Monday, November 06, 2006

The Klinghoffer Contradiction

I learned about an NRO article about Pastor Ted Haggard by David Klinghoffer from blogger Andrew Sullivan, who commented about it at his blog Daily Dish. Andrew has made his own points - and they're very good ones, I think.

Curiously, Klinghoffer is taking religious license to remove all responsibility for Pastor Ted Haggard's personal choices. In its place, Mr. Klinghoffer puts responsibility for Haggards' actions squarely on culture's back - revealing a view that I would not think to be classicly conservative in a cultural or spiritual way. Read the following excerpt and you'll see what I mean:
"..the experience of Ted Haggard strengthens the case for legally constituted social institutions like traditional marriage. Did the acceptability of gay love in today’s culture hasten Haggard’s fall? No doubt it did. It’s possible that the same man in a better time and place would have been beset by no such temptation."
"Same man" in a "better" time and place?

Who is Mr. Klinghoffer to judge time and place - from ancient times to the present - as "better?"

By "better," does he mean the days when a woman could be stoned to her death for committing adultery? I know a story about a "better" man in a time and place that was probably not so different from ours in terms of temptation. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. That "better man" pleaded with those who were preparing to stone such a woman to stop and think about their own temptations. He implored that those who were without sin should cast the first stone - and no stone was thrown.

In this case, Mr Klinghoffer is throwing stones at everyone except for Pastor Haggard. Instead of seeing Haggard as a man who consciously chose to break his vow of faithfulness to his marriage partner again and again, Klinghoffer makes a victim out of him - the culprit, in Klinghoffer's scenario, being "time and place." And this confused man, Pastor Haggard, is Klinghoffer's poster boy for maintaining legal exclusivity matrimony between a man and a woman. I'm sorry - the tissue of that kind of religious and political philosophy is just too rationally disconnective to be believed.

Pssst - Evangelicals: A word to the wise. Make the fellow on the right the poster boy for values rather than the confused political fundamentalist on your left. David Klinghoffer may not like the politics of the fellow on the right, but the fellow on the right believes in equal rights for every human being, possessing the compassion required to make him a Christian who actually lives what he says he believes. There is no room for hypocrisy in religion or politics in today's world where so many leaders use the values wedge to divide citizens.

Religion may prescribe that we fight against all kinds of sexual temptation in ourselves, but people like Bill Frist do not have the same moral right to ask us to fight the human tendency to love another human being, regardless of their sex. Leaders like Dennis Hastert should never have the right to choose or regulate the gender of our partner for life. Legislators present and past [like known child predator Mark Foley] surely do not have the right to discriminate against those committed people who remain faithful to one another for life simply because the members of the couple are of the same gender.

The key here is that none of this discussion about civil unions has a thing to do with Pastor Ted Haggard, a man who presented himself as a moral leader and who was a moral failure in his 'traditional union.' The sacred vow he'd taken was broken - not by "time and place," but by a fallible human being who enjoyed intimacy with other men.

Klinghoffer says, "all homosexuals deserve not our condemnation but only our most sincere compassion." To me, that sounds just like another meaningless platitude coming from behind a fundamentalist's smoke screen. I neither condemn nor feel a compulsion to harbor special compassion for my gay friends and acquaintances. They are simply my friends and acquaintances. It would be unnatural for me to think I'd need to be any more compassionate toward them than for my heterosexual neighbors.

The level of "compassion" I would offer to Pastor Haggard right now is to feel extremely embarrassed for him. I have deep regret for the sham he perpetuated on devout and trusting New Life Christians for so long. If he decided he'd been in the closet for too long and wanted to come out, I'd respect that decision fully and I would support his forthright honesty and self-awareness. If he chooses to make amends with his wife in private, it's none of my business and I would respect that decision. But if he chooses to play the "You're going to hell if you're gay" game, I will not respect him. The "compassion" I would feel for him then would be the compassion for I'd have for anyone of whom I suspect suffers from mental illness.

The real corker here is Klinghoffer's contention that secularism denies personal moral responsibility - yet personal moral responsibility is exactly what Klinghoffer himself denied on behalf of Pator Ted Haggard in this article, blaming "time and place..." pining for a "better" past that never actually existed.

All this mumbo-jumbo for the purpose of discriminating against equal rights for gays. Yikes. Keep trying, Klinghoffer.


GreenSmile said...

Yup, Jimmy Carter gets it about how faith can be the glue that binds you not just to god but to all the strange people he put on the earth.

He's been a personal hero of mine since I voted for him. And you know that isn't because OR in spite of his faith. He is just a terrifically decent and constructive person...I leave it to others to consider how he got to be that way as I try to focus on the results of a life well lived rather than the theories.