Paul here. It's been a while since I posted to old GIR, but I've had a hankering to return lately. A week ago, I read in the paper about a scandal with a megachurch pastor (one I've heard speak a couple times in my former life). It kind of had the phrase "god in ruins" written all over it.
If you don't know, Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (an umbrella group representing more than 45,000 churches with 30 million members) and founding pastor of a 14,000 member megachurch in Colorado Springs, has confessed to some "immoral" conduct with a male prostitute. When I first read about it, I'll admit I was kind of excited. I'm not excited because I get to thumb my nose at a "hypocrite" or because I think the gay rights movement had a victory. I'm excited because with any relationship that's not working, even one between a man and his God, conflict is the necessary first step toward intimacy.
Confess you sins one to the other. It's a super-basic Sunday school lesson. In fact, I'd say it' s one of those lessons that 's so fundamental you shouldn't be able to check out the church van if you fail it. (To be clear, I don't think Haggard's desires qualify as "sin," but his lies do.) The lesson is so fundamental because it builds intimacy between two people. Confess your sins to me, meaning: Be vulnerable.
"Bob, I jerk off to the men on hunkwear.com. Then I clear my web browser's history and visit a bunch of christian websites to fill it back up so my wife doesn't suspect anything. Can you forgive me?"
"Yes, Jim, in fact I struggle with..."
Boom. A relationship just got stronger. Two men are now bearing the burden one man couldn't bear alone. That relationship is the fundamental element of a community. What else is a church besides a community? What other religious issues take precedent over a relationship between two people?
How has a simple teaching of Jesus gotten so complicated? Why is it a church leader admitting to something we're all tempted by (hot sex) to a congregation bears consequences similar to waking up his family in the middle of the night and saying, "Grab what you can. We're leaving and never coming back?"
I think it's because many churches today exist and grow regardless of the level of intimacy with the person sitting next to you. They exist because of peoples' paid subscription (tithe) to the message (teaching) from a celebrity (pastor). As with any celebrity, people want to be near you without requiring any intimacy. Like a rock star, you get all the girls and no commitment. A megapastor can get all the congregation and no intimacy. It's a win/win. Except for your life eventually becomes the third act of greek tragedy. Because, like the farmer who's injects his cows with hormones then is shocked when he grows breasts, a community—even one that got to be 14,000 large—can't expect to be healthy where there's been no understanding of intimacy.