Does anyone remember Ted Haggard? He’s the mega-church preacher from Colorado who got busted hiring a male escort for “massages” and crystal meth back in 2006. I didn’t know who Haggard was at the time but the whole scandal gave me a big old shock because the male escort was named Mike Jones and I know a Mike Jones and he’s gay and I was thinking “Holy shit! Has my friend been leading a double life? Monogamously committed non-profit worker on the east coast by day, swingin’ stud in Colorado by night? Because that would be kind of bitchin’ but I really don’t want to see the fall-out if he splits from his long-time partner. There’d be a lot of ugly-crying going on there.”
Needless to say, it was not the same Mike Jones.
Anyway, in the wake of the scandal, poor Ted had to leave the church he founded, though he denies that anything more than a hand-job occurred between himself and the escort. (Which raises the question of why even hire an escort? Why not just watch porn? Porn won’t go to the media with the story.) I think that’s flatly shitty because I was under the impression that churches like Haggard’s New Life preached a lot about forgiveness and it sucks pretty damn hard that they couldn’t forgive one of their own. I guess that whole “hate the sin, love the sinner” thing goes up in smoke when the sinner is supposed to provide the spiritual guidance but, honestly? Isn’t someone who’s lived a little likely to have better perspective on major life issues and the complicated factors that go into decisions? Or do some people think being gay cancels all that out?
This month there’s a big profile on Ted Haggard in GQ. It’s a pretty standard piece detailing his past, his rise, his fall, and his redemption in founding a new congregation and living life on a smaller scale and being so happy and grateful for the love of his family. The part of it that I found the most interesting is the story of his college years. Haggard wanted to go be a journalist and he was not a believer at the time he started college. But his father promised him a car if he’d attend Oral Roberts University. He agreed, to get the car and also to write a book about life at that school. The book never materialized because he converted while he was there and he opted to become a preacher rather than a journalist.
Let’s for a moment, consider that story. Here was a young man, a man with secular but honorable ambition, a man with a mind open to experience, a man eager to explore a world. But instead of allowing him to take the path he wanted to explore, Haggard’s father sought to send him off to a religious school. Why? Is it because he felt so strongly about his own religion? Or was he seeking to control his child? Why did he want to encourage him into a more restrictive, more religiously driven environment? What was he afraid his son would experience if he charted his own path? What did he think Ted would discover about himself? Why didn’t he trust his son to find a righteous path on his own? The article said Haggard’s father was a mid-life convert so he should have known that spirituality can awaken at all stages. Why did he want to thrust his son into the midst of it rather than allowing a more organic discovery? Or is it because he suspected something about Ted, something that Ted might not have known about his own sexuality, and he wanted to try and subvert it?
What would have happened to Ted Haggard if he had not been bribed into going to an evangelical college? Who would he be? Would he be an open homosexual? Would he have hurt so many people if he hadn’t been battling his sexual urges in private and with shame?
In the face of stories like this one, I am baffled how anyone could think homosexuality is a choice. Why would a man like Ted Haggard choose to cheat on his wife with a male escort, knowing that it could cost him his family, his livlihood, his entire identity really? Episodes like this show that sexuality is inherent and undeniable and that trying to live without acknowledging the truth of your own desires is going to hurt somebody, somewhere along the line.
Today, Ted Haggard says he’s monogamous to his wife, though he admits that if he were younger, he might consider himself bisexual and he still thinks homosexuality is not “G-d’s best plan for us”. While I admire his willingness to see that sexuality is part of his essential make-up and his commitment now to monogamy, I do wish he could get it into his head that maybe his G-d is ok with homosexuality. After all, that same G-d made homosexuals. Just sayin’.
I hope that when my son is old enough to be learning about his adult-self and making the choices that will determine his path in life, I have the wisdom to step away and let him be true to himself. I am trying to give him all the equipment he needs to make good moral judgments along the way and teach him the practical things to make life easier but I know I need to stop short of trying to over-lay my own ideas about how he should turn out on how he going to be if he’s an honest person. I need to keep my prejudices to myself (or get over them) so that he never feels like he can’t take a certain path for fear of being something I won’t approve of. I need to let him be his own man. Making him do my bidding by offering him a car or approval or a promise of redemption, if it means he lives a lie, is not good parenting. Teaching him to be a good person and then letting him be that person is.
I think Ted Haggard is probably a good person. I hope now he’s getting to live as an honest one.