Ted Haggard: Another Demon In Deacon's Clothes genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

I've long argued that most forms of extremism harkens back to one's own psychological issues. I'm reminded of the psychological theory that suggests that the psyche is similar to a tube of toothpaste. The gist of the argument is that a tube of toothpaste works well when the cap is removed and pressure is applied in order to push the paste from the container. However, if the cap is placed on the tube and the same pressure is applied, toothpaste will eventually ooze out from numerous newly created and unintended openings. The psyche functions similarly in that if we allow our identity to flow naturally and resist the societal pressure to "cap it" we function normally...but if we attempt to hide our identity...meaning to "cap it" in order to keep it hidden (whether that be from shame, fear, or some other factor)...it will escape and manifest itself in numerous dysfunctional behaviors.

Over the years, it seems to me that religion and religious service has served as one of the prevailing mechanisms for the capping of identity. Few are unaware of the Catholic Church's problem with the molestation of children by those within the ranks of its clergy. Numerous other religious types have fallen from grace when their actions have been exposed and therefore their demons revealed. Perhaps Jimmy Swaggert is one of the most notable given his meltdown after it was disclosed that he was hiring prostitutes for years. There are many others including Jim Bakker who found himself imprisoned and more recently we learned that Ralph Reed was closely tied to the Abramoff influence peddling scandal.

Today, we're learning about another possible scandal of monumental proportions. A Denver television station, KUSA Channel 9, reported last night on the accusation that Ted Haggard, the pastor of one of the countries largest mega-churches as well as the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, has conducted a three year "sexual business" relationship with a Denver homosexual male escort.

DENVER - A gay man and admitted male escort claims he has had an ongoing sexual relationship with a well-known Evangelical pastor from Colorado Springs.

Haggard is married with five children and an outspoken critic of gay marriage.

Jones broke his silence Wednesday morning on talk radio.

In an exclusive interview Wednesday night, Haggard denied the claims and told 9NEWS he is prepared for his own church to investigate them.

"I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver," said Haggard. "I am steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife."

Jones started talking to 9 Wants to Know two months ago. He claims Haggard has been paying him for sex over the past three years, even though Haggard preaches that homosexuality is a sin.

Jones also claims Haggard used methamphetamine in his presence on several occasions.

"People may look at me and think what I've done is immoral, but I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody's back," said Jones.

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw profiled Haggard in 2005 in a series on mega-churches. Haggard was also listed by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in America last year.

Haggard.jpg

Jones.jpg

While one cannot conclude that this accusation will prove to be true, the man bringing the allegation has been in the Denver and Colorado Springs area for some time. His advertisements for services have appeared in local gay publications for a number of years and it wouldn't make a lot of sense for him to come forward without sufficient and accurate information to prove his claims. That is simply speculation on my part but it would seem like a huge mistake if his story is a fabrication. My hunch is that the information will bear the coming scrutiny and that the pastor's secrets are about to be exposed.

I'm going to say some things now that may anger a number of people...but I'm doing so because I think its important if we are ever going to get past the prejudice and the bigotry that surrounds us each day. People of faith are being manipulated by people who seek power. Fear and hatred are very powerful tools and many of those who hold themselves up as religious leaders have simply realized as much. We all have a tendency to seek confirmation of our beliefs and nothing is more satisfying than having that confirmation be as absolute as possible. Religion has long been the means to that end.

I remember something my grandmother used to say when anyone sought to sing the praises of the church...she said the person behind that pulpit is no different that any other man or woman...they are human and that means they are flawed and they don't have the ability to know more nor do they know more than anyone sitting in the pews. They simply want those in the pews to believe as much and in exchange they will affirm your beliefs and tell you what you want to hear...that's the basis of the relationship and that's how it works and why it succeeds.

In all my years in Catholic schools I learned one thing. The majority of those who became priests or nuns did so because they struggled to function in society...in fact many of them were social misfits. Don't get me wrong...there were some good priests and nuns that were committed to their vocation...but more of them were there because choosing that vocation served their needs far more than it represented a choice to serve god or the needs of others. I know many people who will contort themselves to extreme in order to ignore or be forced to consider the observations I'm sharing...and I understand why they do so...because they have attached far too much of their identity to religion in exchange for the promise of eternity. The bottom line is that no one wants to die...but knowing they must makes the hope of an afterlife all the more enticing.

