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Elizabeth E. Evans

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The Renunciation of 'The Waiting Game'

Posted: 06/07/11 06:08 PM ET

Whatever happened to the Christian virtue of renunciation?

In the old days, when someone famous committed an offense against someone else, they retired to the desert -- or to a monastery.

For example, consider 12th-century philosopher/theologian Peter Abelard. After his affair and secret marriage to his lovely and intelligent student aroused the ire of her uncle, who had him castrated, Abelard moved to the Abbey of Saint-Denis, where he sought to lead the life of a monk.

Carpers might object that Abelard, one of the most outspoken and controversial thinkers of his day, wasn't able to stay quiet, but was soon found out and began irritating people like Bernard of Clairvaux with his innovative inquiries once more. At least he tried to become a hermit.

Not so former and current Christian clergyman Ted Haggard. He's going to be doing a cameo role in a movie!

Four and a half years ago Haggard resigned his position as a Colorado Springs, Colo., megachurch pastor and head of the National Association of Evangelicals after he was accused of meth-fueled sex sessions with gay male masseuse Mike Jones. After multiple denials, Haggard eventually admitted that many of the charges against him were, in fact, true.

Eventually the Haggards (Ted Haggard's wife Gayle stayed with him) left the state, took courses in counseling and apparently had lots of therapy. Eventually the Haggards returned to their (reportedly) high-class home in Colorado Springs. Haggard has since founded a new church, St. James. Last winter he was profiled in GQ. Honestly, he doesn't come off as the sort of man you would like to hear preach, let alone entrust with your spiritual well-being.

So I was amazed, not to say a little disgusted, to find that Haggard is going to have a role in the upcoming pro-abstinence movie being produced by Rich Praytor and Emilio Martinez.

First of all, there is something jarring about the whole idea of a "Christian sex comedy." Without getting into the weeds on whether it is possible to make virginity vows humorous, the trailer for the movie make waiting until marriage seem incredibly boring.

And then there is the producer's apparent notion that having Haggard appear, albeit briefly, in the movie would be either funny or cute. Is he truly an example for those believers who are sincerely trying to maintain the courage of their anti-cultural convictions?

Let me be clear. It's not that I am against new starts. I'm not even against Christian comedy.

But as a long-time observer and sometimes participant in evangelical organizations and churches, I'm appalled that anybody would think having a man who seeks the spotlight even during his "rehabilitation," and is once again selling himself as a Christian leader, would help make a movie either more marketable or more spiritual.

After reading some interviews, it seems as if those behind "The Waiting Game" are playing off the success of Judd Apatow's "40 Year Old Virgin" and other "gotta lose it" comedies, and hoping that they can translate bawdy foolishness into G version fare tailored for believers at the box office.

But if they want to do that, they should probably ditch Haggard. Seeing him show up is going to remind the audience of everything they are trying, more or less successfully, to leave behind.

I'm not advocating that Haggard do an Abelard (or that anyone do to him what was done to Abelard). I'm more concerned that evangelical filmmakers would shadow the integrity of their message by involving someone who can only bring controversy with him.

They will get publicity -- and it may very well end up overshadowing their argument, one increasingly lost in our sex-saturated culture. Agree or not with the message, for those of us who like to live in a contending universe of ideas, that would be a shame.

 

Follow Elizabeth E. Evans on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Wallacewriter