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Ted

Ted November 3, 2006

OK, apparently this is true. And this is big. Really big.

"I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver," Ted Haggard said with a calm specificity during an interview with a Denver TV reporter on Wednesday night as controversy broke around him. "I am steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife."

Ted_haggardNevertheless, the pastor of one of the most prominent mega-churches in the country — and one of President George W. Bush's advisors on evangelical issues — has taken a leave of absence from his own 14,000-member New Life Church and temporarily resigned as president of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 evangelical churches across the U.S., after Mike Jones, a gay massage therapist — and self described professional male escort in Denver — told local radio and TV stations that he sold Haggard gay sex for three years. Jones also said that Haggard used drugs with him. …

Last night, New Life Church's acting senior pastor Ross Parsley told Denver's KTTV News that Haggard had confessed to some of the alleged indiscretions.

The National Association of Evangelicals is the primary mainstream organization for America's evangelical Christian community, representing tens of thousands of churches all over the country. Haggard and the NAE aren't as visibly political as the spotlight-seeking media moguls — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, etc. — who get most of the attention as the leadership of the religious right. And the NAE isn't as blatantly political or viciously partisan as those groups tend to be. Haggard himself, and the NAE in general, tend to be more cautious, more pastoral, and a shade more nuanced. But the NAE is also a lot bigger and, in subtler ways, far more influential than it's more visible siblings in the religious right.

Here's how Haggard himself describes the group on what is, incredibly, still the front page of the NAE's Web site:

The NAE is composed of sixty member denominations representing 45,000 churches across America; our numbers generate influence and power, our diversity creates integrity and strength, and our unity produces effective value for the Body of Christ. Together we can accomplish more than we could ever achieve on our own.

He goes on to attempt to rally political support — something he does fairly often — against the "radical extremist … secular humanism" he sees as attacking the United States Air Force.

Haggard's political efforts to keep atheists away from airmen are less important than his other, more emphatic, political efforts, namely those in which he has been a prominent and aggressive opponent of same-sex marriage. The NAE's efforts in this regard have taken some pains to avoid demonizing homosexuals on a personal level, which I suppose is nice, but the upshot of their uncompromising stance is the same: gay people are enemies of The Family, paragons of the wickedness that is eroding our godly nation. And they're going to Hell.

MikeHaggard has waged this political battle against homosexuality while living a lie. That requires two, related responses. The first is on a political level. Haggard and his allies have been fighting a political fight — they have been trying to wield power to force others to comply with their wishes. And it's perfectly legitimate to respond to power with power — to take full political advantage of this political actor's hypocrisy and to press that advantage. Full court press. Haggard signed up for this by stepping forward to wield that power and he can't complain now when it's time to reap what he has sown.

But the second response — which I can't ignore — has to do with Ted Haggard the person who is, among other things, my "brother in Christ." There's a script for how this will play out in the evangelical community — a script written out on that very same NAE page cited above:

… homosexuality [is] a sin that, if persisted in, brings grave consequences in this life and excludes one from the Kingdom of God.

Individual Christians, ministers, and congregations should compassionately proclaim the Good News of forgiveness and encourage those involved in homo­sexual practices to cease those practices, accept forgiveness, and pray for deliverance as nothing is impossible with God. Further, we should accept them into fellowship upon confession of faith and repentance, as we would any other forgiven sinner.

All that language — forgiveness, deliverance, confession, repentance — really means here only that Haggard needs to go back to living a lie. If he agrees to live that lie, and with clenched teeth to continue proclaiming that others must join in living that lie, then Haggard will be "accepted" back "into fellowship."

Haggard is now seeking "spiritual advice and guidance," and there are tens of thousands of Very Nice Christian people praying for him. But his spiritual guides and advisors are all going to tell him to follow that script. Those people praying for him are all praying for him to follow that script. And that script is evil. That script is a lie.

For Christ's sake, enough with the lies. The last thing Haggard needs is to be "accepted" into a fellowship that cannot accept who he really is. Both he and that fellowship have just been given an opportunity to abandon lies. I'm praying that they will recognize that opportunity and take it.

I'll have more to say as the reactions to this scandal arise, but for now let me direct you to Jeff Sharlet of The Revealer, who is probably the most knowledgeable commenter on Haggard and the NAE. Sharlet's post, Haggard's Downfall includes the full text of his long Harper's article on Haggard and his church. It's an insightful portrait, although, as Sharlet says, he apparently missed the bigger story by removing some thoughts on "the role of sex in Ted's theology." Some of those thoughts are found in "Sex as a Weapon," a review essay in Nerve.


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109 responses to “Ted”

  1. Fred –
    It’s possible that what Ted Haggard is “admitting” to is the drug use, not the relationship. As I understand it, the accuser had an unsatisfactory result in his lie detector test, whic at least opens up the possibility that some of the accusations are untrue.
    That doesn’t take away from the general usefulness of what you’re writing, but I think it’s still a little premature. As to the larger issue of the impact of this situation on the political side of Haggard’s world, there’s no question that it’s big. Mind-bogglingly big.

  2. Ted just said on TV that he originally contracted with Mr. Jones to get a “massage”. I’d say this is one for the religious scandal history books.
    Scratch a Republican, find a hypocrite every time.

  3. How many more well-known Evangelical leaders are secretly homosexual, adulterer, thieves, corrupt, etc. — practicing the very things against which they so vociferously and hypocritically preach?

  4. Evangelical Leader Takes a Page, Or Two, from Bill Clinton
    As a rule, I am not inclined to believe a male escort who, less than a week before an election, claims on a local TV station that the head of the National Association of Evangelicals paid him for sex. (Kudos to GetReligion.org for the story idea). But check out the denial from the accused, the Rev. Ted Haggard:
    I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver,” said Haggard. “I am steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.”
    Note the use of the present tense. The Rev. Haggard didn’t say he has never had a homosexual relationship, nor that he has always been steady or faithful to his wife. He said he is steady and is faithful. That is exactly the language that Bill Clinton, used in his first national interview, with Jim Lehrer, after L’Affaire Lewinsky broke.
    Maybe Rev. Haggard misspoke. Maybe he once cheated on his wife, just not with a male escort. But I suspect he’s guilty of some sexual misconduct….

