The Truths of Ted Haggard's Story
Haggard's story reveals that life and love are much more complicated than those opposing gay marriage want us to believe.
BY: Macky Alston
Addressing his congregation and the world last Sunday, the Rev. Ted Haggard declared, "I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life." When Haggard's story first broke, he positioned himself like Christ in the wilderness, engaged by the tempter, but not in the end seduced. Now we hear Haggard distinguish between the good, moral, heterosexual Haggard in violent conflict with what I can only assume to be the gay Haggard.
Whatever is playing itself out in the news around the Rev. Ted Haggard and Mike Jones, the man he paid for drugs and to be fondled by (if for nothing else), it is unlikely to benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in America on the eve of a critical roster of votes for us. We are not fighting for fondling for money. We are not fighting to legalize methamphetamines. We are not in violent conflict with ourselves or others, unlike those who bash us. We are fighting for the legal right to be steady with our spouses and to have our own five children if we so choose. Who is leading the moral course here?
Until the last few days, I have never had compassion for the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the largest evangelical group in America, and senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Until last week, Haggard was just my oppressor--opponent of the rights that I believe God intends me and all his other children to possess. I am a gay American deprived of the right to marry my partner of 14 years and co-parent of my two children. Until yesterday, Haggard told untruths--that the most beautiful aspect of my life was abominable. Today, Haggard’s story tells truths--that life and all who live it are more complicated than fundamentalists want us to believe.
I am the son of a minister. I attended a Christian seminary for four years. One of the few things that I know for sure is that clergy are as human as the rest of us. The Ted Haggard debacle is an opportunity for us to awaken to the gritty human realities that are everyone's to grapple with. I don’t care what leads people like Bill Clinton, Mark Foley, and Ted Haggard to do the very thing that is certain to ruin their careers. Perhaps it is the narcotic of power. Perhaps it is a society that requires its leaders to be less imperfect than the rest of us. All I know is that the combination of intolerance and hypocrisy from podiums and pulpits of power will never achieve the goals that the religious right hope to meet. I believe it is a time to remember that Jesus identified with the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. It is they, not himself, that he came to set free.
We are all tempted all the time to fall short of who we aim to be and there are social systems designed to undergird our best nature. Institutions of religion and marriage are at best two such systems and ought to be available and open to all, so that all of us, regardless of race, class, sex, or sexual orientation, may become our best selves. Although Haggard has had a lifetime of access to both religion and marriage, still he falls. So he's human. I hope he fares better in the next chapter of his personal growth. I have not been so lucky. A gay Christian, I was born into a church that refuses to grant me equality and a country that withholds the age-old tradition (complete with economic and social benefits) that might in fact enable me to live into my best self.
May this election day be one on which the power of Jesus, who saw us as neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but as children of God, every last one of us, reigns in his radical message of equality, and not the power of hypocritical hatemongers who have more than their share of power in America today and refuse to share it with the rest of us.