Pastor Haggard and so many like him just cannot accept their own humanity. I understand the struggle they face and I sympathize...but at the same time I abhor the choices they make because those choices have impact that is often detrimental to those who have found the capacity to embrace their humanity. In fact, people like Haggard often victimize those who share their same identity because they are fighting an internal battle to deny that very identity. Frankly, the last thing they should be doing is leading others or presenting a persona that suggests they have access to more "truth" than those in their midst. They have simply taken their own denial to an extreme that exceeds that of those they have been able to manipulate and they then all join together in fostering their shared denial by vilifying others.

Look, the bottom line is that we all share one thing...our humanity. When any of us seek to deny the humanity of others, we set in motion the destruction of our shared humanity. My opposition to the Bush administration is primarily based upon that issue. They have taken the very model that has served religion for centuries and applied it to politics. They seek to form unholy alliances to hold power and they manipulate enough voters to obtain as much. They don't seek to broaden humanity...they seek to narrow and divide it in order to gain power.

Pastor Haggard is merely a false prophet who has been empowered by people that are unable to face their fears. They need someone to define the demon externally because they cannot confront the ones that inhabit their own fragile psyches. The partisanship that dominates our politics is the toothpaste escaping from the capped and contorted vessel. Read any comment thread between now and the election and you will see what I mean. We've not only lost sight of our humanity...we've succumbed to attacking our fellow Americans because we don't want to confront our singular and/or shared demons.

Let me offer a blunt observation. My being gay no doubt bothers some of those who happen to stumble upon Thought Theater and for some I become the object of their own internal conflicts and the associated anxiety and denial. Let me be clear...I'm not suggesting that conflict is about their own sexuality. Don't be fooled...I merely serve a purpose for a far more complex conundrum that seeks to define the order of our human condition...which isn't that far removed from the construct of identifying as a Democrat or a Republican...each serves to avoid the real issues and the hard work involved with advancing all of humanity as opposed to our own preferred vision of humanity...wherever that comes from (religion, upbringing, etc). Nonetheless, it’s the game we seemingly have all agreed to play.

We can't blame politicians because they are simply smart enough to see opportunity. I have chosen to support the Democratic Party because the game they play doesn't seek to relegate gays to second class status...or worse. Many of those who embrace the Republican Party do so because most GOP politicians oppose abortion. Both parties exchange promises for power and we enable them because we prefer to focus externally rather than to confront our internal issues. Seriously, if someone thinks being gay is a sin, don't commit it. If you oppose abortion, don't have one. If we continue down the path that supports making one issue or one expression of sexuality or one party or one politician or one depiction of god superior to all others, we are doomed to suffer the consequences of intransigence and absolutism. We will also be denying our humanity and facilitating the politics of division...in all aspects of our lives.

I don't believe in God but if I did I wouldn't be worried about all the people I thought were going to hell or that didn't share my same values. If faith is worthwhile, it shouldn't need affirmation nor does Christian doctrine suggest that faith requires one to seek to punish those who don't believe or share belief. The fact that many people of faith need affirmation and the fact that they seek it through the condemnation and punishment of those who don't share their same beliefs or their same faith suggests their faith is flawed. A leap of faith must be a leap of faith or it becomes a human contrivance. If one executes and administers faith with the same limitations that define our human existence, then I contend it isn't faith...but merely the use of faith to offset the fear of our own demons and the certainty found in our inescapable mortality.

If Jesus was to be our example, then I don't understand this thing we now call Christian values. Pastor Haggard may believe that he speaks for God but his actions suggest that he merely fears his own humanity. Further, if the values he espouses exist to demonstrate his faith in the God he knows, then the God he knows must have already seen this element of his humanity that he cannot personally accept...which would mean that any true God has already accepted that which we humans won't and would also prove that the God Haggard purports to represent is not a real God but a God of his own creation designed to serve his flawed view of the human condition.

In the end, we aren't going to solve the conflict in Iraq or the Palestinian issue or same-sex marriage or any number of current issues by attempting to hide our wholly human frailties. The politics of division is merely a symptom of our refusal to focus on our humanity and the need to understand it rather than demonize it. It would be easy to gloat at the demise of Ted Haggard but that would only serve my demons. In my idyllic world, the fall of men like Ted Haggard would illuminate our shared humanity and serve to end the divisions we seem driven to embrace. That's the version of Christian values I could support.

Daniel DiRito | November 2, 2006 | 11:26 AM
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Comments

1 On November 2, 2006 at 6:29 PM, Jerry Maneker wrote —

Although on some issues we differ, this is a superb commentary, and I'm taking the liberty of linking it to a post on my own blog. Best wishes, Jerry Maneker.

2 On November 2, 2006 at 6:43 PM, Richard Cranium wrote —

Excellent, Daniel.

Linked and highly recommended.