  5. there’s a big part of me that believes these deeply closeted gay conservatives/evangelicals aren’t so much hypocrites as much as they believe they’ve made the right choice to remain closeted and wish others would, too. the difference between homosexuality pre-Stonewall and homosexuality today has nothing to do with its existence or its “sinful” nature. it has to do with the idea that people can be completely open about their sexuality and lead full and complete lives just like anyone else. this is what the right has a problem with. this is what the right wants to prevent and/or reverse.
    i also think a lot of the hypocracy has more to do with closeted right-winger political figures’ bitterness over their need to stay closeted. most of these guys came of political age at a time when you had to have the smiling blond wife to be either a successful republican candidate or a successful evangelical preacher. so they made their choices, assuming that they were right and things would stay that way forever. and now it turns out they were dead wrong, and they could probably have found a way to be both successful and openly gay. now they feel like if they have to be miserable and pathetic closety types, so should everyone else.
    they’re not against gay marriage because it’s a sin, or because of family values or the sanctity of marriage. they’re against it for everyone else because they know they can’t have it for themselves.

  6. I can’t get really too worked up about hypocrisy per se; I’ve always felt that if you aren’t a hypocrite, your standards are too low. But I do feel sorry for Rev. Haggard’s wife and children here; they didn’t ask to be drawn into this mess, and his children especially will have to live with it longer than he will. Him I have little sympathy for; he had to know this sort of thing gets out sooner or later, and may well have hoped it would surface at some point.

  7. Some bits in the Harper’s “Soldiers for Christ” article leap to mind in light of these recent revelations, namely, the decoration at the World Prayer Center.
    “Each point directs the eye to a contemporary painting, most depicting gorgeous, muscular men—one is a blacksmith, another is bound, fetish-style, in chains—in various states of undress. My favorite is The Vessel, by Thomas Blackshear, a major figure in the evangelical-art world.[2] Here in the World Prayer Center is a print of The Vessel, a tall, vertical panel of two nude, ample-breasted, white female angels team-pouring an urn of honey onto the shaved head of a naked, olive-skinned man below. The honey drips down over his slab-like pecs and his six-pack abs into the eponymous vessel, which he holds in front of his crotch.”

  8. Yes, this is big news. Yes, Ted may be a conservative hypocrite who wants others to “live the lie.” Yes, this also may be a smear campaign against him (anything’s possible).
    What troubles me the most, however, is this:
    Last night, New Life Church’s acting senior pastor Ross Parsley told Denver’s KTTV News that Haggard had confessed to some of the alleged indiscretions.
    Maybe it’s just me, but why is the Acting Senior Pastor telling a tv station what Mr. Haggard confessed to? Being an Episcopalian all my life, and now an Episcopal priest, I find that statement appalling.
    Or does the word “confess” not have the same meaning in the Evangelical tradition as it does in the Episcopal and Roman Catholic traditions (as well as other mainline groups I would assume — PCUSA, UMC, UCC)?

  9. “I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver”
    1) It wasn’t “a” man…it was like 3 or 4
    2) It was in Boulder
    3) I didn’t hang out with him or anything relationship-wise…it was just sex…

  10. What bugs me is that this is just going to re-affirm in the minds of so many people that the “homosexual lifestyle” is one of deception, promiscuity and drug use. They think that being gay means you use illicit drugs and have anonymous sex with prostitutes. And they can’t see that a lot of that behavior is driven by their own unwillingness to allow people to live open, honest lives. People who just want to get married are demonized and accused of threatening the very future of our civilization for the sake of gratification of perverse desires.
    Amy Sullivan opined today that this could be a watershed event, that suddenly millions of Evangelicals will “know” someone who’s gay, and that will force them to confront preconceived notions. I suspect not. I think this will serve only to confirm them and drive up support for anti-gay legislation and sentiment.

  11. As an atheist (and this may be an obvious point, but anyway), I’m always amazed at how willing non-Catholic Christians are to hold people up as paragons of virtue or whatever, only to be (inevitably) disappointed when these paragons fail to live up to their self-proclaimed values. Isn’t that why these people aren’t Catholic? Wasn’t it the whole point way back in the day (1500s? can’t remember) to not have anyone between you and God? Isn’t this why non-Catholics talked so badly about Catholics for so long (and some still do, FYI), that whole “papacy” thing? What are Dobson, Falwell, Haggard, et al, if not the Baptist equivalent of bishops or the Pope? Do they think that if they don’t make it official with a title (like Lord High Holier Than Thou) then it doesn’t count? Just asking.

  12. Via getreligion.org:
    It will be very sad to follow this story because of the many, many families who’ve followed him to Colorado Springs. Along with the Wilken interview, I highly recommend a lengthy article, Soldiers of Christ, by Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s Magazine from May 2005. In re-reading the article this morning about Haggard and those families who followed him to the “city of faith,” I found this passage ironic:
    “Pastor Ted soon began upsetting the devil’s plans. He staked out gay bars, inviting men to come to his church.”
    The article is at
    http://harpers.org/SoldiersOfChrist-20061103288348488.html

  13. Or does the word “confess” not have the same meaning in the Evangelical tradition as it does in the Episcopal and Roman Catholic traditions (as well as other mainline groups I would assume — PCUSA, UMC, UCC)?
    No, it doesn’t. They don’t have the seal of the confessional. Pastors aren’t supposed to discuss with non-interested parties what is discussed in pastoral counseling sessions, but what two pastors might discuss/confess to each other over a shared meal is not in any way considered a protected communication.

