in defense of ted haggard

28Jan09

Well, not really. I just watched Oprah’s interview with the former minister whose preaching career ended after allegations of gay sex and drugs forced him to “come out”, so to speak, about his inclinations. It’s clear that Haggard is trying his best to accept himself but his religious beliefs are understandably getting in the way of his being completely comfortable with his sexuality. It seems a triumph of sorts that he refuses to cast off completely the side of him that likes men, even if the language games he, his wife, and Oprah were playing were somewhat tedious. In an ideal world, somebody like Haggard would come out of this experience a champion of gay rights but I think that is too much to ask someone like him, whose entire adult life has been about preaching a specific kind of Christianity that does not jive well with gay rights.

I did not expect to find myself in tears however. Oprah showed clips from an upcoming documentary about Haggard and his family after the scandal broke. His former church forced him to stop preaching (which I think is quite right) but also demanded that he and his family leave Colorado permanently. So for well over a year, Haggard and his family moved from home to home, squatting, if you will, in loaner homes, hotels, and apartments, while Haggard struggled to find any kind of employment. I found myself in tears, watching this. Part of my sadness came out of the memories of a similar situation at the church I grew up in: a minister cheated on his wife with another woman in the church and was sent into exile. Although his family could attend the church, he could not, and eventually his family slunk out of town. (I’m being a little dramatic here but they did leave fairly suddenly and they only told one family where they were going.) Even though I was only a teenager, the whole affair struck me as wrong on the deepest level. There is something fundamentally wrong about shunning people in trouble in this highly public way. If there was any time when a minister needed his church to rally around him, it is at a time like this and yet it seems like more and more congregations routinely and callously abandon these men in their time of desperate need. Where’s the Christian forgiveness?

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2 Responses to “in defense of ted haggard”

  1. 1 whitheramp

    i don’t disagree with anything you say hear, but i couldn’t help but think so much of haggard’s new press is incredibly scripted. i’m not sure what he’s gunning for –he probably won’t be promoted back to the head ranks of evangelical Christianity, but it definitely seemed more like some kind of a marketing ploy on his part than anything else. this isn’t to say that I think he’s being disingenuous, exactly — maybe it’s something more troubling about how he makes his whole story one about learning to be even closer to Jesus than he was before — i don’t think he’s lying, but it’s so overly scripted in his tradition, that it makes it seem incredibly sleezey to me, and i have a hard time connecting.

    oh oprah — the whole thing was a bit ridiculous.

  2. 2 thefrogprincess

    Oh certainly. It was clear that Haggard was not willing to step definitively away from the party line on homosexuality no matter how hard Oprah tried to push him and it also doesn’t seem as though he’s calling for a more inclusive brand of Christianity (his wife almost assuredly isn’t). There was a strange dynamic between the three of them on that stage that I couldn’t put my finger on. Oprah seemed a little less than patient with his theology, probably in light of the fact that she had a pastor on a few weeks ago who said “Being gay is a gift from God.” Haggard wasn’t willing to go there but I felt like he was making more concessions than a man of his background is likely to make, which is interesting given how insistent his wife was that being gay is a choice.


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