The Mysterious Case of Ted Haggard


(Summary: In November 2006, escort and masseur Mike Jones alleged that Ted Haggard had paid him for sex for three years and had also purchased and used crystal meth.. Jones was angered by his recent discovery that Haggard, from the pulpit of his megachurch in Colorado Springs, was conducting a fervent campaign against the sin of homosexuality.

There followed predictable large-scale thrashing by all hands, eventually ending with Haggard being booted, confessing, and then saying he had “over-repented”, and then… on and on. He’s clearly terribly confused.

One of the many things I was angry about myself when I left the protestant fundamentalists in their swamp 60 years ago was their ardent homophobia which was so contrary to Jesus’s benevolence; so when I heard about Haggard’s troubles I was feeling quite smug about it. That evening on the news, though, I saw him. I saw in his eyes a pathetic despair, and immediately understood. I lost my smugness. I can tell you now, with the same certainty as any religious fanatic, what ales him:

He was raised in that poisonous subculture. Long before he had any inkling of his own sexual nature, he was marinated in the lore of all the sins he must hate and, being heavy on herd instinct, he snapped to compliance; he was mama’s good boy. (This is also how the preposterous belief in the Bible’s inerrancy is so indelibly engraved.) Imagine, when the time came and he experienced those unwelcome, repulsive urges. He hated them, and felt only intense contempt for himself; so his homophobic yelping was actually sincere.

This is the standard fate for gay children born into that environment, and only the smartest and most self-reliant kids will be able to disentangle themselves. The rest must adjust to a lifetime of pretending.   The good news for them is that they are in the midst of a culture where everyone is pretending about everything, and authenticity is not possible.

That’s massive cognitive dissonance – it demands the most expert of mental contortions – but that’s just another part of the skill set taught in their academy. (For the Bible itself they have experts, trained in what they call “apologetics”, who may also be known as conservative Bible scholars, shamans, or bull shit artists.)

After all this time, the poor guy is still floundering.  At one point he said he’d “over-repented”!

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Here are two brief tales as counterweights to Ted Haggard’s story:

First, Mel White – pastor, now, of a large gay church. On his way to self-acceptance he went through psychotherapy, hypnotism, electroconvulsive therapy, even exorcism, before his wife (what a woman she must be!) said to him, as nearly as I can recall, “Mel, I love you. You’re a homosexual. It’s not a sin. You have to accept it.” And so he began, slowly, to do that. To me, a beautiful story.

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And here’s another. Andrew Sullivan, British author, editor and blogger. Very smart guy. Humble (as anyone who’s come through and come out must be). He told of finally admitting to himself at twenty-six that he was gay, and returning to England to tell his parents. His mother, when she finally understood what he was telling them, said “Oh! I’d better make some tea! Jumped up and ran off like the Little Gingerbread Man. OK, that’s the funny part.

His father, though, was weeping, with his head between his knees. Sullivan said “Dad, dad, please don’t cry. I feel awful. Please lift your head up and tell me why you’re crying so we can talk about it.” You know what’s coming, right? That’s what I thought too. Wrong. His father, a big-time jock in his youth, said something like “I’m weeping because I can only imagine what you’ve gone through, and it grieves me so deeply that I wasn’t there for you.” What a dad. What a lucky man to have had him. I wish I’d had a dad like that. And what a beautiful story. I’ll be telling it for the rest of my life.

These are stories of redemption.

I imagine that people who survive this ordeal are people we should know.

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