When a Pastor Falls

Unlike some critics of religion, I do not gleefully rub my hands at news of another fallen Christian. Such news neither wipes away the good character of many Christians nor excuses the sins of some atheists. Nevertheless, I think there are a couple of sober lessons to be gleaned from the following story:

According to NBC affiliate WCNC in Charlotte, N.C., police arrested the senior pastor at St. Luke’s Lutheran church in Dilworth after a sting at Park Road Park where they say Robert Graff tried to solicit an undercover male police officer for sex.

“He’s a great man, he’s a wonderful man. I’m shocked,” one church member told the station.

WCNC’s report says the 58-year-old Graff is married and has been the pastor at St. Luke’s for the past four years.

Of course, these are only allegations at this point. Yet, in light of the problems of other Christian leaders such as Ted Haggard, Christians should bear in mind that it won’t do to attribute every sin of every atheist to atheism while denying that any sin of any Christian has anything to do with Christianity. At least Christians should not overstate their claims that Christianity inspires universal moral virtue.

Neither a person’s Christianity nor a person’s atheism necessarily leads to wrong acts. Both Christians and atheists can lead good, moral lives or fall into misdeeds. However, I would argue that, in cases such as this, Christianity can sometimes play a negative role by encouraging repression. Homosexuals cannot be “cured” by prayer or indoctrination camps. Moreover, there is nothing morally wrong with homosexuality (though infidelity is wrong regardless of sexual orientation), so Christianity (at least of a particular variety) tends to inspire both bigotry toward homosexuals and self-loathing and/or repression among homosexuals who accept anti-homosexual doctrine. (I do not mean to suggest that every male who solicits a male prostitute is generally homosexual.)

Meanwhile, I think people of all ideological stripes can wish Graff and his wife well in trying to get their lives back on track.