Alexandra Pelosi is the talented filmmaker behind “The Trials of Ted Haggard”–though, as she put it in the New York Times yesterday, she prefers to be considered a maker of television, not documentaries. Fair enough, as her light, earthy, humanizing touch is just right for the small screen.
It is also the right touch for a story about Haggard’s afterlife: after two decades of pastoring a megachurch, after high-profile years as an international spokesperson for evangelicalism, and after a very public sex-and-drugs scandal that brought his life to the ground. Pelosi’s movie follows Haggard as he applies for his first job, takes up golfing, moves from house to house, and sorts through the remains of his life. Her camera is compassionate toward him inasmuch as it allows him to have that afterlife, but it’s also unflinching in capturing his fear, his anger, and his confusion about his own identity.
Pelosi was kind enough to answer a few questions by email. Our exchange is after the jump.
Note: I sent these questions to her on Friday, before the story broke that another young man says he had a sexual encounter with Haggard. Pelosi mentions that new story in one of her answers below.
making a documentary about evangelicals when Ted Haggard was at the height of
his power, and he was part of that movie. You must have been editing footage of
him at about
the time his life fell apart. What was that experience like for you????
When Ted had his fall from grace I was in the hospital having my first son. I had to go
back into the edit room to update the movie about what happened to Ted. When I
found out that Ted was living a double life, I felt very personally deceived by
When did you decide you wanted to capture this part of the Ted
I was visiting my sister in Scottsdale and she told me that she
heard on the news that Ted lived in her neighborhood. So my husband pulled out
his cell phone and called him. Ted picked up the phone and invited us over for
lunch. We went and spent 9 hours talking over what happened (I did not film any
of this). Then, over time when we visited Arizona we stopped in to see how he
was doing and I filmed little moments because it was so interesting how
different his life was after he was exposed. After he moved back to Colorado
Springs, we started editing together the story of what it was like for him in
In the documentary, Haggard tells you the church told him to go to
hell. Do you agree? Did you speak with anyone at New Life about their version
of these events???
I have spoken with many member of New Life Church but I have
not spoken with anyone from the Board–they never returned my calls. I let
them speak in the movie by using footage from CNN. I didn’t think it was fair
to make Brady Boyd speak on the subject since he came to the church after the
scandal was over. ??
How would you describe the trials of Gayle Haggard? How
would you describe the trials of the Haggard children????
I do not feel sorry
for Ted–he deserved to be punished for deceiving the people who trusted him–but I do feel sorry for Gayle and the children. They have suffered the most
through all of this. Still, they forgive Ted, and if you ask them why they will
tell you that the Bible says ‘you must forgive.’ ????
You’ve done a deep
study of evangelicals in “Friends of God,” and you’ve captured an
archetypal story of religious downfall with “The Trials of Ted
Haggard.” What do you think, and how do you feel, about evangelical
Christianity now? And what about Christianity apart from the evangelical
You need to make a distinction between all of the nice, good
church-goers and the ‘holier than thou’, sharp-tongued Church leaders.?I have a
great respect for the all the individuals I met at all of the churches I
visited. I made many friends at New Life who I stay in touch with today, but I
am suspicious of the politically active evangelical leaders who have been very
judgmental of the rest of us ‘ungodly’ types. The reason why so many people are
suspicious of the church is because they built their institutions by preaching
forgiveness. They did not always practice what they preach.
Ted admitted he was
a “deceiver and a liar,” but his bigger sin was he brought bad
publicity to the church, so they paid him to disappear? A young man alleges
inappropriate relations with Ted and they paid him to keep his mouth shut? It
all sounds a little shady.
The reason why secular people love the story of
Ted’s fall is because it confirms all of their suspicions about what happens
behind closed doors at churches. As Ted says in the movie, churches are a
business, and he was bad for business so they made him disappear.
the years, while making these films, I got on all of the mailing lists of the
different church ministries. Needless to says, the fundraising calls I get
from these groups are very un-Christian. Last night, my two year old (who was
baptized in the Catholic church) answered the phone, and it was a man from some
church group asking for money to “Stop Obama and the baby killers in
Congress from butchering babies.” My son repeated, “Church mama,
Obama baby killa.” God is bigger than that!