Wednesday

Ted Haggart

The Ted Haggart (New Life Church) scandal is all over the internet & national news. Funny, but this event further solidifies my loss of faith... so let me tell you a story.

My grandmother was raised in a family of 7 sisters and 4 brothers... she was the poor daughter of a Methodist Minister. She married in her early 20s, and had 3 children. Her husband died when he was 35, and she was left to raise the family on the income of a shoe factory worker. She was dedicated to her family, faithful to God, and a strong woman.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother had 2 heart-attacks in less than 6 months. She moved in with my family because she didn't have health insurance, and we were more than happy to have her close-by (she was an incredible cook, too).

I grew up in a religious household... We went to church every Sunday, my parents & grandmother were in worship while I attended Sunday School. The Evangelical United Methodist Church of Billings, MT had provided us faith for many years. Once my grandmother moved in, the hospital bills began piling up, my family wasn't able to contribute to the church for a short time. Our pastor approached my mother just before Christmas and said it had been noted that my family wasn't contributing on Sunday. He told her it was important to not be selfish especially during the holidays, because our faith was more valuable than any present, and our contribution was needed by the church no matter how hard of times we were having.

Four days later my grandmother passed away... in the middle of the night due to another heart-attack. Her funeral was held on Christmas Day. Our pastor arrived late to perform her service... he had been at a local car dealer all morning buying a brand new Cadillac. My mother never went back to church. It was too hard to attend a church full of greed. After that we only prayed over meals on holidays, and I never fully understood why we stopped going to church until my mother told me the story when I was 18.

Fast forward in my life - - my mother became very ill. I found myself praying that if God were giving out miracles he would heal her. She had never lost her faith... and I know when she was afflicted with the mysterious illness she prayed herself. I was with her when she passed away.

I didn't set foot inside a church again until this summer. Since my husband and I don't have children, we make it a point to spend time with my nephews & nieces as often as we can. We flew my oldest niece into town to spend a few weeks with us... on the condition that we would take her to church at least once while she was visiting. You see, my youngest brother is a church pastor himself, and he is gravely concerned about the salvation of my soul. At his request I took my niece to New Life Church. My brother had heard of the massive church through his pastoral studies, and had read several transcripts by Ted Haggart - - the leader of the massive congregation.

As promised, I took my niece to worship. It was inspiring in a way. A huge sound stage, live Christian pop band, thousands of people in one giant round room raising their arms up to feel the spirit of the Lord... real fuzzy feel-good God stuff. I wasn't comfortable at all. If it was Aerosmith on stage the story would be different. During the last song the lead singer said a prayer (imagine this in a deep-Southern crazy Baptist dialect) "Lohrd-da. I pray for these people. I pray for ever-ry soul-ah in this room-ah. For ever-ry lost spirit that has-ah found their way here-ah, for ever-ry man, woman, and child to feel the strength of your looove! Say it with-ah my now. MY HEART IS WITH-AH JESUSSSSSS! AMEN! MY EYES ARE AIMING TOWARD-AH HEAVEN! HALLELIULAH! MY SOUL BELONGS TO JESUSSSS!!! MY FINANCES BELONG TO JESUSSSSSSS!!!"

I think I threw up a little in my mouth.

A quaint little white bucket came flying down the row of people. In fact, every section of this concert hall had a white bucket for every row. As it came past me I took a quick glance down to see two checks on top of the cash... one for $150, the other for $40. With all the money that was surely in the bucket for my row, I calculate in my head... and recalculate... I figure with three Sunday services with average attendance, this "non-profit" organization was bringing in about $65,000 per weekend, or $3,380,000 annually. It was a nice building, with a coffee bistro, bookstore, and full-service day care. Wow! They're making a boatload! TAX-FREE!

The man with the plan came out on stage as the music concluded. He had a big semi-cheesy grin, but it was easy to look past once he began his sermon. He spoke of the day he heard from God and had a vision to build a massive church in Colorado. He told the sad Biblical story of the child named Ichabod (a.k.a The Glory of God is Lost). He mentioned the money that New Life Church had helped raise for another parish to buy an AC unit and re-roof their building. He ended the hour with a strange conglomeration of thoughts that stuck with me... "Remember to have faith. Men, do not lust after someone that is not your wife, and do not ever cheat on your wife for any reason - because the only way to build a strong family is to have trust in each other and faith in God. Women, do not turn away from your husband if you think he may be straying - because your strength may be all that he has to keep from falling apart. Have faith. Have faith in God and your family will be strong."

Ted Haggart was the speaker that day... and as a charismatic speaker his words stuck with me. This weekend I found out he is a gutless wonder. With all his faith in God and love of his family he is weak.

