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.

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