Ted Haggard HBO Documentary Will Discomfort Evangelicals ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ted Haggard HBO Documentary Will Discomfort Evangelicals

On Jan. 29th, HBO will air a documentary, "The Trials of Ted Haggard." Haggard, who fell in 2006 amid a gay sex scandal, was exiled from the New Life mega-church he founded and told by church leaders to leave Colorado after admitting "sexual immorality" and buying methamphetamines from a male prostitute.

A new HBO documentary covers Ted Haggard's year in exile, his struggle with his sexuality in the face of his past condemnation of gays, and his attempts to make a living outside the church. During his exile, he told documentary maker Alexandra Pelosi (the daughter of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi), that he continued to "struggle from time to time with same-sex attraction."

"Even though I'm a sinner, even though I'm weak," he told Pelosi, "God's best plan for human beings is for men and women to unite together." He also said this difficult year "strengthened my faith. I do wish others had been more forgiving toward me. But I think those who hate me and judge me had a reason. I deserved it."

Haggard's documentary (about which he had no control of editing) will likely complicate rather than comfort evangelicals. It seems his sexuality is more complicated than he thought. According to the Reuters article:

Three weeks after church elders told Haggard to leave and ordered him to undergo "spiritual restoration," they announced that after counseling he was "completely heterosexual."

Haggard smiled wryly at the statement, saying he fits into neither the gay nor the evangelical community.

"My therapist says I am a heterosexual with complications. I don't say that because it is more complex. I love my relationship with my wife."

To the extent Haggard's sexual "complications" are played up in the film, conservatives will continue to dissassociate from him, even if Haggard still supports traditional marriage.

Look for further backstage revelations on the process of his dismissal and restoration (like "he smiled wryly at the statement" following his elders' assurance that their former leader is "completely homosexual"). As the public absorbs the complex process of navigating between fallen pastors and shocked congregations, such revelations will complicate other high-profile scandals that will inevitably occur in the future.

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