In the Closet with Pastor Ted

by Lorette C. Luzajic
Part 29 of Pillars of Faith

Trapped by Fidelity

Pastoral trysts with twinks are blamed on everything from queer demons, to weak flesh, to tests of faith. The most obvious reason- “I’m gay”- seems unthinkable.

In the case of  Rev. Ted Haggard of New Life Church, also then-president of the National Association of Evangelicals, another preacher went so far as to insinuate the blame for such dalliances rests on the wife.

A woman just might push her husband to liaison with men and get high on meth in a sleazy motel. In Kathryn Joyce’s brilliant book, Quiverfull, she quotes pastor Mark Driscoll on his blog: “It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go,” Driscoll wrote.  Since a woman may feel her husband is “trapped into fidelity” she may not bother being “sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about…”

But Haggard himself was at least noble enough in his resignation letter to point out that she had nothing to do with it.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock’n’Roll

Haggard was born in Indiana, saved in Texas, and “educated” at Oral Roberts U. In Colorado, his brand of candid apostleship grew a church from a basement to a strip mall to the New Life megachurch of 14 000. But in 2005, it all fell apart. Prostitute Mike Jones found out his client of three years was a hugely influential Christian pastor and adviser to the White House. Jones told ABC he had to “expose the hypocrisy.” Later, another man claimed Pastor Ted sent him dirty text and jerked off in front of him.

What followed is familiar by now:  Ted denied allegations of cheap sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Church brothers blamed the defamation on the evil gay agenda. Ted even passed a series of volunteer polygraphs. Then his story shifted: he’d had a massage but not sex from his hired hand. Later still, Ted admitted that he was a hypocrite and liar.

I don’t often empathize with disgraced pillars of faith. But there was, to me, always something affable under Ted’s creepy countenance.  When he said a part of him “is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life,” my heart went out to him.  It is no small horror to grow up believing your sexuality is “repulsive and dark.” Later, he told Oprah, “I was so ashamed…that dark area of my life that I’d worked so hard to keep secret and fight against was coming to the surface…”.

Back Into the Closet

But to my dismay, Ted didn’t use his influence to bring truth to light. He drove it further back into the closet. Seeing as the world already knew, this would have been a great chance to proclaim that hypocrisy was the sin- not being gay. He could have helped countless suffering. He could have demonstrated to gay church kids a role model of a happy, healthy gay man who made it through the trial by fire, who turned his deepest shame into triumph.

Instead, Ted went into “restoration” and conversion therapy and is now “heterosexual” again. “I don’t think I’m gay,” Ted told Oprah.

It was a missed opportunity to point out that if we all view our sexuality as empowering and natural, there will be a lot less slimy slinking around and lying. This message can liberate gay and straight people alike: perhaps if men aren’t brought up in shame, they won’t have to beat or violate women who provoke their desire. Maybe women who aren’t taught that their entire value rests on their “purity” will start feeling valuable instead of soiled.

I hope the next time Ted’s caught with his pants around his ankles, he’ll find a real therapist. Maybe he’ll read a copy of Troy Perry’s The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay. But for now, Ted has merely placated the homo-loathing hordes who helped create his internal hell, spread disinformation, and justify discrimination. He has chosen to rejoin their ranks. And he’s still deceiving the one who needs his love and honesty the most: himself.

  • nazani14

    “Pastors’ wives who really let themselves go ….” I doubt it’s feeling comfortable with their husbands’ fidelity that is responsible for becoming frumps. More likely it’s the incessant demands made on their time by children, model housekeeping church duties, etc. Plus, church ladies are constantly bombarded with messages about personal vanity. Taking time and money to go to exercise classes, pursue a secular hobby, get some help with one’s appearance – just about everything that makes a woman stay healthy and mentally alive – is discouraged as self-indulgent. I even see this syndrome among non-religious women, when the economy got bad, women gave up all sorts of personal activities before suggesting that maybe their husbands and children could forgo the latest gadget or expensive activity.

    Not bother being sexually available to their husbands? Well, yeah, it IS a bother to play the concubine after you’ve been on your feet doing menial tasks and being a pure-minded parent all day.

  • http://thesnideatheist.blogspot.com the snide atheist

    If a man’s wife letting herself go results in him becoming sexually attracted to other men, the homosexual population must be about 10 times higher than previously thought.

    • Custador

      Good grief, every relatinoship has a honeymoon phase – I can’t say I’ve ever felt compelled to go suck another man’s penis when my girlfriends have stopped wearing matching underwear whenever we meet, though!

      • Yoav

        That’s because you’re not a TRUE CHRISTIAN™.

  • Yoav

    Driscoll being a medieval sexist A-hole, how surprising [evil smirk]. And apparently Teddy now think he has over repented whatever that mean.

