I have followed the story of Ted Haggard since his super fun sex & drug scandal in 2007. At first it was pure schadenfreude because I love the thought of pious religious figures drowning in their own hubris. I really hadn’t heard much about him before that, mostly because I was long out of evangelical circles when that happened. I knew of course of the NAE but not really much of Ted or New Life Church. When the story broke of the male prostitute who claimed to have sold meth to and had a relationship with Haggard I did my research and learned more about him and concluded rightly that he was another one of those loud voices against homosexuality who was himself gay.
Shortly, and coincidentally, the documentary Jesus Camp came out an Haggard is featured prominently in this study of conservative Christians in the home school/pro-life/pentecostal community. Let me just tell you, I will never know how he would have come across outside the context of this scandal but in this context he came across in the film as SUPER GAY. I think he used the word “fabulous” 11 times.
After he stepped down from his church, he was forced to leave his home an sign stuff that said he’d never be in ministry, start over with a wife & 5 kids, go to therapy, etc. Six weeks later, he proclaimed he was cured of “the gay.” Then there was the fund raising letter that he allegedly sent out, which violated the terms of his exile.
HBO did a documentary of his journey & he’s done several talk show appearances. He & his wife have both written books about this experience. I’ve followed it all, though I haven’t actually read the books. I’m not super interested in investing that amount of time in it. Recently, GQ did an interview with him on where he is now. He’s back in his home in Colorado & he’s started a new church. The folks from New Life have still not forgiven him and believe him to be unfit for ministry. He says he’s a person who struggles with sexuality but loves his wife and that homosexuality is not “God’s best” for humanity, whatever that means.
Why do I like this guy? I don’t agree with his theology, necessarily, particularly the pentecostal part. I don’t agree with his views on homosexuality. He’s a Republican. But here’s why I like him. He’s been where I’ve been. He’s been exiled from his home, sent away. I have been told to leave my home church & never return for the stupid choices I have made. He’s actually kind of moderate, is an environmentalist, doesn’t not believe in young earth creationism, thinks the Left Behind series is lame, and thinks Christians should read stuff & think.
The church he has started is full of homeless folks, bikers, drug addicts & folks who would never darken the door of New Life. In a recent service, he asked the congregation to speak about what they needed and then they gave their offering to each other, rather than to the church. I dig that.
I also saw him on Larry King when Jennifer Knapp came out and he was great to say that she was loved by God and on her own journey and that everyone else needed to leave her alone. Loved that, especially with the cliche-spouting idiot sitting next to her.
The first time I was back in a ministry setting after I’d been out for a while, I cried a lot because I never thought I could be. It wasn’t until after I figured out that my calling was bigger than the people who tried to keep me out of ministry. I also learned a lot about grace as a lifestyle and the value of being honest about one’s life.
This is why I’m a fan of Ted’s. He’s got a lot of issues, but he owns them. He’s not someone I agree with, but he’s so gracious about letting people go on their own paths, that I’m cool with it. In many ways I want to be more like him in the way he approaches other people and his own issues.