The following video is the first release of an original Thought Theater video. I thought it would be appropriate to kick off the sites video content with a message on World AIDS Day. Perhaps not every Thought Theater reader has lost someone to HIV...but I have lost a number of friends and I think it’s important to be reminded that HIV is currently the number four cause of death and is expected to soon become number three. There has been a lot of progress in controlling the virus but millions are unable to afford the drugs needed to extend their lives.
I often imagine a world without HIV or at least one where a vaccine exists or that is able to treat and cure the disease. That day may never come but we must continue working towards that goal. Many people are living longer and more normal lives but not without the difficulty that comes with any serious ailment…especially one frequently viewed as socially unacceptable.
World AIDS Day is also a good time to acknowledge the courage and commitment the gay community has demonstrated over the years in its effort to combat the disease and bring awareness and attention to the need for more research and funding. Many of us lived through the early years of HIV and will never forget the many vibrant friends that were lost in what seemed to be an instant. I remember and honor them all this and every day.
Daniel DiRito | November 30, 2006 | 8:20 PM |
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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a new document outlining the guidelines for ministering to gay Catholics. The general gist of the document states that having gay feelings isn't a sin but acting upon those feelings is in fact a sin. Read the full article at the Houston Chronicle.
BALTIMORE — The nation's Roman Catholic bishops overwhelmingly approved new guidelines Tuesday on outreach to gays, trying to support gay parishioners while strictly affirming the church stance that same-sex relationships are "disordered."
Gay Catholic activists immediately judged the document a failure that will push gay and lesbians away from the church.
The statement, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination," upholds the Catholic prohibition against same-gender marriage and adoption by gay or lesbian couples.
Yet bishops insisted that they're trying to be more "welcoming than condemning."
From my perspective, the Bishops would be better served to implement this policy with their own priests. Given that the Church prohibits its clergy from engaging in sex, this new guideline seems perfectly suited for the many gay priests who have a long history of ignoring their need to be celibate and ignoring the laws regarding sex with minors. Further, their own experience with the repression of sexual identity should serve as an example of the fully negative implications of such practice...and yet they enact it as policy!
Still, under the guidelines, parishes must instruct gays to remain celibate. The bishops are also discouraging gays from making "general public self-disclosures" within their churches about their sexual orientation.
Sam Sinnett, president of DignityUSA, an advocacy group for gay Catholics, said the new guidelines reflect the bishops' ignorance about sexuality. He said the document would alienate gays.
"This document recommends the most unhealthy thing to do which is to stay emotionally and spiritually in the closet," Sinnett said.
Some bishops anticipated such criticism.
On another matter Tuesday, bishops overwhelmingly adopted a statement encouraging Catholics to obey the church's ban on artificial contraception.
Church leaders at the gathering are also discussing how Catholics can make themselves worthy to receive Holy Communion. Several bishops said Monday that Catholics who persist in ignoring church teaching, including gays who are sexually active, should not take the sacrament.
After decades of experiencing the ramifications of celibacy...both heterosexual and homosexual...the Catholic Church is once again proving its intransigence with regards to all things sexual. When Bishops moved pedophile priests from parish to parish as soon as their molestations were exposed, it apparently wasn't important to honor their own doctrines or the laws that existed to punish their criminal actions. Notwithstanding, they find it necessary to tell gays who are living loving and well-adjusted lives that their actions are unacceptable.
My own feelings regarding the Church and its need to dole out acceptance are one of rejection. The Church has nothing I need and therefore I refuse to give them any power or authority over my life. Frankly, given my many years in Catholic schools, I'm content to take my chances that if there is a god; he will not judge me any worse than the majority of priests and nuns I encountered.
Pardon my sarcasm, but if I am condemned to hell (which I don't believe exists) along with the many priests who committed crimes against innocent children, I would hope that the devil (who I don't believe exists) allows me and my gay friends who lived authentic lives to reject these misfits. I would suggest that god (who I don't believe exists) allow them into heaven (which I don't believe exists) so these righteous Bishops can minister to them. I see no reason to turn hell into a dysfunctional den of denial. Let's keep that reserved for heaven.
Daniel DiRito | November 14, 2006 | 1:21 PM |
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From KUSA Channel 9 in Denver, we have the following update on the allegations that Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals had a "sexual business" relationship with a gay male escort. I've posted the entire article but it can be found here.
