The New Christians

Last night, I watched the HBO documentary, The Trials of Ted Haggard, and then caught the second half of Ted and Gayle Haggard’s appearance on Larry King Live.

I went in quite skeptically.  I know a couple persons who knew/know Ted, and they describe him as something of a meglomaniac.  No surprise, Alexandra Pelosi paints Ted as a sympathetic figure.  In fact, using footage from her earlier documentary that features Haggard, it’s clear that she has a real affection for him.  Through the doc and the LKL appearance, I couldn’t really get a handle on Ted.  He’s pretty circumspect on many issues; for instance, he just wouldn’t answer the question when a caller from Orlando who described himself as a gay Christian man asked Ted about the possibilities of being a gay Christian. Ted’s response was basically: read your Bible and get into a good church.  Ted obviously doesn’t feel the authority to judge anyone right now, which is surely smart on his part.

What stunned me, both in the doc and more acutely on LKL, was Gayle Haggard.  Either she is one of the finest actors I’ve ever seen, or she is one of the most spiritually and psychologically Haggard2.jpghealthy persons on this planet.  She answered every question with composure.  She’s not the stand-by-your-man-no-matter-what, mindless, conservative evangelical woman that some have portrayed her to be.  Nor is she the unkempt, sexually uninterested wife that Mark Driscoll infamously insinuated when the scandal broke (of course, Mark’s orginal post is gone, but the Internet never forgets!).

She is, instead, thoughtful, kind, gracious, and forgiving.  She has stuck with Ted through a truly horrific experience.  She has accepted his remorse and granted him forgiveness.  And, as a cherry on top, the Haggard’s eldest son, Marcus, joined them for the last bit on LKL and he was even more composed than Gayle.  This is a truly extraordinary family…

…Or, they are positioning themselves for a new career.  I’ve been told by one insider that the Haggards, basically broke, are hoping to establish an income by writing and speaking about their trials.  Indeed, at the end of LKL, both Gayle and Ted said several times that they want to “communicate their story.”  Fishing for a book deal? Speaking gigs? A reality TV show?  Very possibly.  So, my cynical side has to acknowledge the possibility that Gayle’s (and Ted’s and Marcus’s) grace and composure is actually a patina, covering a family in great distress trying to dig themselves out of a massive financial hole.

I suppose time will tell.

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