  14. “How many more well-known Evangelical leaders are secretly homosexual, adulterer, thieves, corrupt, etc. — practicing the very things against which they so vociferously and hypocritically preach?”
    I have gotten the impression from some (not all, but some) of the fiercely Evangelical church members that I have met in my life that they are railing against sin in others to supress the guilt in their own tortured consciences. It certainly explains a lot of the fixation on “sexual” sins (pre-marital sex, homosexual relationships, etc.)
    I read ths story in today’s newspaper and my first thought was about Jesus and his preaching on the mote and the beam.
    mmack

  15. All this language of Haggard “living a lie” and being asked to go back to “living a lie” is rather premature, and unneccesarily hostile to Christians who do (rightly or wrongly) believe that homosexual activity is a sin. First off, we still do not know that Haggard is a homosexual. It has already been established that, although Haggard has confessed to some of the allegations, these need not necessarily include the sexual activity. Second, assuming that Haggard is, in fact, homosexual, going back to the wife and kids he has already made a public commitment to (the presumed “script” that he would be asked to follow) is not “living a lie,” even if Haggard’s religious beliefs dictate that he must forswear the sexual relationships that he is “naturally” inclined to (marriage and family is about a lot more than just sex).
    If Haggard is gay, I would certainly agree that he has not, up to now, been honest (either to himself or to others) about his sexuality, and he needs to be honest about that. But I believe that “traditional” Christian teaching on homosexuality still allows for someone to be honest about one’s sexuality without engaging in “sinful” acts.
    Probably an unpopular view around here, but I had to say it….

  16. Christianity Today profile of Haggard.
    I just realized that he reminds me of the “religious leader” in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie.

  17. Wasn’t it the whole point way back in the day (1500s? can’t remember) to not have anyone between you and God?
    well, not exactly. and it’s complicated.
    the reformation started out (in 1517) against the issue of the sale of plenary indulgences. in other words, the catholic church started out this brilliant plan wherein you could basically buy your way into heaven if you gave money to the church. luther (and many others) were disgusted with this, primarily, and in fact didn’t so much want to leave the church and establish their own popeless branch so much as reform the catholic church by ending a few really egregious practices.
    not wanting “anyone between you and god” was a factor, though, as was a general lack of trust in the authority of the papacy. and things like reading the bible in one’s native language, the ability of secular people to commune with god via a priestly or saintly intermediary, and the end of a lot of the trappings of priestly authority were major themes of early protestant theology. but those ideas weren’t really what started the reformation. and they also don’t prevent anyone from the need to have mentors and leaders, let alone putting those leaders and mentors on pedestals.

  18. “the ability of secular people to commune with god via a priestly or saintly intermediary” should have been “the ability of secular people to commune with god without a priestly or secular intermediary”. whoops.

  19. Evangelist admits meth, massage, no sex
    Evangelist Ted Haggard admitted Friday that he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a gay prostitute who claims he was paid for drug-fueled trysts by the outspoken gay marriage opponent.
    Talking to reporters outside his house Friday, Haggard denied the sex allegations but said that he did buy meth from the man because he was curious.
    “I bought it for myself but never used it,” he said. “I was tempted, but I never used it.”
    “But I want to say one thing to my congregation,” he said. “I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that man, Mr. Jones.”

  20. Ted should just say that, as part of an outreach effort, he got involved in a Dungeons & Dragons game, and was required to do these things because of the rules, and found himself unable to refuse.
    Hey, it could work.

  21. This is, as ever, an excellent and insightful post. What brings me to delurk, though, is one point i feel that you (and everyone else) are mistaken about on the issue — the idea that Haggard has been “living a lie”, that he’s “really” a homosexual.
    I’m here to tell you (as one of those liberal, freethinking people with an ambiguous sexual identity) that deciding for someone else that he’s “really” gay or “really” straight is (a) never useful, and (b) frequently wrong.
    Was he having a sexual relationship with his wife? Then isn’t he “really” straight? No? Why not? Because he got his cock sucked by a guy? Well, what percentage of homosexual-to-heterosexual conduct makes you “really” gay? Most of American culture seems to operate on a sort of blood-quantum theory of gayness for men (but not for women!): if you’ve EVER had a male-male encounter, you’re “really” gay, no matter what.
    He certainly WAS living MANY lies — among them the lie that he was faithful to his wife and the lie that he was a good shepherd to his flock — but i object to your (and everyone else’s) implication that the “lie” that matters is the “lie” about his sexuality — whether it WAS a lie, or not!

  22. but wait. as someone else who also has an “ambiguous” sexual identity, i still have felt that i’ve lied to someone when for whatever reason i allow them to believe i’m “straight” if/when that comes up. i feel that i’m lying to my grandparents when they ask why i haven’t found some nice boy to marry me yet. i feel that i’m lying in feminist political meetings when the issue of queer feminism comes up and i don’t immediately declare myself in that camp. i sometimes even feel that i’m lying to acquaintances who ask if i have a boyfriend or if a male friend is my boyfriend, when i just say “no” rather than adding some sort of explanation or disclaimer. if i were to marry a man and have occasional extracurriculars with women while either saying i was heterosexual or allowing everyone in my life to believe i was, i would most certainly be “living a lie”. especially if i based my entire career around the denunciation of homosexuality and worked politically to block progress on gay rights issues.
    it’s not just a matter of him really being gay when everyone thought he was straight. it’s his wholesale hypocrisy and dishonesty. i.e. it’s the fact that he’s been living a lie.

  23. What are Dobson, Falwell, Haggard, et al, if not the Baptist equivalent of bishops or the Pope?
    Well, Dobson’s not a Baptist. he’s a Nazarene. Nazarenes vote for a lot of their leaders, so if he was a Superintendant or something then maybe he’d have the right to issue ultimatums to other people. But I don’t believe he is. But I’ve been wondering the same thing. Once you start accepting and obeying without question the orders of some group of old guys you didn’t vote for and you’ve never even met, then what makes you so special? I always thought “thinking for yourself” was one of the plusses of Protestantism. When you stop doing that, what exactly have you become?

  24. or, adrienne, to make another example, this is why i wasn’t particularly skeeved by Jim McGreevey’s outing a few years back. i mean the fact that he was tangled in a sexual harrassment scandal definitely sucks, and he’s a shit if the allegations are true. but in terms of his sexuality, A) his ex-wife stood by him and i have no reason to believe they didn’t have an “understanding” (which is none of my business anyway), and B) he was a socially liberal democrat who as far as i’m aware never championed homophobic policy. he wasn’t “living a lie” in nearly the same way as folks like Haggard are.

