Friday, November 03, 2006

The whole Ted Haggard scandal thing-y

I can't help it. I'm completely obsessed with details about this explosive scandal. The funniest comment in the hyperlinked article above is the Jerry Falwell "he's not really one of us, I'm just saying" reaction at the end:

"He (Haggard) doesn't really lead the (evangelical) movement. … He is the president of an association that is very loosely knit and I've never been a member of it," Falwell said in a CNN interview on Thursday.

Yeah, when they elect those presidents to the National Association of Evangelicals of 30 million members, they don't really believe that the president speaks for evangelicals in any way. I mean, presidents are usually just, you know, figure heads who can have gay sex whenever they want!

It strikes me as incriminating that the pseudonym Ted chose for his tryst with the gay prostitute (assuming Ted's guilty) was Art which is short for his middle name Arthur. Apparently selection of a middle name when you want to cover your identity is pretty common. Anyway...

Ted Haggard featured prominently in the world I come from. His church is huge, he has spoken on Focus on the Family countless times, one of our Vineyard pastors moved to his church to head up the "prayer for the nations" and I have a dear friend who pastors a church down the road from Ted's church. To say I'm stunned would not adequately grasp the nature of my feelings.

Mostly, I'm reeling from the power of homosexual needs/urges/inclinations. Our sexuality is the key to who we are, gay or straight.

I'm so sick of people saying one thing and living a lie... but I get it. Totally understandable. The membership in evangelical community is probably the most well-developed "adapted to modern life" community available today. The next closest experience might be season tickets and tailgating for your favorite NFL team... but then the sense of community is seasonal and probably none of those fans show up with meals for your newborn babies.

The thing of it is, to be an evangelical means that you have a way to connect to human beings who care about you, who make living lives of decency a priority, who involve themselves in the meaning of life with a shared task and goal. The only sticky wicket, then, is when your meaning of life stops matching the stated theology and vision of the evangelical tradition. That fork in the road leads a few places, I've observed: the Catholic and/or Orthodox church, apostasy (or some version of humanism or liberal theology), and secrecy (hiding disagreements... particularly hiding "sinful" behaviors from the powers that be).

I mean, what is a guy like Ted to do? He is a pastor. Not exactly a marketable skill for the wider community. If he loses this job, he loses everything - all the years invested in his reputation, relationships, retirement. He loses identity, place, purpose, friends. He loses his career and contacts. In short, he will lose his life... to gain it? I wonder.

Is there any hope that evangelicals can learn from this dreadful experience? Can they learn to create community without requiring everyone to agree with them on all points, can they learn and grow and change and discover, rather than defend, protect and rigidly adhere to?

If they can't, dissent will lead to the same wretched places they reject and despise... and those places, for many, become oases and refuges after the pain of departing, but for others, that leave-taking becomes the source of their greatest humiliation.


Update: Church has issued a statement that Haggard has confessed to some of the allegations.


Russ Noland said...

I've been watching this thing unfold with amazement, too, Julie. Haggard has confessed to buying the meth, but said he threw it away. And, he said that he met Mike Jones when he "got a massage" from the guy. In addition, Jones has apparently flunked a polygraph, which indicates that there's some deception in what he's saying, although the administrator did say the he'd like to have the guy back for a second go-round when he's not so exhausted.'s all very weird right

julieunplugged said...

Yeah, I just saw that too. It is very weird.

On the channel 9 interview before his confession, he pretended not to ahve ever heard of Michael Jones and even asked the newscaster for the name... "What's his name again?" He also swore up and down that he's never done drugs, even as a teen.

Then today he's confessing to getting a massage from the guy and buying drugs... but like Clinton who never inhaled, he threw these out without taking them. Uh-huh.

I don't know what's up with the accuser. Very possible he's exaggerated for the purpose of undermining the election... still, I can't see how this would change anyone's mind about gay marriage anyway. More than anything, it just brings humiliation... and perhaps that was the primary goal. And effective!


Bilbo said...

Hi Julie,

I am not as obsessed about this topic as you are but am interested in a number of things and issues related to this topic...You wrote, "I'm so sick of people saying one thing and living a lie... but I get it. Totally understandable"....I too understand because I suspect a number of people lie, particularly about their sexuality, because of the shame or guilt often associated with disclosure of one's sexual "urges, feelings, or personal preferences"...You wrote: " Is there any hope that evangelicals can learn from this dreadful experience? Can they learn to create community without requiring everyone to agree with them on all points, can they learn and grow and change and discover, rather than defend, protect and rigidly adhere to?"...I have given up hope that this will happen anytime soon...and...won't happen until the Evangelical subculture cuts ties with the Republican subculture and a number of high profile evangelicals either call for reform within, or cut ties with the subculture...The good news is that historically this happens from time to time...

Matt said...

I agree with Russ on watching it unfold with amazement, and with Bilbo on the fact that there are several areas of interest. I noted when reading the rather lengthy article in the Washington Post this morning that they tried to say how this will affect GOP turnout at the polls on Tuesday, since Haggard and his church have been so adamant in their support of the proposed Colorado amendment (not that I disagree, but just that the media can't ever pass up a chance to take a dig at one party or another).

It's certainly not the first time a minister with a huge following has been brought down by their life -- Swaggart, Bakker, and now Haggard, to name just a few. And having been born and raised in the city that Falwell built (Lynchburg, Virginia), I'm not surprised to see that he was quoted. I'm curious -- did he ever once say in his interview that Haggard needed prayers to battle his demons, or something along those lines?

I'll stop here, before I get on my Falwell rant -- it's just amazing how much my hometown bends over backwards to keep that man appeased...

