his crowd’s reaction at the time, plainly audible on the iTunes recording, that they believed him to be speaking of financial abundance. 

They cheered and hooted and hollered over what he said, something that that congregation would NEVER have done if Pastor Smith had been prophesying stuff like the failure of the banking and auto industries and the subsequent bailouts passed by Congress.

Likely, by now you’re wondering why in the world I’m hammering away at this. 

But you see, this is an important point, an important thing to emphasize, because in his most recent sermon, Pastor Smith said something so breathtakingly dishonest and deceitful and manipulative that I almost could not believe what I was hearing.

It is so bad, so completely NOT “integrous” (his invented word which, I presume, he believes to mean “full of integrity,” or something like that), that I am almost ready to start calling Pastor Smith out by his REAL NAME and calling Living Word church out by its REAL NAME.

Seriously.

Don’t get me wrong.  We’ve dealt before with inaccurate prophecies from Pastor Smith.  That was one of the factors that eventually led to our leaving Living Word.  But typically, when Pastor Smith would say something that later was proven false, nothing would ever be said about it again.  We were always bothered by Pastor Smith’s lack of accountability in this area.  We always felt that he should have at least offered up SOME sort of explanation for why he’d given prophecies that did not come to pass.

But he never did.  He just let them go, hoping people’s memories would fail them and his false prophecies would drift away into the sea of forgetfulness, I guess.

This time, though…

Well, this time, it’s obvious that Pastor Smith has grown more bold in his deceitfulness.  It’s not enough to give an inaccurate prophecy.  It’s not enough to have whipped his gullible crowd into a cheering frenzy over the supposed “word from the Lord” that told them everything would turn around financially in 100 days, and then now hope that they’ve forgeten that he’d ever said such a thing.

Nope, this time, Pastor Smith actually goes so far as to try to claim that he’d prophesied the economic downturn all along.

Here is the segment from his most recent sermon where he mentions his previous inaccurate prophecy.  Remember, you just read his actual words from that old prophecy.  You can even take a moment now and scroll back up and read them again, if you want.

Here is what he is saying now, now that his “100 days” have passed and America’s economy has not improved:

And I – and all of a sudden, it hit me, when the stock market took its crash and it all took its crash, and all this mess started manifesting and all these bailouts began to hit, and you know – I prophesied to you about it before it ever hit, and how unprecedented things would happen over the next hundred days, back before this hit.  And all of the sudden, within a matter of a week the market fell, within the matter of a few days unprecedented political actions were taking place, and all of a sudden people started listening to what I had to say for a change. 

I am simply stunned that Pastor Smith has now reached the point where he is not content to just let his inaccurate prophecies die a quiet death.  Now he’s reached a place where he is seeking to go back and twist what – supposedly – “God” had spoken to him, and make “God’s” word into something completely and utterly the opposite of what he’d originally said.

Pastor Smith blatantly lied to his congregation about a week or so ago.

He lied when he tried to pass it off that he’d prophesied to them about the bailouts.

Clearly, a congressional bailout was NOT what Pastor Smith meant when he’d initially said “unprecedented things would begin to happen.”

There is simply no way, as I’ve said, that his crowd would have cheered for that sort of prophecy.  No way at all.

Pastor Smith is a false prophet, a false and deceptive prophet. 

We have moved on, and we are in a good church now.

But that does not keep me from feeling fresh fury at the new lengths that Pastor Smith is willing to go to to keep his people believing in him.  He now lies to them and attempts to confuse their memories about what were supposedly the “words of the Lord.”

Really, it’s a whole new low in Charismania.  Just when I think that it can’t get any worse, it does.

When will it stop?

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