Elephant Faceplant

The Bigger They are,

the Harder They Fall



How come so many “big guys” get caught in sexual indiscretion?



Is it just me or does it seem that we have had a LOT of evangelical “big guys” falling into sexual indiscretion?  Those of us around since t1980 saw the public collapse this week of Ted Haggard, President of NAE and merely added one more name to our growing list: Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Sandi Patti, Gordon MacDonald and a few dozen others. Is this becoming normal?   


What would make a “big guy” hire a prostitute, have sex with a ministry secretary, carry on a long-term affair, or employing a male escort?  Why risk their good life and ministry by doing such dumb things?  Last week John Kerry said a stupid thing but his sin was nothing as stupid as thinking you can get away with a tryst with a male prostitute when you are the chief spokesmen against gay marriage and the head of Evangelicals in the USA.  How can this be?  I’m trying to figure out what the factors are that contribute to a “big guys” descent into sexual indiscretion. 


Let me be clear—I am not beating up on Haggard or any other sinner.  Actually I am fairly soft on restoration. I hurt for these people and their churches, ministries and families. I believe any Christian can be restored  and I think that applies even to ministers.  I am the co-writer of a ministerial restoration process so I am not one who shoots the wounded. But I still am asking, “Why?. What would trigger such stupid behavior by a “big guy leader?”


Here is my starter list—I welcome your additional insights.  Perhaps as we examine the “big guys” we might discover something that applies to ordinary ministers like you and me.


Why would a “Big Guy” fall into sexual indiscretion?



Overwork is an occupational hazard. But the big guys are over-overworked. They "burn the candle in the middle along with both ends." Big guys are high energy, do the work of two (or five) others, stay up late, get up early, travel all over the place, and generally get more exhausted than the rest of us. And, they sleep less. Sleep deprivation has two effects: It impairs judgment and erodes one's strength of will. Perhaps the big guys are thus easier targets for doing something stupid and have weaker wills to resist because they are simply physically exhausted?



Big guys are great. But their very greatness is a snare. The guy with ten talents, five spiritual gifts, a brilliant mind, wonderful track record, successful resume, and powerful position might get totally insulated from authority—to whom does the big guy submit? When ordinary pastor Pete in Middletown USA starts straying, there are a whole set of layers of people to knock him in the side of the head and straighten him out. Do the big guys might get insulated from this accountability?



All pastors sometimes feel trapped, but the big guys have fewer escape routes. Actually big guys have fewer opportunities. Curious, huh? An ordinary pastor in a church of 75 has 50,000 other churches in the USA he or she can go to next. How many places does the “Big Guy” think he has? Perhaps the biggies secretly hope they do get caught providing a way of escape from their rat-race life everyone else thinks is “success” but they know is empty? Are they committing “professional suicide?”


The bigger you are, the bigger your enemies. If you have a big ministry, big success, a big reputation with a big following, you probably also have big opposition. Sure, all ministers have opposition, but the opposition the big guys is, well, bigger. And it is sometimes more twisted. The big guys often are targets of a twisted envy where people secretly hope they’ll collapse. Is there something weird working here?  Are other Christians are secretly wishing for their collapse?  Can you hope a person toward moral collapse, or at least temptation? I hope not, but could it be?



Could it be that some big guys fight sin so bravely that they get oriented to the very sin they are fighting all the time—like cops who work with criminals so much that they “turn into the very people they’re fighting?” It my town the minister most famous for fighting against the “adult book store” in the 1980’s is in prison in now for sexually molesting little girls in his church’s day care. Can being a powerful big sin-fighter actually reorient a big guy to the very sins he or she fights hardest against?



When a biggie is doing such wonderful things for God and everyone agrees to their greatness and effect do they get the notion that a little fleshly satisfaction on the side is merely a tiny and justifiable fleshly reward for all the good?  Do they think privately that God will wink at a little illicit sex “considering” all the good? This may be especially true if he can claim he did not go all the way and “have sex” and is thus still faithful to his wife?  Has Bill Clinton’s definition of “sex” been adopted by these leaders?



Do the biggies actually get more temptation than ordinary ministers like you and me? Are they particular targets of the Devil and thus they get knocked off more because they are “in the line of fire” more than regular folk?



Some have argued (two theologians particularly: Wayne Caldwell and Chris Bounds) that the seat of great spiritual energy and the seat of great sexual energy reside so closely to each other that great spiritual leaders “burn more.”  Could I be that the biggies have greater spiritual energy but also greater sexual energy and thus they are more prone to sexual sins and thus more prone to fall?



I’m still trying to figure this out. Maybe most all ministers are sinning like this and we only hear about the famous ones?  Is that true?  What would you add?  How in the world could so many “great evangelical leaders” fall sexually?  What’s going on?


So what do you think?

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November 5, 2006 Keith Drury