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Who Does the N.A.E. Actually Represent?

Scott on November 9, 2006 at 9:15 am

As the whole Ted Haggard thing has exploded onto the scene, it has prompted some of the people that I know and work with to wonder about the National Association of Evangelicals, the oft-mentioned organization that Haggard was president of and that the news keeps referring to when reporting on the sad story of this man’s sin and deceit. Twice I have been asked the same two part question: Since I’m a Christian, am I a member of the NAE and if so, will I maintain my membership as a result of Ted Haggard’s fall?

To be clear, the people who asked me are not Christian and so for them this whole salacious story of a prominent religious leader being caught up in gay prostitution and meth use is like watching the proverbial train wreck, not fully understanding the cause or the mechanics that led up to it and yet unable to turn away from the carnage. It’s the PTL/Jim Baker thing all over again! I can’t blame anyone out in “the world” for wanting the details of this whole mess. I’m sure I would. I’m just glad that I am able to have relationships with people that allow for them to come to me to ask the questions in the first place.

Let me present the answer that I have given: I am not a member of the NAE and I wouldn’t know how to become a member even if I wanted to. They don’t represent me. They don’t represent my Christian faith, not because I don’t think they are Christian but because I don’t need someone to act as my representative to the world. I’m sure that there are many Christians who would fall under the umbrella of the NAE with whom I would have much in common. I am also sure that there are many under that same umbrella whose “brand” of faith I would find sad and/or offensive and/or questionable and/or heretical.

I don’t “judge” (for lack of a better word) whether or not I think someone is a Christian based on their membership in an organization, thus membership means nothing to me, either in a group like the NAE or in a recognized denomination. I would define membership in the “Body of Christ” by a person’s stand on the key questions and/or issues of traditional orthodoxy: Who was Jesus and what did He do, why was what Jesus did necessary, what is sin, what is meant by redemption, sanctification, justification, what does it mean to be a “Christian,” etc.

From what I understand about the NAE, this organization offers far too big of an umbrella. If the NAE supposedly represents Christians like me as well as the Benny Hinn and the TBN crowd – AND – the Bob Jones University crowd – AND – the conservative Southern Baptist crowd – AND – the liberal Presbyterian crowd…then there is a HUGE problem with that umbrella and I don’t want any part of it. I didn’t ask or appoint the NAE to represent me or my faith, nor did most of the Christians that I know. Though the media is trying to paint the NAE as a massive organization with influence across the Christian spectrum, my take on it is that more than anything else, the NAE is an organization that claims to unite Christians by a common vision but instead ends up shuffling papers around, putting out press releases, and doing anything possible to appear that the existence of the organization is justified and necessary when in reality it is neither.

In the end I would have to say that any group like the NAE is a really BAD idea. It tries to function as a monolith, representative of an entire group (like all Evangelical Christians); but in point of fact, they no more represent all Evangelicals than does the NAACP represent all blacks or than does the Democratic Party represent all minorities.

This also partially explains why Ted Haggard’s fall hasn’t directly affected me as an individual or as a Christian. He is not a leader that I somehow look up to. In fact, the few times I have seen him on TV over the last year or two, my reaction has been more along the lines of rolling my eyes and clinching my gut than anything else. From my perspective, Haggard is simply an example of a brother who has fallen into sin and who needs to truly repent and humble himself before God. At the same time, he is also a pastor, which means that he certainly has other issues to deal with in terms of his accountability before the Lord. However, he isn’t my pastor nor a leader that I look to for advice or guidance or direction, so I’m “out of the loop” in a spiritual sense as relates to the whole sad situation. In the end I can only stand on the sidelines and pray for him and his family and his church.

In the end, I don’t think the National Association of Evangelicals really represents anyone. I don’t know of any Christian individuals who look to the NAE for guidance. I don’t know of any church or parachurch groups that take their lead from the NAE. Some might want to claim that the NAE holds some kind of power, especially because to the media this would make Haggard’s fall so much juicier. And some may want to believe that the NAE acts as a form of Roman/Papist leadership because it helps them and their blogs sell their own self-serving, self-righteous, pharisaical view of an apostate Christianity in the United States. But in the end, the NAE is really nothing of significance or importance and Ted Haggard is not an indictment against a fallen Church but is instead simply a sinful man in need of prayer and redemption.

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Category: Religion & Faith |

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