  25. Interesting….
    In the video of today’s interview with Haggard, the one where he’s in his truck with his wife, he says he goes to Denver a lot because that’s where he does his writing…
    I’ve heard of authors going to a remote cottage or some place out of the way to do their writing, but a hotel in Denver?
    Surely Ted must know scads of wealthy people with remote vacation cabins in the area, which would be better for uninterrupted writing, if less convenient for massages.

  26. Here’s how Haggard himself describes the group on what is, incredibly, still the front page of the NAE’s Web site
    Not any more: “The NAE website is being updated. Please check back later for more information.”
    Thanks for the copy+paste, Fred.

  27. B-W: All this language of Haggard “living a lie” and being asked to go back to “living a lie” is rather premature, and unneccesarily hostile to Christians who do (rightly or wrongly) believe that homosexual activity is a sin.
    Not unnecessarily hostile, B-W. Christians who believe that “homosexual activity is a sin” are themselves being grossly and stupidly hostile, and deserve every scrap of the hostility they get back.
    Your views will be unpopular on this blog because Fred is one of the few evangelical Christians I’ve ever encountered who doesn’t think that homophobia is central to Christianity. But I’ve read so many Christian arguments for homophobia being the most important thing about being a practicing Christian that I think Fred’s kind of Christianity (seems to have something to do with love) must be fairly uncommon these days.

  28. The only thing I can say about this post Fred is that two or more wrongs don’t make “One” right. I think it’s best to let God be “The Judge” and for them who don’t believe in Our Heavenly Father, what ever could I say?

  29. Not unnecessarily hostile, B-W. Christians who believe that “homosexual activity is a sin” are themselves being grossly and stupidly hostile, and deserve every scrap of the hostility they get back.
    You’re equating the moral judgment with homophobia in a way that is common but I think unjustified — for example, as a Christian I believe that it is wrong (for people of any gender) to have sex before marriage. Most of my friends do it anyway as a matter of course, and it’s not something I go hassling people about, because it’s none of my business. I don’t lump “my friends who have sex before marriage” into a separate class of people that are somehow particularly evil or perverted, in fact it’s not something I think about much at all when I’m not in discussions like this. My point is that while you can have opinions about the morality of certain sexual actions, you don’t need to club people over the head with them, or think that people who disagree with you are particularly evil in a way that separates them from any other human beings.
    Now, I will agree that the vast majority of Christian rhetoric about homosexuality is fueled by homophobia, and that really bothers me, and is very damaging and polarizing. But I don’t think it’s an inevitable conclusion from the premise “homosexual sex is wrong”, or that people who believe that premise “deserve every scrap of hostility they get back” as you say. Many people (though sadly not enough) believe that premise without the extra baggage of thinking that homosexuality is The Most Important Sin, or that that prohibition is somehow more important than all of the other prohibitions, both sexual and non, found in the Bible.
    There is a disturbing tendency among Christians, well, especially American Christians, to be hyper-aware of Lust as one of the seven deadly sins, and demonize it, while blithely committing the other six. If you say, “Oh yeah, Bob has kind of a temper” (wrath) or “Bob is a man who loves his food” (gluttony) that’s just accepted with their personality, but “Bob once had a sexual encounter with another man” is in a completely separate category of Ultimate And Unforgivable Transgression in a way that I don’t think is really exhibited by, say, the Bible, or by Jesus, who apparently thought that calling your brother a fool was enough to put you in peril of hell, but was consistently forgiving of sexual indiscretion.

  30. David: You’re equating the moral judgment with homophobia in a way that is common but I think unjustified — for example, as a Christian I believe that it is wrong (for people of any gender) to have sex before marriage.
    And if you also feel that same-sex couples can, do, and should get married, then that’s certainly not a homophobic moral judgement. (I don’t agree with the morality, but it’s the combination of “people mustn’t have sex till they’re married” / “same-sex couples mustn’t be allowed to get married” that renders this particular moral judgement homophobic.)
    Now, I will agree that the vast majority of Christian rhetoric about homosexuality is fueled by homophobia, and that really bothers me, and is very damaging and polarizing. But I don’t think it’s an inevitable conclusion from the premise “homosexual sex is wrong”
    Er, no. The premise “homosexual sex is wrong” is a homophobic premise by its very nature. That doesn’t of course mean that everyone who believes that premise is actively homophobic – they may simply believe what they’ve been told and never thought about it. Once they’ve had a chance to think about it in an informed way, they may choose to turn away from hate or embrace it or enter a state of denial about it.

  31. For the vast majority of evangelical Christians, this will only serve to reinforce their suspicion of, and hostility to, “sins” of a sexual nature.

  32. Victor’s back! Thanks for being coherent this time. I’ll even agree with you.
    While final Judgement is clearly to be reserved, the schadenfreude is too much fun to resist in this case.
    Any bets on how long before alcohol is blamed, and Ted goes into “rehab”? At least he can’t blame a priest.

  33. cjmr’s husband: Any bets on how long before alcohol is blamed, and Ted goes into “rehab”? At least he can’t blame a priest.
    Why not? That sounds like the perfect out: “It wasn’t my fault! I happened to be in this Catholic church one time and a priest molested me!”
    Oh, wait. Quite a lot of his followers would get a look of suspicion on their faces and want to know what the hell he was doing in a Catholic church….

  34. Jesus Fucking Christ: evangelical bigwig opposed gay marriage “because it takes the dirt and danger out of clandestine sex with rent-a-men”

    media/blog coverage:
    -from Time Magazine
    -Reaction from the guy who wrote that Harper’s piece
    -my usual go-to-guy for stuff like this, who mentions that Haggard was one of the guys who supported the fundies running amuck at the U.S. Air Force Acad…

  35. Any bets on how long before alcohol is blamed, and Ted goes into “rehab”? At least he can’t blame a priest.
    As an earlier commenter noted, it will be demons. Ted is part of an evangelical movement that believes demons cause one trouble. Hopefully, Ted can get the meth & buttsex demons cast out and have a chance at a New Life.

