My Mind Made Public -

I held off as long as I could ...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ted Haggard's Documentary

A Facebook friend of mine, Darin Brown, sent me this link to an article by ABC News about Ted Haggard’s entrance back into the public eye after his scandal of down-low drugs and gay sex behind his family’s, congregation’s and all the rest of the evangelical world listening to his direction as President of the National Association of Evangelical’s back. Wow, that’s a mouthful. Darin wanted to know my take, so here you go…

It’s a well written article about the sad and pitiful life that has become Ted Haggard, Mike Jones (the man who ‘outed’ Haggard) and the surrounding cast of characters that have been caught woven this web (mainly his family). In the beginning of the article Haggard “blames his father” for everything that has happened to him in the past couple of years—his father started sexually molesting him at 7 years old. These are confusing times in a confusing life in a confusing world, and in reading that revelation it’s hard for me to critique Haggard’s life and experiences because they are a legitimate expression of what has happened to him in his past.

We all have to remember that no child—no person—should ever be molested, raped or be sexually, physically or mentally abused! Therefore I have no judgment for what such a situation psychologically does to a human’s psyche, and how that affects them moving forward. I’m just going to go off of what I know about him—you can read the article and make those other conclusions for yourself.

But I do know this much—sexual abuse does not mean someone will be gay or lesbian. I spent a section in my book about this topic because I feel it’s an easy way for the Christian community to copout against entering into a place of tension with the GLBT community without knowing the answers to the “why questions” for God. Sexual abuse is not normal—gay or straight. Research shows that there is an average of about 5-7% of the GLBT community who admitted to have been sexually abused as a child. Now, Ted Haggard could definitely have had his same-sex attractions come as a result of his father’s abuse, but far be it for any of us—or him—to so easily state that as fact. I question Haggard’s statement because three weeks after the scandal hit the press he made a public statement saying he is “completely heterosexual.” If it were that easy for him, why didn’t he do it earlier by stopping the paid-gay sex before it tarnished him and embarrassed his wife and kids? And if it were that easy for him, why in this ABC News article does he say that he “continues to struggle with same-sex attraction”?

Saying after three weeks that he is “completely heterosexual” is a spit in the face to all the true, honest and committed people in this world who faithfully work to overcome their same-sex attractions. Just the same, that statement is just a much of a spit in the face to all of the true, honest and committed people in this world who have faithfully tried “reorientation therapy”, but are now faithful and committed gay Christians.

And if all along Ted Haggard had a same-sex attraction, don’t you dare stand up at the pulpit of a 12,000 person church and as the President of a 30 million person strong National Association of Evangelicals and say on the record:

"We don't have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It's written in the Bible." Then Haggard looks into the camera and says kiddingly: "I think I know what you did last night," drawing laughs from the crowd. "If you send me a thousand dollars, I won't tell your wife." Later, another joke for the cameraman: "If you use any of this, I'll sue you."

None of that is funny Mr. Haggard, especially since at that exact time you were cheating on your wife with a male prostitute and taking crystal-meth.

HBO will be airing a documentary of Haggard on January 29, and coincidentally enough, the director of the documentary is none other than the daughter (Alexandra Pelosi) of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. That is a strange clash of worlds in-and-of-itself because it is the same Nancy Pelosi who’s constituency is in San Francisco—and there are a number of conservative Christian organizations (the same Christian organizations who Haggard once represented) that constantly bash Nancy Pelosi for her continuing endorsement of the San Francisco Folsom Street Fair. I find it very strange that Haggard would pick the daughter of the person who endorses what Haggard’s target audience thinks is a depraved abomination.

This makes me wonder a few things:

-Does he think he’ll get more of a fair shake on screen about his past if it comes from a very liberal director whose mom is political public allies with the GLBT community?

-And whether that is true or not, the surrounding evidence still leads me to question Haggard’s motives for making this documentary—just to get back into the public eye or is he really making a true plea for redemption?

My thought is that if he were really making a true plea for redemption to the broader Christian community, he would do so with his target audience (conservative Christians) in mind—and there are no lack of conservative Christian documentary directors.

I don’t claim to know Ted Haggard. Maybe one day I’ll have the stomach to watch his documentary—not on January 29th though. I know too many spouses and children who are indelibly affected by parents who are “found out” after the fact—and it makes me sick to think of the people who willfully caused that pain.

And the one thing I keep thinking—his poor wife and kids—how embarrassing and tragic for them. And they couldn’t do a darn thing about it.

I hope the best for Ted Haggard and his family. I also hope that he would just tone down the public rhetoric of his now all-of-a-sudden “having a message of redemption for a lot of people struggling with sexual issues” and peacefully and quietly seek God with all he has from a far distance away from any TV or documentary cameras.

Much love.


MarySue said...

I'm really glad to read your opinion of this whole issue... When I heard about the documentary I was almost floored that he was making such a public spectacle of it all, and I too questioned his motives behind it. Thanks for posting this, you raised some good points.

Jack said...

Very well written bro. I truly enjoyed reading your thoughts and couldn't agree more.

grace and peace
minister rmb

Kurt said...