Regardless of that, however, Haggard apparently does have great difficulty in his life, and probably does deserve our prayers. His hypocrisy ("do as I say, not as I do") will antagonize many, but if those who profess to be Christians do as they should, they should pray for him and his family -- and not condemn him in the media and leave him on the side of the road. The Bible was full of hypocrites, sinners, reprobates, and just about every other type of person imaginable (look at the life of King David), but they are all held in high esteem within my faith. And Jesus spent his entire ministry associating with and trying to help those on the fringes of society -- those who sinned, those who oppressed others, and those whose lives were headed down a difficult path. If folks really do want to live a Christ-like life, they need to act Christ-like.

All of this is not to say that I condone in the least what he has done, but Haggard deserves prayers just as much as anyone else -- and not ridicule because this is another instance where the mighty have fallen.

Climbing down off my soapbox now...

SusansPlace said...

"Haggard's mentor, the Rev. Jack Hayford of the First Foursquare Church in Southern California, expressed confidence that Haggard had "integrity of intention in confronting any personal challenge that may need to be addressed."

This is a bunch of gobbledeegook. What is "integrity of intention"? The guy totally lost me. ;-) What would it look like for Haggard to have "integrity of intention"?

Have you watched the video where Mike Jones is interviewed by the smokey voiced newsreporter...can't think of her name now. He seems believable but he doesn't have any evidence. No pictures, nothing in writing except that envelope. I wonder if they will bring in a handwriting expert. The news reporter seemed to indicate that criminal charges could be pressed. Who would press them? Would it be for illegal drug use?

I can't imagine that Haggard will ever resume his role as pastor. I wonder how his wife is doing? I wonder if she knew and covered for him? I wonder if James Dobson has issued a statement.

I am wondering about a lot of things tonight.


julieunplugged said...

Poo Dr. Dobson went out on a limb and did issue a statement.

"It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man's accusation. Ted Haggard is a friend of mine and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday's election -- especially the vote on Colorado's marriage-protection amendment -- which Ted strongly supports.

"He has shown a great deal of grace under these unfortunate circumstances, quickly turning this matter over to his church for an independent investigation. That is a testament to the character I have seen him exhibit over and over again through the years."

I think he may be regretting this early support now that Haggard has at least admitted to part of it.

To me, the real issue has to do with the deception and cover up. It's one thing to come to your church broken over what you've done. It's another to be outed and to take responsibility.

It's entirely another to deny any connection whatsoever and then to slowly dribble out modified confessions...


Kansas Bob said...

So sad the way that Haggard has acted since this came out. So disappointing that a public person like him couldn't come clean about this. He has the power to put this to rest quickly - sad that he hasn't. Sad for his family, his church and for evangelicals.

About Dobson and Falwell - is anyone surprised by their responses :)

As for me, I guess I'll pray.

australisa said...

<<< Is there any hope that evangelicals can learn from this dreadful experience? >>>

Is there any hope that they will grasp that their take on Christianity is not supreme?

Probably not. I'm sure that evangelicals could find something that these people were not doing correctly before they "fell." Something that blocked the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

julieunplugged said...

It seems that the excuses would wear thin eventually for some...

We can always hope.


lubena said...

It should be noted, that Haggard only partially admitted to some 'problems' AFTER he was outed by his gay lover and the tapes of his phone calls were released. Had that not happened, he would be still be in the pulpit preaching about the sins of others, while privately maintaining his own illicit, adulterous sexual affair. This does not sound like 'integrity of intention' to me. He never intended to be exposed.

Anonymous said...

I think there's something worse than building a career and having a scandal, as Ted Haggard has now; a catastrophic illness.

The evangelical church may be a strong community, but it doesn't deal with issues of homosexuality in accordance with reality, PERIOD.

If you are gay, and don't love yourself, including the being gay part, you simply can't fit in to that type of community.

Evangelicals don't understand that homosexuality is not a moral failing, or an addiction -- the two ways they treat it -- but a natural God-given sexual orientation.

Dobson is a supreme ZERO on homosexuality. Instead of approaching the topic openly, he approaches it with an angle, and twists it in the most perverse manner.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same anonymous as above. Just wanted to clarify something. I meant that the millions of people who face a catastrophic illness (spinal injury, car accident, life-threatening disease) are worse off than the suffering Haggard and his family will go through.

Even with the humiliation and shock, and struggle ahead, Haggard and family will find this to be a growth process.

And if this is something he's been hiding for 30+ years, he'll feel a certain freedom."The truth shall set you free" doesn't only apply to finding Jesus, but also facing aspects of oneself.

Unfortunately, Haggard's confession was woefully incomplete. He's a liar and deceiver? No kidding!

Of course, I have no doubt the counseling he'll receive from the 3 wise men (or stooges depending on your world view, and to me they are stooges on homosexuality) will drive him back into the a new pretend closet and close to insanity, if he tries to conform to set beliefs instead of trying to find out who he is. I wonder if the three wise men will tie Haggard's "recovery" to his pension. He'll have the choice of being totally straight, "fixed" if you will, or giving up the $300,000/year for the rest of his life, for a life as a penniless homosexual.

I predict a lasting ripple effect on the official evangelical Christian viewpoint on homosexuality.

This is going to cause people to question their beliefs on the issue, and hopefully take a more open, balanced and honest look hopefully putting just an iota of the clear thought dear Julie has put into it. I mean that sincerely.

Evangelical Christianity places the gay person in the same closet nearly all gay people were in forty years ago.

Anonymous said...

Along with Julie's article from UPI, this is also in the handful of articles that show thought and meaning regarind the Haggard downfall to me. It also points out, for me, exactly what is wrong with the evangelical movement.

julieunplugged said...

That is a fabulous article by John Whitehead. I'm working on a piece for tomorrow's column at UPI about black theology. The central premise is so similar to this article, I'm surprised at the synchronicity of your recommendation. Thanks!