  36. First of all, thank you for recognizing him as a “brother in Christ”. I’m sure the Falwells and Robertsons will hang him out to dry (what with all their love and compassion for struggling christian leadership).
    Still, even if he was only in it for the massage & the meth, why go to a gay prostitute? Why not your garden variety, heterosexual crack-whore?
    Some will say this is a detriment to christianity. I think it’s more of a detriment to the gay-community (once again).
    gredaadt

  37. And if you also feel that same-sex couples can, do, and should get married, then that’s certainly not a homophobic moral judgement. (I don’t agree with the morality, but it’s the combination of “people mustn’t have sex till they’re married” / “same-sex couples mustn’t be allowed to get married” that renders this particular moral judgement homophobic.)
    Thank you. This construction always drives me completely up the wall, especially as it’s the official position of the Catholic Church. It’s not that homosexuality is inherently sinful — it’s the sex outside of marriage that’s sinful. But you’re not allowed to get married if you’re in love with someone of the same sex. So if, God forbid, you should ever fall in love with a person of the same sex, you’re stuck in a nasty Catch-22 — either you constantly commit sin, or you give up the person you love entirely.

  38. Yeah, gredaadt, that’s what struck me, too. I can get the whole “everyone has a temptation” bit, but I should think that if your average megachurch evangelical pastor were to be tempted into indulging in mood-altering substances, he would be most likely to hit the bottle. I mean, what middle-aged successful conservative white guy says, “Hey, METH! That sounds like fun! Maybe I should try it…”
    And in the incredibly unlikely case that that such a construct did fire across his neurons, would the next thought then be, “Hmm, but where to buy it? I know — I’ll check the classifieds for a gay hooker who might sell some!”

  39. Hovind’s tax evasion has nothing to do with his Creationist views. They should be evaluated based on their own merits (or, rather, a lack thereof), not based on Hovind’s personal habits. This is known as the “Poisoning the Well” fallacy, and it works for everyone, Creationists and sane people alike.

  40. Well, Mnemosyne, that’s not quite fair. There are plenty of cases when one could legitimately “fall in love”, and yet acting on it sexually would be a sin — if one should fall in love with a married person, for example, or someone who was repelled by your feelings.
    Although I do support the right of gays to marry, and I do not consider homosexual sex to be sinful, I don’t buy that the peculiar and usually temporary combination of agape, philos, and eros that we call “falling in love” automatically morally justifies any behavior. Someone who does consider same-gender sex to be sinful, which is a quite legitimate understanding of many Biblical passages, can fairly argue that there are plenty of ways to express love that don’t trespass on even the most restrictive notions of sin.

  41. It’s not that homosexuality is inherently sinful — it’s the sex outside of marriage that’s sinful.
    Well, depends. The Bible does condemn homosexual sexual relations or at least gay sex,(we’re not so sure about lesbians) as sinful per se, without any referrence to marriage.
    There are plenty of cases when one could legitimately “fall in love”, and yet acting on it sexually would be a sin
    Isn’t there a passage in the New Testament saying every man who even looks at another (most likely married) woman in a lustful manner has already sinned in his heart?
    I don’t buy that the peculiar and usually temporary combination of agape, philos, and eros that we call “falling in love” automatically morally justifies any behavior
    100% there with you. But I’m not sure I get your point, hapax.

  42. It really shouldn’t surprise me, but I still can’t get over the fact that he’s more comfortable with publicly admitting to the meth-buying than he is with admitting to gay sex.

  43. Big event in Colorado Springs!

    Brian Flemming points out that Ted Haggard insists the biblical word on homosexuality is simple, and that the Bible says “They must be put to death.” I’m not really into throwing rocks at people, but maybe I’d be willing to…

  44. There are plenty of cases when one could legitimately “fall in love”, and yet acting on it sexually would be a sin — if one should fall in love with a married person, for example, or someone who was repelled by your feelings.
    True. But only gay relationships are given a blanket condemnation. No matter what the circumstances, they are wrong. Always. No exceptions.
    Is there anything else in all of Christianity that has the same blanket condemnation? Jesus told the crowd not to stone the adulteress. Justifiable homicide exists. Why is homosexuality the only absolutely unforgiveable sin?
    Someone who does consider same-gender sex to be sinful, which is a quite legitimate understanding of many Biblical passages, can fairly argue that there are plenty of ways to express love that don’t trespass on even the most restrictive notions of sin.
    Hey, if people choose to live completely celibate lives, that’s their choice. Where we seem to differ is that you think that people should have celibate lives imposed on them by outsiders who try to shame them into it by telling them that they’re going to burn in hell unless they pretend to be something they’re not.
    And I notice that many of the people who insist that people can completely control their gay or lesbian impulses tend to be caught with their pants around their ankles as Haggard was. Why do they insist that other people can completely control themselves when they themselves cannot?
    The Bible does condemn homosexual sexual relations or at least gay sex,(we’re not so sure about lesbians) as sinful per se, without any referrence to marriage.
    Well, kinda. As I understand it, there’s some dispute about whether there’s a blanket condemnation of all homosexuality, or whether it’s male prostitution (especially pagan temple prostitution) that is condemned. It depends on which translation you decide to believe is “the” translation.

