Pastor Haggard Helped Erode GOP Leadership
From Shakespeare to Sexgate, nothing foreshadows less-than-ethical high jinks like over-the-top denial. When Queen Gertrude says, in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet,’ ‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks,’ she is covering for the fact that her brother-in-law murdered her former husband. When Bill Clinton swore ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,’ he, um, had. And when anti-gay televangelist Ted Haggard said, ‘I never had a gay relationship with anybody,’ he was handed his pink slip as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of the New Life Church for ‘moral failings’ and ‘sexually immoral conduct,’ (a purchase of methamphetamine and a close-and-personal relationship with a male prostitute).
According to the Nov. 4 statement of the Overseer Board of New Life Church, ‘our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven, without a doubt, that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.’ The evidence: On Thursday, Nov. 2, a former male escort named Mike Jones told Colorado’s KHOW Radio that Haggard paid him for sex once a month for the past three years. Predictably, Haggard pled the ‘Who, me?’ defense and denied knowing knowledge of Jones’ existence.
Then Jones whipped out the smoking gun: a voice mail on Jones’s answering machine that a KUSA expert identified as ‘probably Haggard’s.’ Haggard pulled a well-timed one-eighty and admitted calling Jones, buying methamphetamine and getting a massage from a gay masseur, but denied using drugs or having sex with him. According to Haggard, ‘I was buying it for me, but I never used it. … I never kept it very long because it was wrong. I was tempted. I bought it. But I never used it.’ Jones decided that Haggard’s denial deserved a Clinton joke: ‘What? ‘I smoked it but didn’t inhale?’ It’s the same scenario.’ Haggard wrote to his congregation, ‘I am a deceiver and a liar.’ There’s the understatement of the century.
The ‘Pastard’ scandal came just in time for the Nov. 7 election, when seven out of eight states voted to pass same-sex marriage bans. In fact, Jones cited Haggard’s position in favor of the Colorado state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage as one of his reasons for going public: ‘For someone who is up there preaching that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, and he’s going behind his wife’s back and seeing a gay man for sex, I felt like I owed it to the gay community to expose the hypocrisy. … You can’t put yourself in the position he was in and want respect and people to follow you when you’re actually doing the opposite behind their backs.’
According to CNN analysts, the scandal played a part in eroding the conservative leadership in Tuesday’s election. Intolerance plus repression plus hypocrisy erodes leadership. Is anyone surprised?
According to White House spokesman Tony Fratto, ‘[Haggard] has been on a couple of calls. He’s been to the White House one or two times.’ Actually, Fratto, Haggard was one of the most influential religious leaders within the administration of President George W. Bush. The Denver Post described Haggard as ‘a go-to person for politicians’ who ‘takes part in weekly White House conference calls,’ and Time Magazine cited Haggard’s access to the White House in naming him one of the 25 most influential evangelicals of 2005. Like former Rep. Mark Foley, Haggard is conservative and Republican. Is anyone surprised?
But maybe we should be. In ‘The History of Sexuality,’ Michel Foucault argues that when a culture represses sexuality, it creates a discourse about sex that makes people become more obsessed with sex than they would be naturally, and in ‘Does Ministry Fuel Addictive Behavior?’ Sally Morgenthaler agrees: ‘Environments that lead to sexual addiction are also often sexually repressive, viewing sex as dirty and not discussing normal, developmental sexual questions.’ Think of it this way: When someone says, ‘Whatever you do, don’t think about shagadellic fembot bunnies,’ what do you think about? No wonder conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan jokes, ‘In my experience, Republicans are far kinkier than Democrats. It’s all that repression. If [you] want a dull, asexual, unkinky, flabby, domestic partner, [you] should hang out among Democrats.’
Speaking for the New Life Church, Associate Pastor Rob Brendle said, ‘Ted has for 21 years led this church in an exemplary way. He’s demonstrated the highest personal character, and his interaction with the staff and the people of this community has been of the most selfless and noble kind.’
If post-scandal Conservativia were a logical place, at least one member of the congregation would have wondered, ‘If someone whom we’ve known for 21 years as exemplary, selfless and noble turns out to be gay, then shouldn’t we reevaluate our all-negative notion of what it means to be a homosexual?’ thereby taking one small step toward surmounting the intolerance plus repression plus hypocrisy trifecta, and one giant leap toward restoring the credibility of the conservative leadership.
Instead, Brendle says, ‘To my knowledge, Mike Jones has not alleged that Ted asked him to marry him. … No, I do not see this instance as hypocrisy.’ A hypocritical definition of hypocrisy