Thursday, January 29, 2009
Trials, Tribulations, and Temptations of Ted Haggard
After being exiled from his church and home state for admitting he had solicited sex and drugs from a male prostitute, Ted Haggard, the founder and pastor of the evangelical New Life Church in Colorado Springs is making headlines again. When news of his affair became public, Haggard who was also the president of the National Association for Evangelicals - a role that gave him weekly access to President George W. Bush- denied the allegations. He would later admit his involvement and was subsequently fired from the 14,000 member church that he helped start and left Colorado for counseling at an undisclosed location in Arizona. Within three weeks of the program, Haggard made the announcement that he was heterosexual, an announcement that angered many in the gay community.
At the time the allegations were made, Haggard assured the public and the church that despite dealing with "thoughts that were contrary to his belief," the escort Mike Jones who tipped off authorities was the only male he had been with. In an article carried by the Denver Post, members of the leadership board at the church speculated that the encounter with Mr. Jones may have been Haggard's only foray into homosexuality because after three months of the news becoming public no one had come forward with other allegations. But this Sunday, Brady Boyd who is now the senior pastor at New Life made an announcement to the church that Haggard had another indiscretion with a young man at the church who is now 25. The indiscretion happened when the young man was already an adult, so Haggard will not be criminally charged. The church also admitted to assisting the young man with money for college and other monetary needs since 2007. The money came from insurance they claim and not from the church.
In an interview with the New York Times, Boyd notes that the allegations were not made public because the church was trying to be discreet and do what was honorable. The incidence was supposed to be kept secret, but the young man whose name has still not been released threatened to go public. Preempting his decision, Boyd made the announcement to the now 10,500 member church. Haggard admits to inappropriate relations with the young man but has denied any sexual contact. And it seems Jones and the young man are not the only players in this game that has become increasingly tangled. The church admits that a couple of church members who witnessed or had inappropriate relations with Mr. Haggard have come forward, but no settlements have been made.
Following Haggard's admission back in 2006 that he was now heterosexual, I assumed that it would be there would be a huge lapse before he made any more public appearances. He had previously hinted that both he and his wife Gayle were returning to school to pursue advanced degrees in psychology. Haggard is back in the news now and has made appearances with prominents stake holders in the media as he promotes a new documentary based on his life, "The Trials of Ted Haggard," which is set to air on HBO tonight at 8:00pm. Directed by Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the aim of the documentary she says is "not about whether Ted had one or 1,000 indiscretions... This film is about a what happened to a man and his family after his fall from grace."
So is Ted Haggard gay, straight, or somewhere in between and what are his views on homosexuality? In an interview with the Associated Press this month, Haggard admits that "stereotypical boxes don't work for me...My story's got some gray areas in it. And of course, I'm sad about that, but it's the reality." Haggards admits to telling his wife about wrestling with some "inappropriate thoughts" years ago but speaking with Charles Gibson in an interview this week he claims that he and his wife are enjoying what appears to be a peak in their intimate relationship. When asked by Gibson if homosexuality was a sin, Haggard responded by saying that for him, the practice was sinful. Speaking on the Oprah Winfrey show this week, Haggard admitted to being "a heterosexual with issues." Haggard says he refuses to be put in a box because it would be a denial of whom he was. His wife Gayle tried to make the argument that despite inclinations of some sort, there is still the issue of choice, a matter Ms. Winfrey strongly refused to accept.
Haggard's recent media foray comes as a shock but raises important issues. Issues about homosexuality, choice, the will of God, sexual abuse and pedophilia. Haggard admits to being sexuality abused by his father as a 7 year old and blames his struggle with sexuality on the incidence. "I had same-sex play as a second grader, and then all that blew up when I was 50," Haggard says in a clip for the documentary. In the documentary he is forth coming with his struggles to take his own life, his anger at being dismissed from the church he started in his basement and the treatment he has received from the evangelical community. Cases like Haggard's present many gray areas. He is however quick to point out that he has issues and is seeking recovery. There's a possiblity he admits that his affair with Mike Jones and the ensuing public scandal were attempts by God to help bring healing to him. Haggard's struggle with homosexuality and his struggle to be honorable to his family signals the element of choice in the homosexual lifestyle. There is still a lot that is unknown about Ted Haggard the man that hopefully will become clear with time.
The Trials of Ted Haggard airs tonight on HBO at 8:00pm.