  45. Bulbul: The Bible does condemn homosexual sexual relations or at least gay sex,(we’re not so sure about lesbians) as sinful per se, without any referrence to marriage.
    Actually, no. In the purity laws section of Leviticus, what is specifically condemned is for a man to “lie down with” (have sex with) another man “as if he were a woman”. Of course, eating a cheeseburger or a bacon roll is condemned in equally strong terms. (And gay men could fairly argue that as they don’t have sex with men “as if they’re women” – they have sex with men because they’re men.)
    There’s nothing else in the Old Testament that condemns sex between two men or two women, but there are two quite explicit same-sex romances. ;-)
    Paul screams a bit about “arse bandits” and “bed men” in a couple of letters, but in the middle of screaming about lots of other things, too.
    Jesus says nothing about same-sex sexual relations or relationships. But Philip and Bartholomew, among the disciples, are named as an example in same-sex “friendship ceremonies” closely resembling contemporary marriage, in the Orthodox Church… and who hasn’t read the gospel of John without noting that the writer keeps pointing to himself and saying “Me! Me! I’m the disciple who Jesus loved! He loved me!” ;-)
    Saying “the Bible does condemn homosexual sexual relations” is a statement so sweeping as to be inaccurate. Whenever someone says it, I do generally ask, “Do you mean the purity laws in Leviticus or do you mean the couple of lines in two of Paul’s letters?”

  46. What was Haggard doing in a Catholic church?
    Looking at the pictures of S. Sebastian, perhaps? Out of a pure and innocent interest in art history and the depiction of steadfastness in the face of martyrdom, of course.

  47. “It really shouldn’t surprise me, but I still can’t get over the fact that he’s more comfortable with publicly admitting to the meth-buying than he is with admitting to gay sex.”
    He’s caught between a cock and a hard place.

  48. That “Sex as a Weapon” link is fascinating.
    I find it hard to believe that there’s anyone who doesn’t find these ideas – best represented by the book title What Every Man Wants in a Woman – incredibly offensive. It’s the exact same thing that makes it difficult for me to read Cosmo or Vogue or whatever it is that girls who don’t subscribe to Shounen Jump read without spraining my eyes from excessive rolling. It’s this concept of a clearcut, absolute dichotomy; “man” and “woman,” or, as the aforesaid magazines invariably put it, “you” and “him.” It’s totemic, to a disturbing extent. There’s not even the assumption that “men” or “women” should be this way – it’s so implicit that they are this way that it never even comes into question.
    Maybe it’s only that the secret of my personal gender identity seems to be shaping up to be that I don’t have one. It might just be that I’m 20, and just getting to the point where I’m considered to fall into the category of “woman” and not “girl.” But it bothers me. At least when you’re younger it’s acknowledged that girls don’t always think or act particularly “girl”ishly.

  49. Meanwhile notorious creationist Kent Hovind’s conviction yesterday for tax fraud goes virtually unnoticed.
    Hovind is doing God’s work (the tax thing, not the creationism thing).
    A Matter of New Life and Meth
    …Alas for Haggard, this qualified admission might have had a bit more credibility had it not been for the earlier performance (which was very impressive, although the “what’d you say his name was?” gilded the lily slightly)….

  50. Not for the first time, I’m reminded of Lincoln’s comment about interracial marriage: Presumably the people who squeal the loudest against it are the ones who worry most that they’d give into the temptation.
    It also reminds me of Foley so aggressively standing against cybersex. It makes me wonder whether they’re coldbloodedly using attacks on their own sins (assuming Haggard is indeed guilty) as a cover, or if this was a screwed-up way of fighting their own demons.

  51. Jesu,
    In the purity laws section of Leviticus, what is specifically condemned is for a man to “lie down with” (have sex with) another man “as if he were a woman”.
    Not to nitpick, but
    a) In Leviticus 20:13 and elsewhere, “lie with” (KJV) seems to be a general metaphor for “have sex” or “have sexual relations.”
    b) The original Hebrew phrase is quite interesting, since the word usually translated as the preposition “with” seems to be in fact a direct object marker, so a better translation might be “a man who does another man as he would do a woman” :o)
    In any case, the phrase “mishkebey isha” (“as he lieth with a woman”, “the way he does with a woman”) most likely serves to further clarify the meaning and not to specify types of sexual acts or even intentions. To claim that some sexual acts are an abomination and some or not solely on the basis of these two words seems pretty farfetched to me.
    “Do you mean the purity laws in Leviticus or do you mean the couple of lines in two of Paul’s letters?”
    That and 1 Timothy 1:10. To be fair, both Paul and Timothy use a rather strange word and there is some debate as to what it might mean. Some believe it refers to any sexual acts, some argue it refers to things like rape, pederasty or prostitution. Go figure.

  52. both Paul and Timothy use a rather strange word
    That was supposed to be “both Corinthians and Timothy”. Ah well.

  53. bulbul,
    Matthew 5:27-29
    27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

  54. I can’t help but wonder if this “scandal” and others like it might help people to see that nice, normal seeming people have these kinds of desires. And, maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. And maybe God could still love them if they had these desires, and acted on them in a loving monogomous relationship.
    But, I’m already convinced.

  55. And maybe God could still love them if they had these desires, and acted on them in a loving monogomous relationship.
    So God can get behind gay sex if it’s done within the confines of a heartfelt mutually-exclusive relationship?
    Are we talking about the same God that made dogs and earthworms?

  56. The whole anti-witch angle to his ministry–especially the business about the demonic phone calls from “Control”–is incredibly creepy, like he stepped out of 1692.

  57. Jesurgislac wrote: “Do you mean the purity laws in Leviticus or do you mean the couple of lines in two of Paul’s letters?”
    Bulbul wrote: both Paul and Timothy use a rather strange word
    Bulbul, didn’t Paul write the letter to Timothy? So Jesurgislac should have said “the couple of lines in three of Paul’s letters”, right? or am I misunderstanding? (always possible)
    -Michèle in California
    (female, Christian, non-homophobe, relieved to find a kindred spirit in Fred)

  58. Bulbul, didn’t Paul write the letter to Timothy?
    Maybe. Whether Paul actually wrote it is open to question.

  59. Something about the name “Haggard” gives the whole thing an entirely different spin in my mind.
    “Why can I not see myself reflected in your eyes!?”

  60. Daniel,
    that’s it, thanks.
    Michèle,
    Bulbul, didn’t Paul write the letter to Timothy? So Jesurgislac should have said “the couple of lines in three of Paul’s letters”, right?
    That’s a double yes. To be more specific, all three letters usually used in the “Bible condemns homosexuality” debate (Romans 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10) bear the return address of Paul.
    To clarify to those who don’t know already: I do not subscribe to the homophobic bullshit preached by various Christian denominations.