Great comments. This whole situation has bothered me quite a bit as well. I think that it is sad that a man in such a position of authority (who acted the exact opposite of what he preached)could be given back his 'prestige' in the church and evangelical community. It seems like this will be a long process of healing for anyone, and claiming that everything is 'fixed' in such a short timespan just continues to corrupt credibility.
ps -- i am looking forward to reading your book!

Darin Brown said...

so do you think there is a difference between a same sex experience due to perversion, a same sex experience due to curiousity and, a third category, a same sex experience due to attraction?

Andrew Marin said...

Thanks for the comments MarySue, RMB, Kurt and Darin -

Kurt: continuing to corrupt credibility = for sure.

Darin: i'm not sure what you mean by perversion but as for the other two the answer is yes.

Jeff S. said...

Andy - your reference to "faithful and committed gay Christians" is the first I've heard you make such a reference. It may require some elaboration from you, but if it's meaning that it’s okay to be involved sexually as a gay man and call it okay for a Christian, then I have to wonder what the point is for the other group you reference – “people in this world who faithfully work to overcome their same-sex attractions,” which is where I place myself, believing that God did not intend for men to be involved with each other sexually, either monogamously or promiscuously. Are you saying that if you just can’t make it without being sexually involved with another man, then it’s okay and you can still call yourself a “faithful and commited” Christian? I support elevating the conversation, but not at the expense of distorting what it means to be a "faithful Christian". Perhaps I’m mistaken, so I look forward to your response.

Andrew Marin said...

Thanks for your comment Jeff. A big part of elevating the conversation is to be able to have both sides come to the table, committed not to leave or run away, and have a framework to peacefully dialogue about the theological, social, etc. topics that are the traditional points of battleground. With that structure in mind as I work to build bridges to people in all different situations within the broader spectrum of homosexuality and faith, my comment was merely meant to communicate that Mr. Haggard's statement was a hypocrytical polarization of both types of people. Not only was his "three week" comment an insult to you - a man who has worked each and everyday for years to overcome a same-sex attraction, but it was also an insult to those who I work to build bridges with on the other side of the spectrum as well.

My words were not meant to be a theological statement, but rather a recognition that in order to peacefully and productively build a bridge, comments (or jokes) like Mr. Haggard's have no place in a bridge building context.

I hope this helps!

Stephen said...

I believe Nancy Pelosi's daughter did a previous documentary which included some interviews with Ted Haggard--(Pre-public outing scenario) This may be Haggard's way of setting the record straight.

The previous documentary was actually a pretty good assessment of American religion from an "outsider" in my opinion. I think she might do very well with this--regardless of her mother's political stance.

Darin Brown said...

Andy, Thanks for asking for the clarification. By perversion (and that may be the wrong word or to heavy of a word for what I mean) I was referring to the person who is just.....super horny and wants any kind of experience with anyone or anything and has no attraction necessarily other than to himself (or herself) and the pleasure that comes with it. did that make sense? Might Haggard fall into that camp as opposed to a genuine same sex attraction issue? That was my question in the comment as a whole. If there is a difference it is good to recognize it.

P said...

I heard Nancy Pelosi's daughter interviewed on NPR as her first HBO documentry came out. Apparently, she developed a close bond with the Haggard family as Ted served as her "ambassador" to Evangelicalism. The interview happened just a week or so after the scandal hit, ironically. That being said, I am not surprised at all that Haggard let her do the film. The fact that her mom is a political enemy of Haggard's religious right was probably eclipsed by the friendship between filmmaker and subject -in my opinion.

Andrew Marin said...

Hello everyone. Thank you so much for your comments, questions and insights into the Pelosi stuff. Quickly before I get to my main point, as for your question Darin:

I don't know Mr. Haggard personally and therefore I don't feel qualified to make a statement on the underlying reasons behind his behaviors one way or the's just too tricky of a situation to be able to accurately comment on his personal status from the outside. There is however a clear distinction between those two reasons for same-sex behavior as you stated. It is indeed important to keep those differences in mind in knowing how to best build a bridge with each one of those types of people.

And now to my main response about all of the Pelosi stuff. First, thank you all so very much for bringing all of that to my attention. And as I always say, "if YOU don't tell me, who is and how am I suppose to know?!" Second, I have a friend from way back that is married to a pastor at Haggard's former church. She lovingly sent me this message about the Haggard-Pelosi situation:

Hey Andy,
I hope you are doing well. Looks like you are keeping busy with the travels. I hope you enjoy it and it does not get too old for you! :)

I read your blog last night about Ted Haggard. I am not sure I have told you but New Life is the church that my husband has been on staff at for the last 3+years. Just wanted to give you a bit of insider information. At the end you mention Alexandera Pelosi and how Ted picked her. Well she actually had been around New Life long before the big blow up in November. She did another documentary on New Life called "Friend of God." So she was around our campus a whole lot.

I am not saything that as an attack or anything (you can't hear tone of voice in email), but just wanted you to know a little more information.

Hope you are well.

Much love everyone. Thanks for the input!

Jeff S. said...

Andy - thanks for the follow-up. Sorry I didn't see it until today. I posted your response in my blog today. MUCH appreciated.