He got some Meth and was in a relationship with a gay hooker. But according to Christianity he won't burn in Hell... because he believes in God. For everything he has done to himself, his family, and his community he gets to go to Heaven. I am the one destined for Hell... because I don't know what I believe in. For everything I do right, for as faithful as I am to my family and my husband, for all the things I do for others I get to look forward to eternal damnation.

Fuck it.

10 Comments:

Blogger Debra said...

So many contradictions... yet another reason why I consider myself to be incredibly "faith challenged" and stay far away from organized religion in general. :(

I am sorry your family had to deal with such low-lives under the guise of "help" when you were a kid... in a way it's kind of too bad we all can;t travel backwards through time to "accidentally" publicly expose them.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous grill said...

Personally, I think the major organized religions all have some level of contradiction and flaw. Which you have been witness to more times than you should have!

But, it doesnt take going to church to have faith. It doesnt take subscribing to one organized religion or another to open you heart to spiritual guidance and meditation. You can be FAITHFUL and SPIRITUAL without insulting your senses and many time intelligence to places like the New Life Church, and many other suck-up sycophants who cash in (and buy Caddies) with donations from the truly faithful souls out there -- or, the "faithful" trying to purchase a ticket into heaven every sunday for living a less-than-clean life. And they're everywhere, all the time.

Conqueress, i know you well enough to know that you are a very spiritual person, with wisdom beyond your years. You are open to love, honestly, friendship, integrity -- all the good and meaningful qualities of people living the best way they know how. I think RELIGION is what you make of it, and i think you're doing just fine, with or without it. And, when it's you're time to pass away, whether it's to heaven or nothing, I dont think you have anything to worry about.

true FAITH shouldnt be what other people observe about you -- you do this or that, therefore you are or are not a good person according to _____ (insert organized religion here.) I'm not a partiularly wise woman, but i know, personally, true faith has more to do with what's in your heart, and your soul, and your conscience -- and how you live your life based on those factors, which are ever-changing, but then again, so is life.

I'm a catholic. I belive in god, heaven, mary, all that. I dont think you're going to hell. I think it takes ALOT more than questioning the reality of God and losing faith to carve out a spot for yourself in hell. You are a good person, deserving of good things. I have faith that whatever good things lie beyond life will welcome you, and me, to it when it's time.

And, most of all, I have faith in YOU, my friend!

9:53 AM  
Blogger OSC said...

If you would, permit a comment from one who stumbled upon your blog.

I'm a Lutheran pastor, actually, and reading your story makes me actually want to do a bit more than throw up in my mouth. I'm appalled by the lack of integrity that you've experienced--been the victim of--in your experiences with church. You seem to be a (one of many, I'm afraid) casualty of the "bigger is better, so give us more money while we guilt you into providing for our lavish lifestyle while constantly calling your faith and faithfulness into question" theology--no, that's the wrong word--anthropology/sociology that is so rampant in evangelical America today.

I'm not in touch with the sensitive over-emotional shadow of a Christian man thing that they try to produce, but my gut gets absolutely knotted when I hear stories about folks with your or similar experiences.

I took a field trip once to Rick Warren's church, just out of morbid curiosity. It was a similar experience. Stage shows and flash, but the message was for crap. I don't honestly know what attracts people to that junk. It's the exact opposite of my experience and what we offer in the congregation in which I serve. No stages, no lights, no fancy productions: it's God giving His gifts to His people, not people somehow trying to make good with God.

I don't want to be misconstrued or misunderstood as one who is preying on the injured or anything like that. Let me instead simply say that these folks don't have clue one about what Christianity really is. And if you would, permit me to offer a corrective:

Being a Christian means that I am worthless, powerless, have absolutely nothing to offer God (including my money! Like he really needs it. It's amazing to me how the church thrives in impoverished parts of the world.). But my powerlessness is the point. Jesus took me in my powerlessness and did the work for me. Period.

They pretend that Christian = perfect. These guys didn't/don't get it. The fact is, Christians do continue to foul things up. We all do. So we have two options: "No, I really threw the hit away without using it...yeah." Or, "Yeah, this is me. I'm a hypocrite, in need of forgiveness, and I'll take the consequences because I earned them."

My hope and prayer for you is that you might come across a church that teaches and preaches authentic Christianity instead of what you've experienced. To be sure, these men will certainly have to answer for the damage they've inflicted on you.

I'll sign off now, but I'll leave you my email if you'd like to chat a bit. Use it or don't, and please hear that it's not all the phoney-baloney crap you've unfortunately seen.

oldschoolconfessional[at]gmail[dot]com.

10:42 AM  
Blogger R, J, & A said...

So sad. I must say, in such a sad post the line "I think I threw up a little in my mouth" made me laugh. It's hard to know what to do about religion anymore, it's hard to know what to teach Ashton when everything is corrupt.

