A Haggard Legacy

Ironic, isn’t it? Ted Haggard’s last name is Haggard. Synonyms of the word “haggard” include “ashen, careworn, emaciated, exhausted, faded, and fatigued.” Friends and followers of Ted Haggard probably feel the same as well. Actually I’m thinking most every evangelical is feeling a bit “haggard” these days, because it seems for one reason or another we’ve all been corralled into the building of self-righteous hypocrites that’s painted with the dissonant hues of judgmental attitudes.

Perhaps some of us deserve the caustic grilling we’ve been handed by the acerbic witted blogosphere. I suppose that on some occasions stereotyping and pigeonholing find their roots in truth, but I must say that it is incredibly disturbing to see so much journalistic editorial acreage devoted to the mantra of “evangelical= gay-hating-superiority-complex-sub-humans.”

So be it. Yet what I find even more ironic is “evangelical” finds its root word in “evangel” which literally means "good news." You’ll find this exact word used by Jesus in the very early part of His ministry in Luke 4:18: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news ("the evangel") to the poor....”

Unfortunately, rightly or wrongly, the word evangelical doesn’t exactly seem to be conjuring up images of “good news” to folks these days…and if the evangelicals aren’t to blame for this, who is?

To be sure, we could try and pin the tail on the donkey, but the elephant hasn’t exactly helped our standing either. And so here we are: a group with a fallen icon, a divided strategy, and a dominionist-crusader like reputation.

Neat- huh?

So what’s an evangelical in an apparent evangelical hunt era to do? Or perhaps the question should be- what should we not be doing?

It seems to me that the Apostle who lived in a similar zeitgeist to ours has good advice to offer:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:15-17)

If we want to put the “evangel” back into evangelical, then we need to stop coming across as superior, brutish, condescending, and most of all disrespectful. We need to start listening instead of posturing, building bridges instead of posting platitudes, and dialoging instead of just disagreeing.

Is this the magic formula that will bring back the “why can’t we all just get along” days? If we do this, will the mud-slinging perhaps slow to just occasional clod chucking?

Um, no. I believe that there will always be people who, for whatever reason, refuse to believe that any good thing can come out of Christendom. That’s why Peter made it clear that there will be folks who “speak maliciously.” The key issue is: did the maliciousness originate with their issues or your behavior? This is a critical question, because it is the decisive factor in whether or not you can keep a ‘clear conscience’. It is also a decisive factor in what impression of Christ you leave in your little corner of the world.

So how do we leave some sort of good news legacy from the bad news of the previous weeks? I have a simple suggestion. Get together with a neighbor, co-worker, family member, and/or friends who hold divergent views about God from you, and say something like this:

“If you didn’t know this, I’m a Christian. In fact, I believe ‘evangelical’ is supposed to mean something like I bring good news. However, I get the impression this term has come to mean something very different- especially in light of recent events. Let me ask you something…have I ever acted in a way that gives Christians a bad name in your estimation…?”

I’ve read a few places that the National Association of Evangelicals boasts some 30 million members. Can you imagine the 30 million conversations that could stem from a scenario like the one I just mentioned? At the very least, it might afford the opportunity to take what the enemy meant for evil and allow God to use it for good. In fact, it might even give us a chance to share the good news that, in the words of Jesus, can “proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recover sight for the blind, and release the oppressed…”

That’s sure the legacy I’d like to leave…how about you?


Lane Palmer is the Youth Ministries Specialist for Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., where he works with to provide resources for youth leaders and students. Dare 2 Share exists to energize and equip teens to know, live, share and own their faith in Jesus. For more information on Dare 2 Share Ministries or the GameDay youth conference tour, please visit www.dare2share.org. Send feedback to lane@dare2share.org.