"Two consenting adults in a bedroom is not really the role of the state." -Ted Haggard in a 2005 interview from ChristianityToday.com
Asked about the Supreme Court decision striking down bans on gay sex, Haggard responded: "I'm pretty liberal on that actually. I don't think the state should have any business with what goes on between two consenting adults in their bedroom." -BBC News Online, 16 October 2004
Almost one year ago, on November 15, 2005, I posted the following article on this blog. Now I'm putting it back up on the first page because there's a lesson here for those of us who belong to Jesus Christ--particularly those who serve as officers of Christ's Church.
Back in 1788, two geographical centers of American presbyterianism, the Synods of Philadelphia and New York, composed and adopted as the introduction to their Form of Government what were then, and still are, known as our "Preliminary Principles." Between one and two pages long, these eight principles continue to be foundational to presbyterian polity today to such an extent that the Orthodox Presbtyterian Church, the mainline and liberal Presbyterian Church (USA), and my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, all continue to adhere to them.
Since hearing about Haggard's resignation, the fourth of these principles has been at the front of my mind constantly, and I reproduce it here believing it's worth careful consideration in this present context. (I'd also recommend that pastors and elders memorize it.)
Here then is Preliminary Principle Number IV, followed by the blog post from one year ago:
That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness; according to our Saviour's rule, "by their fruits ye shall know them:" And that no opinion can be either more pernicious or absurd, than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man's opinions are. On the contrary, they are persuaded, that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth, or to embrace it.
In the nick of time, Ted Haggard says 'no' to sodomy laws... (November 15, 2005)
Ted Haggard is Senior Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and President of the National Association of Evangelicals. During an interview a few weeks ago, he said (thanks, David Talcott):
I think some issues should have rules within the church. For instance, we believe within the church that sexuality should be only between a married man and a woman. But in civil law, I would never want that inculcated.... There are many things that I teach in the church that I would never want integrated into civil law.... Two consenting adults in a bedroom is not really the role of the state.
Pastor Haggard goes further...
He claims that it is his close study of the book of Galatians that has brought him to these conclusions:
This book reflects the crisis that America is in right now. Right now it's trying to decide what to do about the law, and how to use the law to encourage people to be more moral or whether the law should ever be used to encourage people to be more moral--or example, the Lawrence decision that outlawed anti-sodomy laws across the country.
That was the discussion of Galatians, whether or not the law can be used to help people be better people. I don't want to take a purely spiritual argument and try to impose it on civil law, but I do think Christians have to wrestle with it, because the easiest way for us to appease our own conscience is to pass a civil law. That is the argument of the Judaizers when they came from Jerusalem and said to the church at Galatia that they needed to have higher standards. The apostle Paul shot back, and he said, "No, these are Gentiles that have been saved; they don't live according to the same standards as the Jews that have been saved."
So Ted Haggard joins PCA seminary professor, David Jones (see here and here), saying that laws that have been on the books of western nations for millenia have been all wrong. According to Haggard, sodomy is not something the state should outlaw because what "two consenting adults" do in the privacy of "a bedroom is not really the role of the state."
For all these years anti-sodomy laws have been wrong and nobody knew it? The arrogance of these men is breathtaking, relegating all prior generations of wise Christian public servants to the dust heap of history. What's going on here?
One giveaway is Mr. Haggard's statement, "we believe within the church that sexuality should be only between a married man and a woman."
Note that Mr. Haggard doesn't say sexuality should be only between "a married man and woman," nor between "a married man and his wife," nor between "a husband and wife who are married," but between "a married man and a woman." Which prompts me to ask whether this woman also must be married, or can she be single? And if she has to be married, must she be married to this man--or is it only that both consenting adults, man and woman, must be married to someone else?
Mr. Haggard's language is imprecise. You may fault me for quibbling over this but the man has asked to be given the privilege of speaking to the world in behalf of evangelicals and our God, so I think he should be capable of forming good sentences that say what God says.
Interestingly, Mr. Haggard's facility with language makes a marked improvement when it comes to signalling our culture that he's a reasonable man not inclined to mess with the current ban of Jesus Christ and His Truth from America's public square. Past generations of fathers in the Faith thought they were loving their nation and her citizens when they enacted the commandments of Scripture in their nation's civil code: Lord Shaftesbury sought an end to child labor; William and Catherine Booth and Amy Carmichael sought an end to child prostitution; William Wilberforce and William Lloyd Garrison sought an end to slavery; and so on.
But Mr. Haggard understands the nature of our national compact as it now stands and is quick to relegate the eternal binding law of God to the status of a private conviction of his own. Is there any other way to understand his velvet equivocation, "we believe within the church that sexuality should be only between a married man and a woman?"