DENVER - A nationally known voice recognition expert says he believes voice mails left for a male escort are from a pastor in Colorado Springs.
Mike Jones, a gay man and admitted male escort, claims he and Pastor Ted Haggard have been having a "sexual business" relationship for the past three years.
He also claims Haggard used methamphetamine in his presence several times.
Haggard denies the accusations.
Thursday, Haggard took a leave of absence from the New Life Church and resigned as president of the multi-million member National Association of Evangelicals.
Jones provided two voice messages to 9NEWS he claims are Haggard calling him.
The voice mails for from a man who calls himself "Art."
It should be noted Haggard's middle name is Arthur.
The first voice message, left on August 4 at 2:18 p.m., says:
"Hi Mike, this is Art. Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply. And I could pick it up really anytime I could get it tomorrow or we could wait till next week sometime and so I also wanted to get your address. I could send you some money for inventory but that's probably not working, so if you have it then go ahead and get what you can and I may buzz up there later today, but I doubt your schedule would allow that unless you have some in the house. Okay, I'll check in with you later. Thanks a lot, bye."
The second voice message, left on August 4 at 5:10 p.m., says:
"Hi Mike, this is Art, I am here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then that would be great. And I'll get it sometime next week or the week after or whenever. I will call though you early next week to see what's most convenient for you. Okay? Thanks a lot, bye."
Jones claims Art is referring to methamphetamine in the messages.
9NEWS had a nationally known voice recognition expert, Richard Sanders, listen to the voice mails to determine if it is Haggard. Sanders has previously worked on such high profile cases as the Oklahoma City bombing trial, the Columbine High School shootings, the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation, and the Kobe Bryant case.
"This certainly sounds like the same person," said Sanders, after listening to the voice mails.
In his final report, Sanders found that of 12 single words that were the same on both recordings, nine of those words were perfect matches. He also found that the entire phrase, "I don't know," was also a precise match.
Sanders makes his decision by comparing the resonance of the voice, the play of one's tongue and the inflection of vowel sounds.
"If we can find enough words and phrases that match then it's generally accepted by courts that that's the same person," he said.
Haggard told 9NEWS he is prepared for the outcome of the church's independent investigation.
After hearing about Haggard's resignation, Jones said, "I'm sad. I'm sad for him, but we do have consequences for our actions."
Haggard is the senior leader and founder of the New Life Church. It has 14,000 members and the church told 9NEWS that close to 2,000 of the members are junior high, high school and college students.
"I think the church and Christians have through very difficult times and this appears to be one of those," said James Groesbeck, a spiritual leader for the church.
Groesbeck says it was the right move for Haggard to step down. "If what's being said is true, then it's the responsible thing to do," he said.
Many members of the church reacted to the news with disbelief.
"There is no truth to this at all. I'm disappointed because I loved him as a senior pastor and it's just sad to see him move on like that," said Chris Herndon, a church member.
"He loves God, he loves his people, his wife, his family and he would never do anything like this," said Adrienne Simmonds, another church member.
Elders with the church held a meeting Thursday night to discuss the situation, but did not release any additional information to 9NEWS.
The following clip of Ted Haggard is from the documentary Jesus Camp.
KKTV Channel 11 in Colorado Springs is reporting that Ted Haggard has admitted to some indiscretions.
A sudden about-face in the scandal facing New Life Church's pastor.
After Pastor Ted Haggard went public Wednesday night denying allegations of a homosexual affair, senior church officials told KKTV 11News Thursday evening, Pastor Ted Haggard has admitted to some of the claims made by a former male escort. The church's Acting Senior Pastor, Ross Parsley, tells KKTV 11 News that Pastor Haggard has admitted to some of the indiscretions claimed by Mike Jones, but not all of them.
Thursday morning, Jones went on a Denver radio talk show and said Pastor Haggard paid him for sex over the past 3 years. Jones also claims Haggard used drugs with him.
Right now, the situation is under investigation by an independent panel of leaders from four outside churches. The leaders are from Colorado Springs, Larkspur, Westminster and Louisiana. The panel's role is to decide if Haggard will be exonerated, released from his duties or restored to his pastorship.
Earlier Thursday, Haggard resigned as President of the National Association of Evangelicals, and placed himself on administrative leave as head of New Life Church. New Life Church has an estimated 14,000 members, while the NAE claims roughly 30 million members.
Daniel DiRito | November 2, 2006 | 11:51 PM |
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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.
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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