Of Meth and Men

1595550526 01 LZZZZZZZWhen I saw the transcripts of the Rev. Ted Haggard’s phone message, my first thought was that it sounded more like a call to his dealer. That would have still been a big story but more of a local affair. You know, “Pastor of Megachurch Bought Meth from Sketchy Guy.”

Without the allegations by gay prostitute Michael Jones that he had turned tricks for Haggard about once a month over a three-year period, it’s fair to say that it wouldn’t have got very far. Or at least I think that’s fair to say. (If you disagree, feel free to make the case in comments.)

In other words, this story traveled as far as it did because of our attitudes about hypocrisy and especially hypocrisy about sex. Type “Haggard” into Google News. You’ll get no fewer than 2,000 results, including dozens of foreign news outlets.

Regardless of the result of Jones’ second polygraph test, the story has now been downgraded. Given his personal history, Jones never had much credibility, and he was pretty frank that he was doing this to damage Haggard and hurt the efforts to ban gay marriage and save the Republicans from certain doom.

Journalists aren’t going to want to get burned again and risk the attendant charges of bias for taking sides in the midterms.

Now an independent board of overseers (note to reporters: they’re not from Haggard’s megachurch) will decide if buying Meth and massages from a gay prostitute and lying about it are cause to fire him. My guess: the board will at least decide that Haggard can’t be head pastor anymore, and they’ll probably fire his ass.

As for the larger implications for this story, well, it’s probably worth looking at what the National Association of Evangelicals will be like without Haggard as its president.

In its earlier form, the scandal could have helped to depress the evangelical vote or get out what Terry Mattingly has written about in the past — the growing “anti-evangelical vote.” But the way the news cycle has sped up has made that less likely. A political consultant friend told me that he would have released a bombshell like this on Friday rather than Wednesday.

And hey, working journalists, the next time you have a story that’s all about hypocrisy, it might not be bad to get a quote from the guy who wrote the book on the subject.

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  • Michael

    Regardless of the result of Jones’s second polygraph test, the story has now been downgraded.

    Why do you say that? In essence, we have the word of someone who has told the truth (about providing drugs to Haggard) and the word of an admitted liar. We don’t know that Jones lied about the sex, but we do know that Haggard lied in his original denial about, at least, the drugs. Why do we assume he’s told us everything?

    As Andrew Sullivan pointed out, Haggard has essentially admitted to being naked in a room with a male prostitute and buying drugs from the man who was supposed to give him a “massage,” but not having sex or doing drugs. There’s an awful lot of drama missing from that scene and there are still a lot of questions about Haggard.

    I’d argue the story is going to get bigger before it gets downgraded.

  • Eric

    I’m not sure the story has been downgraded either. Part of the problem is that Haggard’s story isn’t very believable, at least at this point. It’s kind of like Bill Clinton saying he didn’t inhale. Clinton very well may be telling the truth on that, but most people don’t believe him.

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  • YetAnotherRick

    Excuse me if this is repetitious, but to suggest the story has been downgraded is the worst kind of self-serving spin, and very poor journalism.

  • http://www.jeremylott.net Jeremy Lott

    It’s not journalism, it’s criticism and analysis.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    In other words, it’s Jeremy’s opinion.

    We’ll have to see what happens in the coverage on Saturday and Sunday.

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  • Jeff

    To be honest I think the meth allegations are a bigger deal than the gay sex thing. I don’t really have any good reasoning why, but I find it more “shocking.” (Insofar as anything can be said to be “shocking” in the world we live in.)

    In all honesty, I find Haggard’s story more believable at this point. Jones failed the lie detector test. More specifically, the portions he failed had to do with the sexual relationship. Furthermore, the only claim he can substantiate (so far) is the drug related one.