3 On November 2, 2006 at 10:51 PM, Eric wrote —

Well said. I've linked to it in this MetaFilter thread.

4 On November 2, 2006 at 11:04 PM, Chris Casady wrote —

Superb commentaty. I've been wanting to read something like this for a long time. The thought that wounded people become religious leaders for their own neurotic purposes. and then, as you say: "..they...all join together in fostering their shared denial by vilifying others." NOW you are saying something! True! Much in life is the opposite of what it appears.

5 On November 2, 2006 at 11:23 PM, North Dallas Thirty wrote —

While one cannot conclude that this accusation will prove to be true

Well, it seems that you already have.

However, one must ask why you are so desperate to smear the religious and their leaders without confirming the truth of the accusation first.

6 On November 2, 2006 at 11:37 PM, Alister Cameron wrote —

Very disappointing, Daniel.

Title: "Ted Haggard: Another Demon In Deacon's Clothes"

Later: "While one cannot conclude that this accusation will prove to be true..."

Innocent until proven guilty will matter if you're accused, but not if you're the accuser... is that how it goes?!?!?

Hypocrisy.

7 On November 3, 2006 at 12:38 AM, John wrote —

Most Christians abhor abortion because they view ALL life as precious. Even yours. It is my hope that you forgive those that don't. That's true humanity!

8 On November 3, 2006 at 1:00 AM, Peter wrote —

Revealed truth is by its nature self evident. It requires no oppression, nor the shedding of blood to support it.

9 On November 3, 2006 at 1:56 AM, Ed Trussell wrote —

You say, “Seriously, if someone thinks being gay is a sin, don't commit it. If you oppose abortion, don't have one." I say that if we were all to do what was right in our own mind it would be a scary world for us my friend. A time is here when connivance is more highly valued than morals. We believe that we are not responsible for anyone else’s actions. It’s convenient for us to wipe the burden of someone’s choice from our conscience. Understand this; it is easy for you to take this stand because you were not an aborted child. You made it out in one piece! Do I think you are a bad person because you got an abortion, or if you are gay? Yes I do, but you also have to know that I think I am just as bad a person, because I cheat, I steal, I lust, I do bad things. Paul talks about this in the book of Romans, he said, “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it." He goes on to say, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Its only when we accept the grace that Jesus offers that we are free. Free from guilt, shame, and condemnation. There are things that you’ve done that you wished you could take back, because it was wrong and you knew it. I have done those things too, thank God for Jesus, he has set me free. I am sorry for the things I have done, and the things I do, and he forgives me.

10 On November 3, 2006 at 3:41 AM, Chooch wrote —

Ed - "I say that if we were all to do what was right in our own mind it would be a scary world for us my friend."

I disagree. Most people have a built-in sense of morality. The ones who don't are called sociopaths or psychopaths. They are extremely rare. Most people are guided by a sense of empathy, most of the time.

If people want to do wrong, they find a way to excuse it or to ignore their values and do it. You yourself say that you have committed numerous sins. It's not because you don't know they are wrong - it's because you excuse yourself to do those things.

I don't believe that "salvation" comes through belief in Jesus. And I try to be an honest person, I don't cheat on my wife, I follow the laws, I pay may taxes, I work at a soup kitchen, I care for others. As a sinner, I'm not much on the scale, frankly. There are a lot of people who are supposedly "saved" who do a lot worse things than me. Look at Haggard - it seems he found a way to excuse himself to do all sorts of things he believed were wrong. It wasn't because he found a superior form of morality.

Your sense of morality is internal. It does not come from the Bible. The Bible has some incredibly immoral things going on. You don't base your morals on those things - you pick and choose when you set your moral compass. We would never say it is right to punish a child - or a fetus - for its parent's crimes. So how was it right for God to kill almost everything in the world (except Noah and the ark-dwellers) - babies, fetuses, animals - to punish sinful human adults in the Flood? We would never say wholesale slaughter of a defeated enemy - women and children included - was the right thing to do. So we have laws against genocide and killing innocent civilians in wartime. So how was it right for the Israelites to slaughter thousands of people, including women, children, and babies suckling at the breast, after the walls of Jericho fell? See Joshua 6.

You know those things are immoral - but not because the Bible tells you. It's because you know them internally - they conflict with your natural sense of empathy and morality. That's why people all around the world for thousands of years have prohibited murder, etc. Not because of the Bible - which many had never heard of. Even if they did have the Bible, they still knew some things the Bible condoned were wrong, like slaughtering infants, and picked and chose what Bible passages contained the moral messages and which did not. Because they have a built-in sense of morality.