1:43 PM  
Anonymous monkey said...

Faith should have everything to do with the connection between yourself and the divine. Not yourself and a staggering heirarchy of fallable human beings. Unfortunately there's no money for organized religion if that were the prevailing belief so we have Uber-mega-walmart churches.

Regardless of whatever spiritual renewal Haggart goes through (and he is) he is a BAD MAN! Hookers and drugs, if that's your lifestyle choice, well that's fine with me. But not if you have a family and rail so vehemently against the very choices you yourself make. This is the most disgusting kind of person.

Yes, I feel strongly about this as well ;)

1:56 PM  
Blogger Conqueress said...

Debra - I think that why so many of our generation are a bit lost... It's hard to trust when there is so much corruption.

Grill - You are my Taco, and friends like you make life worth living! I know there's something beyond this life, and goodness willing I'll get there... You post made me cry a little, and I thought back to the reply I posted for you about the human spirit and how we can sense good in people. You have such kind words - I miss you very much - and thank you for being you!!!

OSC - I still believe in honest religion, and I think religion is necessary for humanity to survive. As I posted to your site, my brother is a good person. I think it is easy for him to push dissapointment at me instead of his parish because I'm family, and I'm a little different. Thanks for your visit!

RJ&A - Ashton has loving parents who are good people. He's already leaps & bound ahead of other children! If he believes in family & himself, he will find faith where he needs to when the time is right.

Monkey - Faith in family, my marriage, and the choices I make is what tells me my soul is going to be just fine in whatever happens next. I say my religion is living life as it is meant to be lived - surrounded by the people who love me.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous rosie said...

Not relevant to this post, but here is the great senator I was telling you guys about when we were there:

http://www2.oprah.com/tows/pastshows/200610/tows_past_20061018.jhtml

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Wayne said...

I have to agree with my sister to some extent, but our Brother is a pastor at a poor church, he has taken a night job just to make ends meet, so I'm sure there are a few good stars in the galaxy of bad ones which truly are inspired by god and not money.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous BRETT said...

I read your comments and am distressed for you and feel your pain. Two very important things to remember. 1) It is God and His Word (Jesus) that you serve, believe and follow, not man. It is GOD who will be faithful, but man, internally, saved or unsaved deals with the sinful nature daily and no matter how strong he may think he is, does not always win, except through the grace of God. Through Jesus the believer has victory, not through himself. 2) Sin is like a disease. God's Word says he came to heal the sick. It is these who need a saviour, not the righteous. Tedd Haggart and his church (or former church) and you and I are not saved by what we do or don't do, except for this one thing: that we believe. The only unforgiveable sin is unbelief. All other sins were put to death on the cross for those who believe in Jesus Christ, His death, His ressurection, His Lordship.

Like yourself I once stopped going to church for what I saw within the church, hypocracy, but I heard God say to me "I will be faithful until the end." See I saw in myself, in different ways, the same hypocracy I accused them of. If we all look deep inside ourselves, we all have this hypocracy. For your sake and the sake of your family and those around you I ask that you search your own heart and turn to God. It is possible for you to go through the religious motions of your youth and never once have received the turth internally. Your past is not important, good nor bad, look at the thief on the cross, one minute destined for eternal destruction, the next, accepted in grace and promised eternal life. Who are we to say what God should do to heal someone, or how he should judge someone's actions. By the same measure we throw at them, how would we stand up if the finger were turned around? I am not a pastor or a scholar, I am not even a man trained to teach, but I believe, as God's word says, that he gives us wisdom and that wisdom is to stop looking in every other direction and focus on Him alone. My marriage, my life, my spirit, my walk have all improved in this new found FREEDOM in God's GRACE.

I recommend that anyone who reads these words, check out the book GRACE WALK by Steve McVey. Let God help you see who He really is and what He really wants. It is changing my life.

Who am I to define even what good is. To one person good is murder in the name of their god, to another being good is taking the money from the poor and giving it to the rich. Don't get caught up in evaluating other people, you are only responsible for you. Now don't take me wrong, I believe in the great commission and telling others about Christ, I merely mean you are responsible for your own life and how you conduct yourself, not for how others conduct their life. Don't be a hypocrite like the very people you are opposing. God is just, He will be glorified. Do we not often discipline our children with the line "I don't care what so and so did, this is you I am dealing with."

Praise be to God and may His word take root in your heart,
Amen.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Conqueress said...

Wayne - Thank you for the post. Yes, our brother is a good pastor... one of few left I'm afraid.

Brett - I appreciate you taking time to post on such an old topic in my blog. I have since found my own way to worship while still being able to practice my life in a holistic manner. Everyone is their own person, and we all have a way of coping.

7:11 AM  

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