Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard has become something of a joke in the debate over homosexuality, for obvious reasons – a former anti-homosexual preacher, outed in spectacular fashion? Oh, the irony. Before today, I usually just thought of Haggard as an example of poetic justice, but a recent article on Religion Dispatches made me rethink that position. Here’s a quote:

Now Haggard, scorned by his former friends, humiliated and apparently broke, is using Pelosi’s film to reintroduce himself to America, and to seek some measure of understanding. He’s been on a publicity junket, appearing on Oprah on Wednesday with his wife, Gayle, and on Larry King Live tonight. Haggard is desperate for redemption, but he can’t do the one thing that might make it possible—admit and accept that he’s gay, and work to create a more inclusive faith that won’t force other gay Christians into shameful, soul-destroying secrecy. (Source)

Before I say anything else, I will point out that it’s difficult to have too much sympathy for Haggard. He’s undoubtedly facing a problem that he helped create, and his ‘fall from grace’ involved a rather horrible crime that often gets overlooked.

Having said that, Haggard is the victim of a culture that refuses to let him be who he is. I know all about the various Biblical condemnations against homosexuality, and I’m not going to argue with those apart from saying, yet again, that I don’t believe any single book has all the answers on any issue, but did Haggard’s coworkers and supposed friends really have to ostracise him so completely? He lied, took drugs, paid a prostitute for sex, cheated on his wife and demonstrayed blatant hypocrisy – all of which can be forgiven. What apparently amounts to an unforgivable sin, however, is having sex with another man.

Would Haggard be happier and better adjusted now if he had never had to hide his desires? Almost certainly – his actions do not paint the picture of someone who’s at peace with themselves, nor is further religious ‘counselling’ likely to remove that part of himself which he finds so repulsive. Ted Haggard is an ideal example of what happens when a person is forced to choose between their deeply cherished beliefs and a fundamental part of their personality.

Few Evangelical Christians seem to look at the issue in this light. Rather than asking themselves whether there might not be a better way of handling homosexuality than treating it as a disease, the majority of them seem content to hold up Haggard as ‘one of them’, turning him into a boogeyman to frighten children with. They assume that it was his attraction to men that drove him to drug use and immorality, rather than stopping to think how they might react if forced by their community to live a lie.

Like I said, Haggard does not deserve unfettered sympathy, but nor does he deserve derision and ostracisation. I for one would be more than willing to ‘forgive’ his previous anti-homosexual campaigning, even though I know what kind of heartache and pain he’s likely caused a lot of people, but I fear that his fellow theists might be unwilling to do the same thing.


1 Response to “Ted Haggard”

  1. 1 chaze77 January 30, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Great Post.

    I would have loved to see Ted Haggard take advantage of the national attention he’s currently receiving, and not only admit he’s gay, but reach out to other homosexuals- telling them it’s ok to be who they are.

    Ted Haggard knows as well as anyone that homosexuality is not a choice.

    It is sad that he has chosen a tortured life, one of guilt and oppression over a life of honesty and integrity. So many of his problems are a direct result of his (real or imagined) need to hide who he really is.

    It looks as if he has every intention of continuing down the path of denial… and his wife apparently plans to continue enabling him to do it.

    Surely by now Haggard understands that no amount of getting on his knees in prayer- or reading the scripture- is going to change who he truly is.

    What a shame that we live in a society where people still have to deny- both to themselves and others- who they really are.


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