11 On November 3, 2006 at 4:22 AM, Coy Reese wrote —

Infidels such as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and now the apparently self-loathing homosexual Ted Haggard have used the Bible to promote hatred, intolerance, and a twisted political agenda. Once the infamous "Rapture" occurs.....these pieces of filth may have a monumental surprise.

12 On November 3, 2006 at 5:17 AM, Ed Trussell wrote —

Chooch,

First, thank you for being civil, and polite in your response. I applaud your ability to refrain from making personal attacks and slinging mud!

You said, "I disagree. Most people have a built-in sense of morality. The ones who don't are called sociopaths or psychopaths. They are extremely rare. Most people are guided by a sense of empathy, most of the time."

I don't disagree with you. I too believe that we have a built-in sense of morality. Where we get in trouble is when we, as you say, excuse or ignore our values and do it anyway. It happens all the time, even on a national scale. It happened in Nazi Germany, Burundi, East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan, Kosovo, and it will happen again, and again.

Here is a passage from the Bible that proves your point very well. It is from the book of Romans.

When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.

Please forgive my lack of a response to all of your points, as it is four in the morning where I live. I will continue some other time.

13 On November 3, 2006 at 7:18 AM, Jeff Eaton wrote —

but if I did I wouldn't be worried about all the people I thought were going to hell or that didn't share my same values. If faith is worthwhile, it shouldn't need affirmation nor does Christian doctrine suggest that faith requires one to seek to punish those who don't believe or share belief.
Amen. As a Christian-then-agnostic-then-Christian-on-my-own-terms child of the evangelical culture, I can say this is 100% on the mark. Fear that you're wrong is one of the most powerful motivators for extremism in matters of belief -- you have to prove, absolutely, positively, that those who disagree with you are lying, or evil, or stupid. Because if you prove them all wrong, or discredit them, or out-argue them, you don't have to worry about the nagging (and very human) question: 'What if I'm wrong?'

14 On November 3, 2006 at 9:58 AM, J.Rice wrote —

This blog has some insightful comments. Here's something else to consider: Evangelical/charismatic Christianity lives within the tensions of a gender paradox that can rend people's inner selves assunder. On the social/physical level, homosexuality is condemned. But, taking the cue from old Catholic bridal mysticism, evangelicals are taught to erotically love the "passionate bridegroom-Jesus" who has "fire in his eyes."

To picture oneself as a bride; to enter the "King's chamber" and be "ravished by his love" is the highest spiritual goal in this religion. This all might be good and well for a heterosexual female, but what about males? How does a man imagine himself (herself?) as a bride of Christ? What does it mean when for a male to swoon for Jesus and cry out with anxious desire the words from Song of Solomon: "Oh, that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!"?

It means that although in his social and physical realm the Christian man denounces/renounces homosexuality, in the spiritual realm he has taken on the passive homosexual role in a gay marriage. "He" has become "she," a bride in the bridal chamber. Take the lines from that old Lou Reed song: "...shaved her legs and then he was a she; she says, Hey babe take a walk on the wild side..." Conservative evangelical males would be horrified at such a thought, yet this is EXACTLY what they do spiritually, when they image themselves as brides of Christ.

While human males are off limits in the church, divine males are deliciously enticing; God and angels are imaged as buffed, macho men. They are the rightful objects of spiritual desire and passion. See, for example, the huge scupture titled "Exalter" in the lobby of Ted Haggard's New Life Church. Physically, this angel looks like a weight lifter pumped up on steroids. His arms are raised in exaltation of the the ultimate Super Alpha Male; the exalted (post-resurrection) Christ. Ted Haggard's accuser, Mike Jones, is of similar appearance. He obviously works out regularly.

So, that which is forbidden physically is the same thing that entices one spiritually. The same "six-pack" abs and iron pecks that are off limits in the human realm, are the legitmate objects of spiritual desire when one imagines Jesus this way, as the heavenly bridegroom.

Today's evangelical/charismatic male may look fully masculine. He might even have a wife and kids. But when he goes into the "prayer closet," he becomes a she--transgendered into a fawning, cooing bride, seeking bliss in the arms of 'her' "bridegroom-Jesus." When 'she' emerges from the prayer closet, the man becomes a "he" again.

When one goes in and out of this closet so often, for so many years, and eventually the closet door revolves so quickly and efforlessly, is it any wonder that people can become badly disoriented as to their gender? If these allegations prove true, perhaps pastor Ted eventually became confused at times as to which side of the closet door he was on.

15 On November 3, 2006 at 10:55 AM, Kevin Hayden wrote —

I also think many folks who go into psychology professions also do so to exorcise personal demons, then, if they find a path to calm, try to apply the recipe to others they treat, often without positive result.

