Monday, January 26, 2009

New Revelations About Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard has become a sort of pet for us here, a kind of mascot. His is a story that ties all the rest of it together, it's the story of a man who has been a traitor to his own heart, who has taken his own dearest feelings of love and turned them into something ugly. Even beyond denigrating and denying his own natural sense of love, he went on the attack against others who loved in the same way, making their lives harder wherever he could, convincing others to join him in oppressing them.

Ted Haggard wasn't just a preacher, he was God's own preacher, the President of the National Association of Evangelicals -- this group has thirty million members. Imagine being able to make a statement and get it to thirty million Americans. Haggard was able to do that, and the message he sent was not one of healing and caring, but one of intolerance. He taught his followers that homosexuality is an abomination, he campaigned in favor of anti-gay laws, and at the same time he was hopelessly attracted to men.

His life collapsed around him when a male prostitute went to the news with his story of meetings for paid sex and crystal meth. It wasn't just a lapse, it wasn't that Haggard had a male lover in the community, these meetings were sordid by any standard -- and not because it was a man. This wasn't loving that got out of hand, there was no overwhelming passionate emotional attachment, this was a hooker and drugs. The leader of the nation's largest evangelical group revealed an inability to control himself that haunts the entire group.

I first got involved in the issue of discrimination against sexual minorities when a noisy group of nuts wanted to gut our county school district's new sex-ed curriculum, back in 2004. I didn't care about gay people in any special way, in my life gay people have simply been people, their sexual orientation never seemed to matter in any way that affected me. And to tell you the truth, I think that in the long run that's the best attitude for straight people to have about gays, it seems ideal to treat them as individuals, one at a time, you don't need to judge or stereotype. I don't feel obligated to like every gay person I meet, and I can't get too excited when they want to raise funds by sponsoring drag bingo or something, that's their thing. But it certainly doesn't hurt me any if they want to play drag bingo, I don't feel challenged or threatened by it, I just don't go.

There are those who feel that everything gay needs to be suppressed. Not only do they apparently feel a need to suppress homosexual tendencies in themselves, they need to suppress them when other people experience them. At first I was uneasy theorizing that anti-gay activists were people who "had issues" with their own sexuality, it seemed unkind or un-generous to think so, but it has become clear over the years that that is often the case. Otherwise none of it makes sense. Why would anyone care whether another person is attracted to the same or opposite sex? How could it possibly be anybody else's business? Why would somebody want to decide who somebody else should fall in love with?

We're supposed to feel sorry for poor Ted Haggard, "struggling" as he is with his sexuality. The solution to his problem is so obvious that no one can say it out loud. He is doing everything he can to focus on being heterosexual -- but Ted, the rest of us don't have to do that. In an interview with the Washington Post he said, "I have had to deal with issues, other issues associated with sexuality, and with the complexity of homosexuality and bisexuality and questions and feelings and thoughts and all that kind of thing." He is married to a woman, and he says he loves her and enjoys their relationship, and I don't have any reason to doubt him. But somehow the attraction of men was too much for him, and the marriage bed was not enough.

I can't advise him on what to do with his personal life. Maybe he shouldn't have married in the first place, he says his first homosexual experiments began at an early age and he certainly knew his own feelings by the time he married. Maybe he thought being married to a woman would make those feelings go away, I don't know, but it didn't. Now he's got a wife and family and I understand not wanting to give that up.

He is, though, in a position to do an incredible amount of good in his public life. Thirty million evangelicals could well benefit from Haggard's lesson. He didn't turn to homosexuality because he is a dark-hearted sinner who hates God, he had relationships with men because that's the way God made him. His life would have been entirely different if he had allowed himself, from the start, to date those who actually interested him, rather than who his church believed he should date. His marriage might not be the mess it is now if he had married a man in the first place. Outed, Ted Haggard is in a position to teach his evangelical following something important. He can teach them to love gay people and appreciate them as people. You don't have to "struggle" with your sexuality, trying to force love where it doesn't belong, it is fine to accept your natural feelings and let your love flow.

From this morning's Washington Post:
Two days after new allegations surfaced about the sexual behavior of the founder of a megachurch, the current pastor of New Life Church said Sunday that he was "sorry that this wound has been reopened for many of you" and said the church would recover from the latest report.

"One day we may have a little scar tissue, but the wounds will not define us," pastor Brady Boyd told the congregation.

Church officials learned more than two years ago about the alleged relationship between a male church volunteer and then-pastor Ted Haggard, Boyd said Friday.

Haggard left the church in late 2006, after a male prostitute in Denver said he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with Haggard. The former pastor has declined to comment on the new claim, reported by a Colorado Springs television station.

Boyd said an "overwhelming pool of evidence" pointed to an "inappropriate, consensual sexual relationship" between Haggard and the male volunteer for an extended period of time.

The pastor said that under a legal settlement the church reached with the man in 2007, neither side was to discuss the matter publicly. He said he went public only after learning that the man had talked to KRDO-TV.

Boyd said that the man was in his early 20s at the time and that he was certain the man was of legal age when the relationship began. At Church Founded By Haggard, an Apology

The story here is ... well, there are several stories. One is that Ted Haggard had a boyfriend in the church as well as his once-a-month prostitute. There is some question about the young man's age when the relationship began and about exactly how consensual their interactions were. There is no question that the church gave the young man a good amount of money with the agreement that he would keep the affair quiet. They say it wasn't hush money, but that is what that's called, people.

