Top evangelical in gay scandal?
Now here is breaking news. At least breaking as I write about it. The National Association of Evangelicals is the a collection of fundamentalist type denominations and churches. The head of that organization was Pastor Ted Haggard. Note I put that in the past tense.
Haggard resigned his position. He was also the pastor of a 14,000 member fundamentalist church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He also stepped down from that position.
A male prostitute has stated that Haggard had a three year gay relationship with the man. Haggard has denied the relationship.
The prostitute said he came forward because Haggard was saying one thing and doing another.
The former prostitute says he has a voice mail recording of Haggard. He also had an envelope mailed to him from Colorado Springs in which he says a payment of $200 in cash was received. And he says he is willing to take a lie detector test.
Fellow leaders of the antigay Religious Right came to Haggard’s defence. And his church is going to have an “impartial” investigation which will be led by fellow fundamentalists. That would be like having the Watergate break-in investigated by the Republican Party. The prostitute said that Haggard had told him that his fantasy would be a group of “young college guys.... around 18-22. He would love to have an orgy.”
Now as I see here are the possibilities:
Haggard had the affair and it will be proved.
Haggard did not have the affair but it will look like he did.
Haggard had the affair and will get away with it.
Haggard did not have the affair and will be exonerated.
Assume for a moment he did it. I don’t feel any happiness over his problems. I confess he brought them on himself, if the claims are true. But gay men within evangelical churches are prisoners of their own beliefs. They believe it is evil to be gay but they remain gay. They tell themselves that “change is possible” but the evidence for change is very scarce indeed. They say it is a choice but countless members of their own churches fight every day knowing full well it is not a choice. That sort of belief system encourages lying and dishonesty. It encourages men to marry even though they know inside their hearts they are gay. Too often this leads to heartbreak for the women who become unwilling victims in the church’s antigay theology. What I do know is that even if this story does not fit the case for Mr. Haggard it does fit the case of hundreds of other fundamentalist ministers and tens of thousands of the members of their congregations.
Many years ago I knew a very conservative candidate for political office. He was a friend of mine and I worked in his campaign (although I would not do so for a similar candidate today). He was a single man who lived alone. And when I was asked to work for his campaign he offered for me to stay at his home. Another young man, a prominent conservative youth leader of the day, also came to work for him. The candidate was also a member of the largest fundamentalist church in his city and this was a big church.
I was fairly naive and young but even I found it odd that this youth leader and the candidate shared a bed every night. It became obvious to me that there was more to their relationship than either of them was willing or able to admit. In fact if either of them said a word about it they would have been finished. I left to return to home after the election but stayed in touch with the candidate. As I said he was a friend and I don’t leave friends lightly. One day I get a call from the radio station asking to interview me. The candidate had committed suicide. I can’t say I was shocked. And I always thought it had something to do with the shared bed and shared secrets. Could I prove it? No. But I saw enough to convince myself this was the case.
This is the tragedy that is inherent in the self-hating ideas of fundamentalism.
Certainly deceit and lying is not difficult when your religion demands you pretend to be something you are not. So it is plausible that Haggard had this relationship. But even if he did not as I write countless other fundamentalists are in that position. They are tormented by a belief that they can not be who they are yet they are unable to be anyone else. So even if this is true I can’t help but feel sorry for the man.
Reality is as reality is. Pretending and fantasizing another reality based on some holy book won’t make it so. So much of fundamentalism is evil because it is at war with reality. It can’t accept facts. It has to believe that the lie is the truth and the truth is a lie because that is they way their book tells them it is.
I also consider that Haggard may not have had this affair. In that case he suffered by accusation made. But the accusation itself had little power behind it. The true suffering came, not from the accusation, but from what his fellow Christians will believe, if the accusation is true. What I mean is this. If someone says I’m a member of the Rotary Club it means nothing important even if it is true. True or false it changes nothing about me. I don’t suffer from the claim because no one cares. But the fundamentalist believes awful things about homosexuals. So to say someone is gay brings them into disrepute because of the things which these people believe. What gives these accusations the power to harm Haggard are the very things he has been preaching about homosexuals all along.
Imagine a world of liberals and libertarians. Just assume for a second everyone thought that way. This former prostitute gets up and says Haggard had an affair with him. In a world of liberals and libertarians no one would care. It would have no ability to harm Haggard at all. The pain that is inflicted comes because people believe the things about homosexuals which Haggard and his friends preach. The sting in these accusations is, in that sense, self inflicted.