Fallen Pastors

When news came out about the sordid details of Ted Haggard’s private life, an evangelical friend of mine remarked, “What worries me is that this will make people more jaded about evangelicalism.”

But, you know, what really disturbs me is not so much what Haggard did. Rather, it’s that a lot of evangelical pastors don’t give people the space to be human. “You have to forgive this person.” “Don’t lust.” “If you feel this way, then you don’t really love God.” “If you were truly on fire for God, then you’d be excited about this!” “Get along with your spouse, for the fruit of the spirit is love, patience, etc.”

Look, people have very real internal and external problems, and many evangelicals assume they can be solved simply by going to the front of the church and crying during a prayer.

The problem is that a lot of the pastors saying these sorts of things have many of the same problems themselves. They struggle sexually, or they have a hard time getting along with certain people, or they haven’t laid aside all of their resentments. Who are they to lay heavy and impossible burdens on others, when they fail in the same areas that we do?

I like evangelical pastors who talk like we’re all on a journey of spiritual growth together, who give me new ways of looking at things. Rather than saying, “Do this, or God won’t bless you,” the pastors I like explain why something is right, and how to do it. They may even acknowledge that they have a long way to go, while also talking about their spiritual progress. That too can be helpful.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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7 Responses to Fallen Pastors

  1. Byker Bob says:

    I like the concept of leadership by example. That blends in with the spiritual adventure thingy.

    Stephen Baldwin, in his very excellent book “Unlikely Suspect” says that every day as a Christian is an adventure with Father God, like being dropped out of a plane with no parachute other than Jesus Christ. I like that!



  2. FT says:

    Another fine post where your humanity and compassion definately shows!


  3. Purple Hymnal says:

    In contrast to the rest of them, Felix. The verse is, by their fruits, plural, you shall know them. Not just a few agreeable ones to the people who fall along the same mindset, and insults and judgement of everyone who doesn’t.

    But then again, there’s the typical Christian attitude for you.


  4. James Pate says:

    I’m kind of scratching my head here. Have I just been insulted? When have I judged, condemned, or insulted anybody, Aggie? And, if that comment of your is an insult at me, then what makes you think you’re in a position to criticize anyone?

    God, I need an AA meeting today! This seems to be a week in which I’ve had to endure a lot of shit! I’m waiting for God to cut me some break this week, but, right now, I’m expecting the rest of the days to be tough.

    But, if I’m misreading your comments, Aggie, then I apologize.


  5. Anonymous says:

    I guess, to me, those “who talk like we’re all on a journey of spiritual growth together, who give me new ways of looking at things” are true pastors. The rest are just preachers. I think there are very few true pastors in this world. Janice (a.k.a. mom)


  6. Byker Bob says:


    Aggie is after me, not you. It has to do with the fact that I was once agnostic, and am now Christian, and I have confronted the beliefs of atheists on several of the WCG dissident sites. Sorry to have drawn this type of fire to your blog.

    I enjoy the discussions you initiate here, and had no idea that my participation would draw such fire.

    I’ll pray for some slack for you. That’s something we all need from time to time.



  7. James Pate says:

    Yeah, I knew about that from Russell’s site, so I wondered if by “post” she meant your comment. Still, I wonder if she holds herself to the standard that she applies to others. A lot of times people assume that Christians are the only ones who have to prove themselves morally (not that I feel such a compulsion, since I admit up-front that I’m not perfect). Not so! Atheists should too, since they say it’s possible to be moral without God. But I don’t want to start a topic on that.


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