Ted Haggard is a homosexual or bisexual man who overcompensated in the ministry and built up a gigantic following of people who hung on his every word. He is attracted to men and claims also to be attracted to women, at least his wife. I don't think most people have a problem with that. Most people would disapprove of a married man going out and having sex with people he is not married to, and especially if he is a straight-and-narrow evangelical preacher who is telling other people to live humbly and faithfully. Most people would have a problem with an anti-gay gay man, the word "hypocrite" bubbles right to the surface in this discussion. He can un-do the hypocrisy though in a heartbeat, by spreading the word that gay people are just people, they can have pure hearts, Jesus loves them, Ted Haggard is in a position to bring an incredible amount of love and goodness to the world, if only he will quit the self-pity and the soap-opera terminology about "struggling" with his sexuality. Stop struggling, start accepting yourself -- the problem is not Haggard's sexuality but his community's illusions and prejudice about it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are those who feel that everything gay needs to be suppressed."

Those who opposed the sex ed curriculum could care less what gays do to themselves. They just didn't want the public schools to teach false and unsubstantited "facts" to students or encourage homosexuality.

Haggard's position is that he has homosexual temptations but feels they are wrong and is resisting desires he feels are sinful to sucuumb to.

He'd be a hypocrite if he claimed not to have sucuumbed but merely acknowledging sin isn't hypocritical. He's acknowledged his failure.

Nancy Pelosi's daughter has become good friends with Haggard. Says he's a delightful guy with a great family.

January 26, 2009 3:17 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

He'd be a hypocrite if he claimed not to have sucuumbed but merely acknowledging sin isn't hypocritical.

No, he'd be a liar if he did that, which is different. He's gay, he's anti-gay, it's a hypocritical position.


January 26, 2009 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're wrong, Jim.

Imagine a convicted murderer. He killed someone once. He admits it was wrong. He feels like doing it again sometimes when he really gets mad at once of his fellow inmates but he resists now.

He's not a hypocrite, no matter what else he is.

January 26, 2009 4:15 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Ted Haggard is attracted to men, he didn't kill anybody. He's attracted to men, he had a boyfriend and was going to a male prostitute, while he taught ignorant people that homosexuality is an abomination. I can't think of a clearer instance of hypocrisy.


January 26, 2009 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about if he agrees that his behavior was an abomination?

The problem with your logic is that it would make anyone who ever turned away from doing something wrong a hypocrite. The opposite is actually true.

January 26, 2009 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so how can you talk about ted haggard without talking about the portland oregon mayor who had a relationship with a teenager and won't resign....

don't you put the relationship with the teenager in the same "sordid" category ?

If not, why not ?

January 26, 2009 6:59 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Having an affair with a young adult is not necessarily sordid in itself, and I didn't say it was. A married man doing meth and having sex with a prostitute is sordid, I think everyone would agree on that.

I haven't been following the situation in Portland, but as I understand it the 45-year-old mayor was having an affair with an 18-year-old. It seems to me that happens all the time, they're both adults, what's the problem?

How long will it take for us to find a prominent Republican who is married to or dating someone 27 years younger than him? I just don't see what the problem is, and so far no one has said there was anything "sordid" about the relationship, as far as I know.


January 26, 2009 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nancy Pelosi's daughter has become good friends with Haggard. Says he's a delightful guy with a great family.

According to AOL news, Pelosi also said:

Boyd [who replaced Haggard at New Life Church] also suggested that the man would not have come forward if an HBO documentary on Haggard were not airing this week. On Sunday, Boyd told his congregation, "I'm sorry that this wound has been reopened for many of you."

Alexandra Pelosi, director of the HBO documentary, said Monday she was sorry if that was the case.

"But this is what happens when you don't handle things properly at the time," said Pelosi, a daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "If the church had been 100 percent full disclosure at the time, maybe this wouldn't be a problem now."

January 27, 2009 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops! Typo

Aunt Be = Aunt Bea

January 27, 2009 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For myself, I think it was entirely out of line for Sam Adams, at age 45, to have a relationship with an 18-year-old. Then again, I think it was entirely out of line for an 18-year-old to have a relationship with a 45-year-old.

The biggest redeeming factor is that it was very short-lived (anonymous, there is no need for you to make bigoted comments at this point).

On that note, it was just wrong for Newt Gingrich to cheat on two successive wives with much younger women, especially while impeaching Bill Clinton.

People can be sleazy. We need to encourage our fellows to display the best side of their natures.


January 27, 2009 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
Ted Haggard- another sad story-but I'm not feeling bad for him. He condemned homosexuals from his pulpit and lied about his own sexual acts and feelings- more than once it seems. His wife and kids deserve better than an adulterous liar.

January 28, 2009 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"He condemned homosexuals from his pulpit"

You guys keep saying this but I haven't read any thing that he's said like this. He was against gay marriage but I've never read him "condemn" gays. Are you just saying that or have you actually read something?

btw, I read the account of his latest accuser yesterday and it really is sad.

January 28, 2009 5:52 PM  

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