Monday, December 11, 2006

Barnes is the new Haggard

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The hypocrisy and sexual repression of the evangelical right seemingly have no bounds. It was Ted Haggard not too long ago. Now it's Paul Barnes:

In a tearful videotaped message Sunday to his congregation, the senior pastor of a thriving evangelical megachurch in south metro Denver confessed to sexual relations with other men and announced he had voluntarily resigned his pulpit.

A month ago, the Rev. Paul Barnes of Grace Chapel in Doug las County preached to his 2,100-member congregation about integrity and grace in the aftermath of the Ted Haggard drugs-and-gay-sex scandal.

Now, the 54-year-old Barnes joins Haggard as a fallen evangelical minister who preached that homosexuality was a sin but grappled with a hidden life.

"I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy," Barnes said in the 32- minute video, which church leaders permitted The Denver Post to view. "... I can't tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away."

Sure. Was he just crying himself to sleep? Or was he not also revelling in his genuine self, allowing himself moments of fleeting authenticity before beating himself back into the closet and overcompensating for his perceived flaws not just by denying himself but by lashing out at all others like him?

But you know what? He'll get away with it. Just like Haggard will. He'll say all the right things. He'll talk of his life-long struggle against sin, of fallen man. He will repent and find redemption, and he will be forgiven, because those in his church cannot bring themselves to admit that homosexuality not only is not a sin but is natural and normal.

Ah, but I'm in no mood to delve into Christian fiction. The problem comes when these lies and delusions are spewed from the pulpit, when gays and lesbians are vilified and kept down politically, when some impressionable boy or girl who doesn't know any better and who looks to these hypocrites for guidance comes to think that what he or she is doing or feeling is wrong and sinful, when men and women remain in the closet throughout their adult lives and hide their pain behind the facade of holier-than-thou righteousness.

There are no doubt many more like Haggard and Barnes. Their stories should be cause for reflection and growth, but instead I fear the lies and delusions will only harden.

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