We're so used to such equivocations that they pass us by unnoticed, but it's time to stop and take a closer look. To bring the matter into focus, it's unimaginable that any father in the faith would ever have spoken in this way in addressing the pagan culture in which he lived. Imagine, for instance, such words on the lips of John Knox or John Calvin or Augustine or Edwards or Luther--or, for that matter, the Apostle Paul or Jesus:
I think the church should have rules about some things. For instance, we believe within the church that sexuality should be only between a married man and a woman. But I would never want that inculcated by the Laws of the Roman Empire. There are many things that I teach in the synagogue that I would never want integrated into civil law. What two consenting adults do in a bedroom is not really under Ceasar's purview.
To which a reasonable pagan might well respond:
So these are your thoughts and beliefs, huh? Who cares? You have your beliefs, I have mine. And one of my beliefs is that you should shut up about yours, dude, because I find them offensive. Go back to church, close your doors, and leave me alone. Then maybe I'll leave you alone with your disease. But then again, maybe I won't. What about all those gay kids sitting in your Sunday school classes being oppressed by your bigoted homophobic nonsense and being set up by what you teach them for heartbreak, at a minimum; and possibly even suicide?
You know, I did say that I'd let you have your religion in private but I've changed my mind. Now I'm going to make sure you're never alone. You have your personal and very private beliefs, huh? Well those personal and private beliefs are tearing the hearts out of little children forced to have you as their parents and pastors and Sunday school teachers and brothers and sisters and Pioneer Club and vacation Bible school and Young Life and Youth for Christ and Good News Bible club leaders. So now, all bets are off. You're not going to have your religion in public or in private, and I'm going to make damned sure you're never alone, you bigoted breeder.
I trust our good readers get the point.
Mr. Haggard doesn't want our civil laws to "inculcate" such things given the fact that he fully acknowledges them to be only his own personal thoughts and beliefs--you know, "While personally opposed to sodomy, I don't believe I should use the laws of the state to enforce my own beliefs." But under Mr. Haggard's construct, it's hard to see why any other of God's commandments from the Second Table of the Law ought to be codified? If a nation ought to leave men free to commit sodomy in the privacy of their own bedroom, why not allow them to commit suicide or to murder one another? As long as the murders are consensual, you understand, and occur in the privacy of a bedroom?
And of course this is precisely the rubric by which the state has legitimated abortion. A woman's right to privacy extends to the very personal decision to kill the little child nestled inside her womb. It is not the place of the state to interfere in such a personal and private matter, even if it's not done in a bedroom and the baby's consent is never given.
After all the water that's gone over the dam, one might hope that someone of Mr. Haggard's position and stature would have seen through all this talk about what is personal and private, about not legislating morality, about not forcing our own moral convictions on others, about the necessity of keeping the church and state separate, and so on--but he seems to be oblivious. Rather, he blathers on about his own and his church's private convictions and the wall of separation appropriately erected between those convictions and the laws of the state. And he thinks he's said something when all he's done is mindlessly to parrot back the rhetoric that drives all the God-haters of our day as they defy God and God's universal Moral Law.
Well, rhetoric aside, I have two serious objections to the position taken by Mr. Haggard, Dr. Jones, and others.
First, Mr. Haggard has completely misconstrued the message of the book of Galatians. It has nothing to do with whether or not Christians ought to seek the repeal of laws banning men and women from sodomizing one another. It's not a book about how God has, according to Haggard's view, one set of standards for Jewish Christians and another set of standards for Gentile Christians; nor by extension is it a book about how God has one set of standards for Christian Americans and another set of standards for pagan Americans.
Rather, Galatians is the Holy Spirit's prolonged curse upon all schemes of salvation that include any act of righteousness being added to the righteousness of Jesus Christ in justifying us before Heaven's Bar and the One Who sits there in righteous judgment, God the Father Almighty.
How is it possible that Mr. Haggard could so completely miss the plain meaning of this message from the Holy Spirit called "Galatians," and how could he so completely miss the purpose of all the laws prohibiting sodomy across the western world? Men haven't passed laws proscribing sodomy because they wanted to "appease (their) own consciences," but because they wanted to protect immortal souls who one day would stand before Almighty God and give an account for every evil deed.
And that brings me to my second objection: Mr. Haggard does not love men and women tempted by homosexual sin. If he did love them, he would not hesitate to use the force of law to protect them from their besetting sin. (And this is not even to mention the excellent public health reasons to prohibit sodomy, adultery, bestiality, fornication, and other sexual sins.)
Nevermind. Mr. Haggard is content to give them all over to their lusts knowing full well that one day soon they will stand before the God Who poured down fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
Maybe Mr. Haggard thinks his present posture will buy him and other evangelicals a little time before the persecution hits us hard, but in that he reminds me of Hezekiah who was content to think that he would be gone before God's judgment fell. At least he would have peace in his lifetime (Isaiah 39:8).