Ok, so Ted Haggard’s been all over the news and, in my arrogance, I feel like I have something to say on the matter.
What? You don’t know about him? Well, I guess maybe it’s only big news here in the US, or maybe only big news in Christian circles.
Essentially, it’s a story of a man, just a man. A man who (it turns out) has been living with a big secret his entire adult life. You see, from the current evidence, it looks like he’s gay. “Huh” you say “that’s not a problem, some of my best friends are gay.” Yeah, true. I agree, I don’t have a problem with him being gay. I know many gay people, and I consider myself gay. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Now, you Biblical conservatives and/or homophobes may disagree with me here. This is not where I make the scriptural case for why homosexuality (in and of itself) is no worse than heterosexuality. I couldn’t convince you of that even if I tried, no more than I could convince you that the earth is more than 6,000 years old. To convince you that my Jesus is real I would have to deconstruct your entire literalist faith and build it up again. I can’t do that, only God can do that.
Anyway, so just agree to disagree with me when I say that being gay is not a problem. What I do object to is keeping it a secret from yourself and others. It’s damaging to keep it as a secret. This “secretive” state is known in gay circles as “the closet”. This is not an abstract, imagined problem: the closet is a dangerous place to be. You see, the closet is where gay people stick all their unwanted sexual desires. It’s a nice safe place where you hide yourself from the rest of the world.
It’s a safe place, free from troublesome thoughts, but it’s also a place of self-hatred, a place where you do destructive things to yourself and others because you are unable to make most fundamental of emotional commitments: to love yourself. I think it’s dangerous to your self as a human being, I think (as Paul says) it sears your conscience. Christians are called to “love others as ourselves”. What kind of love would we show to the world if we hate ourselves?
Ok, so he was a really sadly sexually repressed gay man, so what? Not like he’s hurting anyone but himself, right? I mean, I was like that too once, right?
Well, he was married with 5 kids.
“Wha… wait? Married?”
Yes, Haggard was married with 5 children. This makes his story a really sad one. This is a tragically common story too. Gay men often marry in the hopes that their same-sex attraction will “go away”. I know men who have lived that farce of a straight life, dying inside, realizing that though they love their wife and love their children, they still hate themselves. Because they know they are committing a real sin in God’s eyes, breaking one of the 10 commandments in fact: bearing false witness. They are lying. They are lying about that most fundamental thing in their lives: who they are. I have no doubt, however, that Reverend Haggard was a good father and husband.
Reverend? What, like he is a priest?”
Yes, he was a priest.
“So, is that a problem?”
Well, no, not really, I know a good handful of gay priests through church. Some of them have taken vows of celibacy, some have not. Some have life-long male partners, some are married to women and abstain from men. There are many ways to live authentically and righteously as a gay priest, even if you’re in the closet.
You can now instantly see the strain of his position, though. He knows his behaviour doesn’t match with who he is. It must be a terrible position to be in. Let’s look at his thoughts on marriage.
Woah! Ted, that’s pretty hot stuff. Notice he doesn’t mention sex or love? Children just happen and we shouldn’t be upset when it happens. Now in hindsight, we know for certain that knew he was gay at the time of this footage. Can you see the strain in his face? Can you see his nose wrinkle ever so subtlety as he tells his lies? This is a man in pain, lying about himself to present the evangelical faÃ§ade adhering to an ideal of perfection he believes is necessary for entry into heaven.
So, he was a closeted gay priest married to a woman. There are more men in this position than you can imagine, some of them may even be reading this. This is why the next thing I say may hurt some people.
This stress is going to manifest itself somehow. I am sure you can tell where I am going with this. This poor wreck of a man suppressed his natural sexuality so much that it exposed itself in a dangerous lifestyle.
At the time of this video, he was indulging in male prostitution and taking drugs. I strongly object to the stereotypical “gay lifestyle” but not all gays live that lifestyle (myself for example), but who am I to judge what happens between consenting adults. Reverend Haggard did indulge in some activities which I consider to be “morally wrong”. Interestingly, Paul does address prostitution (temple prostitution) with a gay man in is letters. Paul thinks it’s wrong.
Ok, so he cheated on his wife. Not like that’s so uncommon really. I know men who have cheated on their wives with another woman and who have finally gotten over their lusts and become complete, whole people. Also, as far as I can make out, he only cheated on his wife with one man, a man he had an extra-marital affair with for 5 years or so. Wrong, but something he can easily heal from if he is just willing to be honest and get help.
Sometimes that help may come in the form of trying to “convert” to becoming straight. If you have never tried the “reparative therapy” offered by the pseudo-psychological ex-gay ministries then you really can’t speak to their effectiveness. Most of the people I speak to. Actually all of the people who have tried it have become damaged by trying to change their orientation.
If you don’t believe me, consider this guy:
Now, you may think that cuddling another man once a week for 3 years will cure you of homosexuality, or perhaps hitting a pillow while yelling at your mother, but you know what, no psychologist is willing to stand by this self-proclaimed ex-gay guy who gets paid to hold other men. In fact, the Exodus program have recently distanced themselves from him and disagree with “holding” as a form of therapy. Not sure what they think of pillow-hitting though.
Ok, so let’s say you want to try avoid pillow hitting and man-cuddling as a solution to your problems, how does this sad situation usually pan out?
Oftentimes when this happens, the marriage will eventually fail. Either he or she works out that it’s not going to work and they break it off. My heart breaks at the number of stories I have read of men “coming out” to their children. What a sad and terribly vulnerable position for two people to be: child and parent. Oftentimes, the children, hurt by what they see as a rejection of them as the legitimate family, reject their parent in turn. I know a good lesbian couple for whom the relationship with their estranged children is a constant cause of grief.
So, far better to not have married, still he’s in this position and he has to deal with it. So, what really stinks about Reverend Haggard? What is so hurtful and damaging about this man’s life that the whole world is talking about him? Well, he was a strong opponent of “gay marriage”, a conservative Biblical literalist and leader of a 30 million strong Christian evangelical organization.
He had this to say about gay marriage:
So, we can count his sins as lying, adultery. Not uncommon. What makes Ted special is a special kind of sin Jesus preached about more than any other: hypocrisy.
Not any old hypocrisy, but the hypocrisy of a priest, one in power. A man who, by his daily phone calls to the president and his staunch support of anti-gay legislation has sought to undermine rights of people like me.
I forgive him, of course. Knowing full well that I am certainly no example of perfection.. I didn’t write this story to condemn him, I am writing this story for any future Ted Haggards out there:
- If you are gay, come out of the closet, it will only lead you to self-destruction otherwise.
- If you are gay, don’t marry a woman, it will not help
- If you are gay and married to a woman, do not commit adultery, come out and deal with the consequences.