I don't think there's a one size fits all cure for mental ailments nor for spiritual illness either. Christianity works for some, Buddhism for others and atheism for others. For some, as you note, they find real comfort; for others, a mere crutch.

16 On November 3, 2006 at 2:09 PM, Josh Hawkins wrote —

I am an evangelical. I have heard of Pastor Haggard and heard some of his sermons, he is a very good speaker, but I have never been to his church. I feel the desperate need to bring some of my perspective to this argument. I am not what most of the readers of this website might think of as your run of the mill "robot evangelical". I really don't think that person actually exists, but I do want to explain some things that none of you seem to understand about us. I think it is only fair.
First let's talk about where we agree.

1. All men/women are imperfect and flawed. No honest pastor or parishioner of an evangelical church would want you to believe that they are perfect or any better than anyone else. What we do have that others don't is a relationship with a perfect God who is slowly but surely healing and reforming us to be more like him. None of us will get there until we die, but it is our duty to try! We don't deny that we have demons that are WAY to big for us to conquer it was our demons that lead us to get help! NOT from a pastor or a church but from God! This is the ideal anyway. Do I deny that there are power hungry pastors who want nothing more than to control peoples lives. Nope I've met men like that. Unfortunately. Is pastor Haggard one of those men. I cannot say.

2.Religion and religious service has served as an identity capping mechanism. Yep more often than not people become deeply religious because they are afraid of their own capacity for sin. The truth is however that Christianity as it is meant to be is something that should FREE people to be who they really are! To get away from the habitual sin and corruption that rules peoples lives! Have you ever met an alcoholic? Then you know what it is to see someone trapped in something that they can't get away from. That will kill them if they stay. Christ taught that we are all trapped in something like that. It is our sin! Indeed our brokenness is our prison. Our self centered tendency to care about ourselves more than we do anything else! Jesus taught that to give up your own life is to gain real life. To get away from the self-centeredness that rules our lives and be free to love others and God; this is HOW we are to be what we were created to be. This is how we come into our true identity. We are only capable of starting this journey of love and discovery of self and others with the help of what Jesus did on the cross. Without this breaking of our sin we remain powerless before it! Pastors like Haggard SHOULD be men that feel that call to loving others so strongly that they want to dedicate their whole lives to it. Again are all pastors this way? No sadly they are not. Is pastor Haggard? I cannot say.

3."The politics of division is merely a symptom of our refusal to focus on our humanity and the need to understand it rather than demonize it." Here I couldn't agree with you more. The problem is that your understanding of humanity is so different than mine that we end up divided! My understanding of our humanity is that it is ALL brokenness and needs a fix, but I cannot point at your homosexuality and call it brokenness and not offend you! Not only that but I cannot offer the only fix to brokenness, Jesus Christ, without offending you either. I would never say I am not just as broken as you; God knows I am may be more so! But I know Jesus and He is the fix for my brokenness! So we are divided. I don't want it that way, but I cannot change what I believe because it doesn't come from me. It comes from the Bible. I cannot change what that book says but all my belief systems are based on it. I cannot get belief from me I am broken. God is not. This is where we disagree.

1.There are a million broken ideas of God, including mine, but God himself is NOT broken. Real True religion is NOT broken! Ted Haggard IS broken but the God he speaks about is not.

2. I really don't care if homosexuals get married. Have at it! It makes no difference to me. That decision effects no one but you! Abortion however is the taking of human life! You said if you don't like abortion don't have one. This is not something limited to the one committing the sin. If you would stop genocide you must hate abortion! You talk about our humanity and its value and yet you do not care that millions of children are killed every year! In fact you support it! I believe in a woman's right to choose what she does with her body, but when she get an abortion she is not killing herself she is killing a child. Period. There is no getting around it. She made her choice when she had sex. Rape is another issue all together and I don't know what I would do in that situation. There are thousands of families across the country waiting for babies to adopt! If you don't want the child give it away. Anyone who cares about humanity cannot stand by while this goes on Christian or not.

17 On November 4, 2006 at 3:54 PM, Lorekeepr wrote —

Excellent post, very thoughtful. I too have always suspected that homophobia really comes from fear of the homosexual within.

I am also quite angry at the pass the right-wingers are giving Haggard with all this talk of Christian forgiveness. A Democrat or lefty accused of a similar hypocrisy -- say, someone on the board of the Southern Poverty Law Center who was secretly a member of the KKK -- would be burned at the stake. Evangelical Christians claim to have a higher morality. Well by the gods, they should be held to it then.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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