  • Sunny Day

    This is another data point about the truth of the statement: “Homosexuality is a Choice”. Because the speaker is choosing to be Heterosexual.

    • UrsaMinor

      The speaker is choosing to act heterosexual, not be heterosexual.

      • Custador

        I still think sexuality is a nonsense concept and a societal construct. In societies where it didn’t exist (Sparta, for example), everybody had sex with everybody. Plus, out of 3.25 billion of whichever gender you say you’re not attracted to, don’t you think there might be a couple who could turn your head?

        • Siberia

          This.

        • UrsaMinor

          Certainly there is a lot more complexity to human sexual attraction than most societies are willing to recognize, and gender/sexual behavior rules are mostly prescriptive social constructs. But all of human sexual attraction as a social construct? That ignores a lot of biological data (INAH3, for example).

  • objectifier

    I remember seeing the interview Richard Dawkins did with him where he admonished Richard not to be arrogant. Wow, how much more arrogant can you get than ranting against homosexuality while hiring gay hookers, ranting against drugs while using them with his gay hooker buddies. And this was someone who had regular conversations with W? Of course W had his own drug problems. The more I see about the fundamentalists christians the more I am convinced that the God they believe in cannot exist – surely that wrathful, vengeful SOB would have nailed both Reverend Teddy and W with a bolt or two of lightning.

  • tea

    I bet he cries a lot when he has sex with his wife. Maybe he just thinks of Jesus when he does it. Those rock hard abs, long beautiful hair, scratchy beard….. oh, whoops….. ummmm I mean, how about them chiefs vs the cowboys. FOOTBALL….. man stuff….. PENIS

  • Brian M

    God, yes. Some Contemporary Christian music is almost PORNOGRAPHIC in their graphic LURRRRRVE for TEH LORD. Especially as modern religious art portrays Christ as a tall, lean, white northern European…(or Italian at most)

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

    But to my dismay, Ted didn’t use his influence to bring truth to light. He drove it further back into the closet. Seeing as the world already knew, this would have been a great chance to proclaim that hypocrisy was the sin- not being gay. He could have helped countless suffering. He could have demonstrated to gay church kids a role model of a happy, healthy gay man who made it through the trial by fire, who turned his deepest shame into triumph.

    Plenty of valid criticisms can be leveled against Ted; I would agree with plenty of them.

    But this one isn’t fair or valid. Ted is clearly and obviously struggling with his sexuality. Unquestionably, he experienced homosexual impulses that he acted upon. But just as obviously, he’s experienced heterosexual impulses that he has acted upon.

    You may not agree that he’s chosen to squelch the homosexual impulses he has and may or may not still experience. But to criticize him for missing an opportunity to “come out” is an argument based purely on ignorance, i.e., neither you, nor I, nor anyone else not named Ted Hagard knows what his sexuality is.

    So ironically, you’re peddling about the same intolerance you would accuse him and others of. What if he isn’t gay? What if it was genuine confusion? But more importantly, how would you know with enough certainty to accuse him of anything?

    • http://www.fascinatingpeople.wordpress.com Lorette C. Luzajic

      Thank you all, as ever, for your lively, thoughtful comments. I read all of them and appreciate the laughter, appreciate being challenged or seeing things from a different perspective, and of course, appreciate support.

      In response, brgulker, fair enough- it is true that one cannot make an inference like this with absolute certainty. However, the likelihood of longterm sexual relationships with at least two other men, one involving methamphetamine- not exactly a gateway drug- and the other involving gay porn- is slim for anyone who is not sexually attracted to men.

      Perhaps it is not Ted’s responsibility to help the thousands of gay kids suffering under religious oppression and bullying- but then whose responsibility is it? If someone professes to be a moral guardian and leader, is it not okay for us “liberals” to ask them to fulfill that profession? Certainly, Christians feel he IS fulfilling that, by renouncing his actions and rejoining forces with his wife. The crux here rests on what Ted’s true identity is, inside. Which is not my business, in a sense, you’re right. But in another sense, it IS my business, and everyone’s. Religious liberty to hate gays has long been protected- judging, belittling, unfair hiring, slandering, making fun of people with “confused” genders with zero understanding of the biological underpinnings of intersexuality, writing whole books and speeches and sermons on the evils of homosexuals. My loved ones are blamed for all manner of abominations and devil worship, they are beaten by their parents or forced to live on the streets, they are exiled from their homelands, and their private lives are disgraced and taunted- and historically and around the world today, they are put to death by these Christians for their strange kind of love. Ted himself has loudly spoken up in judgement against my friends.

      Hence, I simply don’t agree that it’s too much for me to lament his silence and missed opportunity to fix some of this. Do I sympathize with his internal torment? Without question, I do. But I still would have liked to see him do the hard thing and make some real changes.

      • katiesays

        @ Lorette: Thank you for this – you said what I would want to say perfectly. Well done.


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