Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was interviewed in ChristianityToday about a new book he’s written. In this book, he argues that the Bible tells the Church not to try to establish a Christian nation.
Haggard distinguishes between what his church teaches and what the law should allow. This is good news for those of us who believe in intellectual and religious freedom.
Although Haggard cannot let go of his far right biases and language, some of his positions should be welcomed and encouraged.
For example, Haggard supports the decision in Lawrence v. Texas. He wishes the process was legislative, rather than “activist judges”, but he thinks it was “probably a good decision”.
Haggard states his position that for the church to insist on a moral code in law there must be a compelling secular reason:
So, if you can make a case for something outside of a strictly biblical argument, then you would support a law on that case?
Yes. We are in a pluralistic society. It is a secular society, but it is not an atheistic society. An atheistic society means that you can’t use any biblical arguments at all. A secular society means that you can use biblical arguments, but you also have to have a compelling reason for the state to impose those values on people that don’t believe the Bible. You can’t just randomly say, since it’s in the Bible, then it applies to everybody. Christ doesn’t even do that. He lets people choose whether or not they respond to the wooing of his grace (I’m an Arminian).
The following is his take on gay marriage:
Do you think there’s a need for the Federal Marriage Amendment?
Yes. And the reason we need the Federal Marriage Amendment is for the sake of children. All the research shows that children have the greatest opportunity to be successful in life if they’re raised by their biological parents. And so my argument for the Federal Marriage Amendment is not a biblical argument.
The biblical argument could be made, but not in this particular case. In Washington, D.C., our argument has to be the fact that the greatest benefit to society and to our culture and to the children of our nation would be to instill in our Constitution that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. It would be devastating for the children of our nation and for the future of Western civilization for us to say that homosexual unions or lesbian unions or any alteration of that has the moral equivalence of a heterosexual, monogamous marriage.
So that needs to be inculcated into the Constitution, otherwise we run the risk of a Supreme Court decision that will say that a gay couple living together and a heterosexual couple living together have the same standing under the law.
This further evidences our need to combat the lies spread about our community. Haggard is mistaken. There is no research that suggests that children raised by opposite-sex couples have any advantages over those raised by same-sex couples. But Haggard is not being deliberately dishonest when he repeats that often claimed falsehood.
Now Haggard’s true objection is found in his horror that a gay couple would be treated equal to a straight couple under the law. And I do believe that if the “for the children” claim was debunked to his satisfaction he would just find another “secular” reason to support his pre-determined conclusion.
But, overall, the position he’s taken in his newest book gives me hope that some evangelicals are, or soon may be, approachable with the truth. The farther an anti-gay activist has to reach to find a secular excuse for religious opression, the more likely it is that folks like Haggard may come around to supporting (or at least not actively opposing) equality.