  61. Saying “the Bible does condemn homosexual sexual relations” is a statement so sweeping as to be inaccurate.
    Jesu, can you believe it took me two hours to actually understand what you meant? That’s it, I am officially overworked.
    You are, naturally, perfectly right. That was a really stupid thing to say, especially of me. I’d appreciate it if this wasn’t mentioned anywhere…

  62. In any case, the phrase “mishkebey isha” (“as he lieth with a woman”, “the way he does with a woman”) most likely serves to further clarify the meaning and not to specify types of sexual acts or even intentions.
    Yes: but I do find it enjoyable to point out to Biblical literalists that, if taken literally, this phrase only condemns straight men who are using other men for sex. At which point they go huffy and red-faced. It is even more enjoyable, of course, to point out that the same word used to condemn “men who lie with men” is also used to condemn eating meat from pigs, eating dairy with meat, shellfish, and so on.
    And yes, I should have said the couple of lines in three of Paul’s letters: I’d forgotten about Timothy.

  63. Bulbul: You are, naturally, perfectly right. That was a really stupid thing to say, especially of me. I’d appreciate it if this wasn’t mentioned anywhere…
    Your secret is safe with me. Unfortunately, Duane probably already has it noted in his database, and others are already asking him for copies. ;-)

  64. but I do find it enjoyable to point out to Biblical literalists that, if taken literally, this phrase only condemns straight men who are using other men for sex.
    *chuckles with evil glee*
    OK, my bad, proceed with your holy quest.
    At which point they go huffy and red-faced.
    Please tell me you have pictures.
    Duane probably already has it noted in his database
    To quote last night’s episode of Wire in the Blood:
    MAN: Are you finished? (concerning a newspaper)
    TONY HILL (hands him the newspaper): Yes, I am. Well, profesionally, anyway.

  65. MAN: Are you finished? (concerning a newspaper)
    TONY HILL (hands him the newspaper): Yes, I am. Well, profesionally, anyway.
    LOL!
    Exactly.

  66. Dahne, that association has been plaguing me as well. Everytime I read the name “Haggard” I immediately hear Christopher Lee’s voice.
    It’s disturbing, to say the least.

  67. Since we’re talking about Paul, I shall take this opportunity for self-pimping bold-faced self-promotion and link to my new post on Paul, unexpected feminism, and the importance of punctuation.

  68. Breaking through the Lurk barrier to comment. I don’t know if any of you have read it, but Father (yes, He’s a Catholic Priest) Helmiak’s book, “What the Bible really says about Homosexuality” is an excellent resource. It destroys ALL of the “Homophobic” passages: Lev, Sodom, and all of Paul’s letters. Further, he offers very interesting (and strong) evidence that the Bible is actually PRO-homosexual.
    Which makes me want a bumper sticker: “God: Supporting the Homosexual Agenda Since 6006 BC”

  69. Which makes me want a bumper sticker: “God: Supporting the Homosexual Agenda Since 6006 BC”
    You know, this is like the fifth or sixth great slogan for bumperstickers/t-shirts I have seen here so far. Where’s that proverbial American entrepreneurialism, people? I want a t-shirt (black, size xxl)!

  70. ” Further, he offers very interesting (and strong) evidence that the Bible is actually PRO-homosexual.”
    David and Jonathan?

  71. I read the “Sex As a Weapon” story too. Have observed before, but some Christians’ attitudes towards sex and gender roles is just creepy. Creepy, creepy, creepy. No wonder these people hate sex. I’d hate it too if I had the odd beliefs about it that they do. Yikes.

  72. Speaking of creepy, check out these videos of Haggard (via Andrew Sullivan):
    -Ted goes ballistic on Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion and prominent athiest).
    -Ted preaching to his own congregation about a secret gay life (Allegedly, this is featured in the Jesus Camp movie).

  73. What Pastor Ted Preached

    Ted Haggart challenging Richard Dwarkin about evolution – click to view Last year I posted some excerpts from the Harper’s article about Pastor Ted Haggard who was one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the United States. This year…

  74. The Helminiak book is here
    Haggard isn’t ‘featured’ in Jesus Camp, but gets a lot of face time toward the end.
    I still like the “General Assembly” dig, being sorta-PCUSA myself.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6rSjrBhUIA&eurl=
    Evangelical Leader Quits Amid Allegations of Gay Sex and Drug Use
    As every pastor knows, we are always at risk from the sin in us and the sinful temptations around us…
    My suspicion is that as our culture becomes more sexually rebellious, things will only get worse. Therefore, as a means of encouragement, I would like to share some practical suggestions for fellow Christian leaders, especially young men:
    …Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either….

  75. ” Further, he offers very interesting (and strong) evidence that the Bible is actually PRO-homosexual.”
    David and Jonathan?
    I suspect so. And probably Jesus and John. He might even throw in Elijah for good measure.

  76. As soon as I saw Dahne write: It might just be that I’m 20, and just getting to the point where I’m considered to fall into the category of “woman” and not “girl.”, I had great hopes that Duane and his Notebook were not far behind! So glad I’m not disappointed!

  77. Okay, Scott, so is that a quote from someone else, or are you sore at your wife for gaining weight…?

  78. Scott:
    At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am [ (I didn’t think that was possible, but I think you did it! Yay you!) ] , I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either….
    I guess she should never get wrinkles or crow’s feet or gray hair or hairs on her chin. She must stay a trophy wife, lest her weak husband get “ideas”.
    That’s about as far from “responsibility for one’s actions” libertarianism as one can get. But I always thought you were a libertarian only when it suited you — must of the ones I’ve met are (save perhaps BugMaster).