    BUT! That being said, this is where I have doubt, and where I think there is a MAJOR hole in Haggard’s story… (Other than the fact that he already lied, i.e. in the interview televised on Wednesday night where he denied all accusations.) Per Haggard’s account, he initially met Jones for a massage. He was referred to Jones through a hotel he was staying at in Denver. IF the massage was completely innocent, as Haggard claims, and he did not initially approach Jones with plans of buying Meth, then WHY did Haggard use an alias??? THAT is a glaring question, and one that I have not seen addressed so far. (And I’ve been following this fairly closely.)

  • http://www.jeremylott.net Jeremy Lott

    Jeff,

    That’s a good question.

    Jeremy

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  • Dan B

    Sorry. It is complete and utter nonsense that the meth angle, according to Jeff, is the “bigger deal” over the gay and adulterous sexual deviancy that the minister has engaged in. Search your self and you will discover that you are holding to one last straw. If only the preacher is guilty of the “meth” thing, then I can handle it! If only this hyprocite didn’t endanger his wife and family’s sense of pride and christian fulfillment, not to mention his wife’s health, then perhaps it will all be o.k. But that fact is that it is not o.k. The fact is that Ted Haggard is a strange individual who has probably spent his entire life running from his sexual proclivities. The fact is that he is a deviant of the worst order, and just as the Judas Priests in the Catholic Church, he has succeeded in comprosmising his message and therefore in doing great harm to the work of Christians everywhere, especially those in the evangelical movement.
    This, however, should not surprise any of us. We should expect it; and in fact it should make us come out in droves to strike the acceptance of this kind of behavior down at the polls. It corrupts the soul but more importantly, in this political season, it also contnues to wreak havoc on the culture. It is still people like the radical left-wing Gay advocates – and not Ted Haggard – howevermthat we need to watch out for the most, as it is heresy and not hyprocisy which is still the most damaging and alwasy will be to restoring a healthy culture and society, with its focus on traditional western AND Christian values. To sin and to admit it is a sin in its aftermath is still the better alternative than to sin in blind and self-affirming righteousness, such as the cultural warriors on the left wish to do..Just one man’s humble analysis.

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  • squirt

    Christianity as defended by the apologists in this forum is TOXIC POISON which damages the natural order on this planet. This stems from your claim that all mankind is fundamentally flawed and requires your particular form of salvation. Your bible has filled your head with TOXIC ideas about right and wrong based on the irrational authority you give to magic (miracles) and fortune-telling (prophesy).

    You say ‘love the sinner and hate the sin’ but your automatic label of ’sinner’ is nothing more than self-righteous judgment which by its definition prevents you from loving anything.

    SIN DOES NOT EXIST IN REALITY. It’s a manmade construct, a concept in language, used to describe reality, but not the thing itself. Do animals sin? Do trees? Do rocks? Do stars? Why humans, then? Please, give it a rest. It doesn’t make rational sense.

    Belief in the SUPERNATURAL, ghosts and demons and heaven paved in gold, now this is crazy thinking. Try for a change the idea that mankind has a NATURAL place on this planet and that we belong here in nature doing exactly what we do, warts and all. There is no need for a messiah because there’s nothing to save. If ever there was an ANTI-CHRIST idea, this is it. The antithesis of Christianity’s message is that there’s NOTHING WRONG WITH US just as there’s nothing wrong with cats or dogs or ants or worms or dirt or water or air. It’s all part of the natural order of things.

    This is not to say that mistakes can be made, learned from, and improved upon. But instead of harping about right and wrong, try asking the question “Is it working?” Is it working for me to do this? Answering this question can yield different answers at different times, for sure, and will give you insight and integrity without the TOXIC condemnation and irrational fear of eternal consequences. Try it? You might find that it works. You also may find that love, compassion and forgiveness become easier to make manifest in your world.

    Or you can pray in fear for the rapture and an end to it all. It’s your choice

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  • http://www.jeremylott.net Jeremy Lott

    Well, thanks for sharing, squirt.

  • owlafaye

    Nice post squirt…Christians sure can twist the simplest of things, can’t they?

    owlafaye