Friday, November 03, 2006

what we will do with ted haggard

so, ted haggard, president of the u.s. national association of evangelicals, leading crusader for the religious right, and, specifically, opponent of extending civil protection to same-sex couples has been accused of having a long(ish) relationship with another man, involving payment for sex and drugs. rev.haggard has acknowledged that some of the allegations are true, but the full picture has not emerged yet.

i wanted to write about this because i think i can predict what is likely to happen over the next few days, yet i am optimistic or naive enough to hope that there might be an alternative.

here's what i think will happen.

ted haggard will be treated with sympathy by some, disrespect by others, condemnation by still others. he may acknowledge more truth to the allegations. if they are true, he is not likely to acknowledge anything further than having 'made serious mistakes' and needing help to get through this difficult period. he will probably not say that he is gay or bisexual; he will try to distinguish between his behaviour and his identity. and he may (or may not) be right.

mike jones, the man who says he has had a relationship with haggard for three years will have a few minutes of fame, be vilified by the religious right, perhaps even accused of entrapment, and will then disappear from public view.

ted haggard's church will seek to support his own family.

the leaders of the religious right, in the form of rev.dobson, falwell, et al. will portray this as being a tragic story of a man who like david in the bible was brought low by temptation, but who has repented and can be restored to full ministry again. they will not alter their position on homosexuality.

some gay rights advocates will seek to make political capital out of the situation; expressing (perhaps legitimate) anger at haggard's hypocrisy, as well as some empathy for those whose closet is perhaps locked with an even bigger key than most, because their livelihood depends on it.

some ordinary gay christians who are seeking to maintain a traditionalist stance will feel terribly let down.

some will leave the church.

some others will feel justified in their rejection of faith.

and a man and his family, and another man and his loved ones, will have been the centre of a story about human frailty and what mark noll calls the scandal of the evangelical mind (though i don't assume that professor noll would agree with the rest of the assertions in this post - though i'd value his response to this situation).

it is more than an embarrassment that mainstream evangelicalism in the u.s. is unable to embrace intellectually rigorous responses to the human condition because on the surface they may contradict so-called 'biblical' views of the world. it is a scandal. truth be told, there is as much prejudice and love in the evangelical world than anywhere else. but ted haggard (or, if the allegations are false, we could substitute any number of other names of professional christians brought low by scandal) may have been spared this disaster if he had lived in a culture that isn't afraid to engage with scientific, social-scientific, and psychological responses to scientific questions.

in other words, and to put it perhaps a little too colloquially, the repression by the church for fifty years of ted haggard is not a manifestation of the grace of god; nor will the cause of the gospel of the kingdom of mercy and justice be served by condemning yet another of god's children who, in spite of the fact that he is guilty of hypocrisy, walks in places that have no map, because the church has refused to draw one.


Anonymous said...

I hope that Mr Haggard will embrace his homosexual identity and be done with the rest...

Steve said...

Beautifully put, Lovely G.

'Tis a tragedy, to be sure. I wonder if he will come out as gay, like the English evo leader did a few years ago. It always adds a dash of interest to the discussion when someone so publicly 'switches sides', but I can't see him doing that in the US... the vilification of gay people in the US church is, in most places, bordering on hysterical. If a pastor is caught having sex with a woman, it's a big scandal, but understandable. If it's with another guy, it's both scandalous and inconceivable that anyone would want to do such a thing! the horror!

Hardly the most theologically driven of responses, and clearly far from being one that dispenses the love and compassion of the 'nor do I comdemn you' christ...

S x

Malott said...

The real story here is that the Dems and Mainstream Media are throwing as much dirt towards conservative Christians - and trying to tie them to Republicans - as they can the week before the elections.

This is the only reason this story made it out of Colorado and Christian circles.

Anonymous said...

Malott, wake up friend. The timing is certainy related to the mid-terms, but only because Ted Haggard has been politically active of late in championing the case against gay marriage. He's been on TV a lot in Colorado making anti-gay noises. Mike Jones was watching TV and recogised the client he'd been fucking for three years. The utter hypocrisy of Hagard's political and religious stance was then exposed. Mike Jones knew Haggard as "Art" (Haggard's middle name is Arthur). Art was less artful in his deceit than he'd thought. Why weep for a powerful anti-gay voice that's been brought down? Weep for the gay Americans destroyed by Haggard-like hypocrisy for generations.

gareth higgins said...

i don't think it's a contradiction to weep for the gay people who have been damaged by christian homophobia, to feel anger toward peopel like ted haggard for perpetuating that, but also to show empathy toward him in the situation he currently finds himself in. compassion should not be bound by politics.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is time that the Church stopped idolizing its clergy. There seems to be a prevailing attitude in the Church that pastors are somehow "God-like" and therefore are above challenge or accountability. Further, many pastors seem to adopt the role of "CEO" of the church. I know that this is a generalization, but it seems that some christians are willing to give up their "personal thinking power", and would rather listen to the rabbling of someone like Ted Hagart - a true hypocrit, and at the same time a victim of the church's failure to get real and get off its hi-horse. It is time for the church to challenge the assumptions about power relationships that exist within it. It does not need another pope, archbishop or some other "God ordained" leader. There is no such thing - I would have thought that Jesus himself made that clear - there is no exclusive club for pastors as they are one of us. The church needs leaders, but they should be facilitators, not dictators of moral consciousness. There should always be room for questioning, challenge and critique of the prevailing thinking, assumptions and leadership. These activities allow people to evaluate the worth of doctrine, and people based on consequences (benefits, value, outcomes, results) rather than just accepting what is handed down from the pulpit. Whilst I don't comdemn people such as Ted Hagart, I do think that it is another reminder that "as you judge, you will also be judged". It is time for the church to get real, and have a good hard look at itself. It is not time to cover up and make excuses for this man. This is an opportunity to evaluate the deeply held beliefs and assumptions about itself, its leaders and God that it holds dear. I think God is big enough to handle it! If you have any comments, please email me:

Alwyn said...

Hi Gareth. Only just found your blog. Welcome to the blogger world.

Anonymous said...

BTW - on this issue I'm 100% with anonymous who raised the issue of leadership. You only have to look at the titles of books in Christian bookshops to see the extent to which churches - especially evangelical churches - have been infected with the uncritical idolization of leaders that is common in US and Western management culture. This is a more important issue that the one about homosexuality.