  79. You know, I really, really, really hate the phrase “letting herself go” in this context. I hate all the nasty attitudes that go along with it. Primary among them is this idea that a wife has a responsibility towards her husband to keep her body in prime condition–it isn’t something she does to stay healthy, or out of love for herself and being comfortable in her own skin, but because she owes it to her husband to stay sexy. It’s yet another manifestation of the ugly ownership meme. Her body is seen as her husband’s property, so if she “lets herself go” she has vandalized his property.
    Scott, exactly what team do you imagine you’re “taking one” for?
    And no, the “at risk of being despised further” intro, no more so than the “I don’t believe in being politically correct” caveat, doesn’t give you a pass for talking like an asshole. If you say something despicable, it’ll be despised on its own merits. Don’t congratulate yourself for martyrdom over it.

  80. You know, I read Scott’s latest troll, and my fingers twitched, and I may even have typed half a sentence in response…
    …and then I thought, no, no, anything I say is troll-food. DNFTT.

  81. Okay, I know we’re all used to Scott’s special brand of reality, but he was quoting from the article in his link, not making a statement of his own.

  82. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either….
    Hmm, I don’t know if I want to go that far. But I do have to say I can’t really think of any truly beautiful conservative or Christian women. Ann Coulter is not beautiful: She’s a hideous mannequin. Laura Bush is a fat sack of shit.
    I was laboring in the book mines (working at the public library) and I was about to shelve a photo-essay book about the Nicaraguan civil war and the Sandinistas. I idly flipped the book open in my hand and it fell open to a picture of a female Sandinista fighter bathing in a stream.
    Now maybe those Central American girls are just hotter than most but this woman was looking directly into the camera and she was so . . . beautiful. She had these hard, fiery eyes with a lot of conviction and intelligence behind them. What was that line in Y Tu Mama Tambien: “Radical chicks are way hotter!”

  83. Hmm, I don’t know if I want to go that far. But I do have to say I can’t really think of any truly beautiful conservative or Christian women. Ann Coulter is not beautiful: She’s a hideous mannequin. Laura Bush is a fat sack of shit.
    Oh and just to cover my ass from Nicole here, let me say I really can’t think of any attractive conservative or Christian men. They seem to run to two extremes: The uber-jowly look of Falwell or else the bland, blunt-faced, haven’t-updated-the-hair-since-the-mid-’80s look of Rick Warren, Gary Bauer, or, of course, Bush.

  84. Just FYI, Scott didn’t write that bit about pastor’s wives letting themselves go…he cut and pasted it from elsewhere, but he didn’t make that clear. I only know it, because I read it elsewhere prior to this. Pretty repulsive stuff, and yes, devoid of responsibility. And also buys into the culture’s obsession with physical beauty, which I thought the church was supposed to resist. And, is the same expected of men? So many things wrong with this.
    BTW, it was written by another mega-church pastor. Click on the link in Scott’s post for the original source.

  85. Dahne,
    Duane is the Keeper of the Database around here. Anything you say, especially any bit of personal information, Duane records.

  86. > Anything you say, especially any bit of personal information, Duane records.
    He sometimes gets confused if multiple people on the interweb use the same name, but no-one’s perfect.

  87. But I do have to say I can’t really think of any truly beautiful conservative or Christian women.
    Funny, I noticed the same meme going around the internets just a couple of months ago. Only at that time, some conservative wackos had the same thing to say about liberal women.
    So congratulations, J, you have just sunk to their level. Do us all a favor and shut the fuck up.

  88. It looks like the NAE has purged Haggard from the website. The homepage has an article about the interim president, but no mention is made of the former president or why an “interim” is necessary. Even the article that Fred linked to has no mention of Ted’s name anymore.
    As for the quote that we all thought was from Scott, I read the linked article. It’s from Mark Driscoll, Mr. Foot-in-Mouth himself, pastor of the ginormous Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

  89. daniel: “There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life.”
    Wow, talk about anal-retentive.

  90. I’ll have to remember to take “truly beautiful” off my personals ad, but because I’m a Christian, not a conservative. Truth in advertising and rot like that.
    I had a “Christian” ex-boyfriend tell me I had let myself go once, because I had gone from 100 lbs to 105 lbs and he didn’t want me to be “fat” like his mom (she’s probably 130). I told him he was looking great since he lost the 3 lbs up top, and I was sure he would be able to find another lucky young skinny woman soon.
    What does a Christian look like on the outside?

  91. I was struck by the odd phrasing of this part of his letter:
    Our church’s overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family.
    Is it the mixing of third and first person? He sounds like a mental patient describing what he’s going to be led through, led like a dog on a leash.

  92. Yeah, the passage Scott quotes is from another fine example of Christian manhood (first read it on Sullivan’s site). Seriously, do these people realize how effed up they are? If you wanted to write a handbook on how to hate yourself and screw up your kids, just copy and paste the rantings of these people, male and female, and you wouldn’t have to edit a thing. Self-Hatred for Dummies, as it were.
    RE Laura Bush: I think Laura looks pretty good. She looks better than Coulter (who is… not attractive in the least), and she’s probably 15-20 years older. Coulter looks hard and scary (and uncomfortably drag-queenish), Laura looks like your best friend’s mom. Just my two cents. And I’m not a Bush fan, but gotta give props to Laura. She hasn’t “let herself go.”

  93. Duane is the Keeper of the Database around here. Anything you say, especially any bit of personal information, Duane records.
    That was the old Duane. The new Duane just wants to love and teach others to love.

  94. LL: RE Laura Bush: I think Laura looks pretty good. She looks better than Coulter (who is… not attractive in the least), and she’s probably 15-20 years older. Coulter looks hard and scary (and uncomfortably drag-queenish), Laura looks like your best friend’s mom. Just my two cents.
    Wow. Way to miss the point, LL. (Duane, take a note.)
    Oh, New Duane. You dropped your notebook.

  95. Scripts

    From Slacktivist, by way of Pharyngula: There’s a script for how this will play out in the evangelical community — a script written out on that very same NAE page cited above: … homosexuality [is] a sin that, if persisted

  96. What Pastor Ted Preached

    Ted Haggart challenging Richard Dawkins about evolution – click to view Last year I posted some excerpts from the Harper’s article about Pastor Ted Haggard who was one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the United States. This year…