Friday, November 03, 2006

Ted Haggard and Compassion

As usual, I have a bit of a twist on my interpretation of events.

Most people already know the story of Ted Haggard so I won't reiterate the whole thing here. Very briefly, he is the evangelical preacher from Colorado Springs who apparently tried to buy drugs, had a massage from and spent time with a gay male prostitute. If any of this is incorrect, let me know. I'm just summarizing.

I lived in Colorado Springs for a few years. I'm familiar with Haggard's operational territory. Colorado Springs is a beautiful location. It is breath-taking as a matter of fact. While there is a fairly active gay community there, they are verbally and emotionally assaulted on many levels and the majority of that hate comes from splinter evangelical groups. In some cases, the discrimination is subtle. I don't recall overt hatred ever coming from Focus on the Family.

When I lived north in Fort Collins, we were very close to LaPorte which hosts the LaPorte Church of Christ, an Identity Christian congregation then led by Pete Peters. That was one of the scariest organizations I ever encountered. There was some suspicion that they were friendly to and may have hosted members of The Order, the white supremacist group that murdered radio talk show host Alan Berg. My ex-husband and I were harrassed by these types in a public location because we supported a libertarian solution to a controversial donut shop that opened on the outside of town. As a result of that position, I ended up on local TV news and as a guest on a radio talk show. My ex and I were guests on the Geraldo show when he came to town to cover the controversy.

My entire and consistent talking point was that adults should be free to make their own choices about whether or not they choose to patronize a topless donut shop that appealed mainly to truck drivers. Let's face it. It wasn't designed for the intelligensia. (Google "Debbie Duz Donuts" and "Fort Collins". Some history might still be out there. ) That was my only point. I took no public position for or against the donut shop itself. I simply stated that adults should be free to decide for themselves.
The opposition was fierce! Nearly every social conservative within a 50-mile radius was present.

Personally, I thought the donut shop concept was rather silly. I would never go to such a place myself but, hey, that's just me. I don't presume to decide for other people. "As it harm none, do as ye will."

We were threatened by splinter evangelical groups who were more than willing to beat us, harm us or possibly even kill us if we didn't shut up.

These same groups who would have near apopolexy over a donut shop are also virulently anti-gay. They don't just disapprove. They hate gay people. Some of them made Fred Phelps sound like a sweetheart.

This is the environment in which Ted Haggard lived and worked. While, yes, he should have been able to come out ~ perhaps he shouldn't have been trying to hide, let's put this in some perspective.

Given the environment, given that his entire life had been devoted to his Christianity, given that his entire social support system involved that group, how could he have done that? Keep in mind: he also had a wife and children to consider.
In an ideal world, he would have severed all those ties, come out and moved away from Colorado if necessary. Sometimes that's easier said than done.

My guess is that he lived in pure torment for a very long time.

He deserves our compassion, not our vilification. I can only imagine the internal conflict he must experience. Whether he is bisexual or gay, it doesn't matter.

The truth is that it is our job as a society to create an atmosphere that is open enough for people to feel safe in being who they are.

Once again, we see the cur dog mentality take over in the media and people are emotionally tearing this guy to shreds. It's the emotional equivalent of eat it, f**k it or kill it. They want to annihilate this guy. He didn't do it "right". He made mistakes. He hid. He lied. What a hypocrite he must be!

He was in pain, the kind of pain I hope no one ever has to experience ~ but he didn't do it "right".

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Peace to all of us,

Thailand Gal


Anvilcloud said...

I think this is a pretty fair-minded piece. From up here, I don't have an opinion about this guy, but it would be pretty tough to have certain predelictions but be wrapped in an opposite belief system.

jen said...

it's funny as i am in Denver this week and the talk is full of this guy, and this AM he denied everything,and tonight he's bought meth and a's a sad commentary, not so much on the behavior (is what it is) but the hypocrisy.

Pam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pam said...

I agree with a lot of what you said. Judgement seems to come more easily that reason. We would all do well to live and let live as long as no harm is done. And vilification of what you don't understand or agree with is not the answer. However, I find myself short on sympathy for a man who preaches to millions the opposite of what he is. Trust goes both ways.

Stephen Newton said...

Yes, I thought the same thing when I heard the news about Haggart---that while his position was a lie, he probably thought he had no choice but to hide behind bigotry. Like Foley, he was caught in a system that vilifies gay men and women (or anyone not like them) and out of fear joined them in order to hide his true self. While I don't condone his hypocrisy, I also hold our nation of bigots responsible for promoting hate for people that are not like them, whether its their religion, sex or gender. It shows me how weak their own positions are and how desparate they are to hold on to mostly flimsy worldviews that serve only a few. It's the Salem witch hunts all over again.

Lucia said...

You're very generous. From my perspective, even given his context, if he touts moral virtues and religious beliefs and even goes so far as to condemn people for what he himself does not possess, he's a hypocrite. I don't think the media should be shredding him, but I do think in his lack of transparency, he is responsible for not making other choices. Even if choices are difficult, it doesn't excuse wrongdoing.

I really cannot imagine living in the kind of environment in which you lived and being courageous enough, as you were, to publically stick to what you believed. Is there a word for opposite of a hypocrite? Thank you. We need more people like you in the world.

Here in Wisconsin, we vote on Tuesday whether marriage is only between a man and a woman. I am hopeful, that as a blue and historically progressive state, that this will be soundly defeated. We've had an out lesbian in Congress for many years, and I hope after Tuesday that is still the case. After many years in other places, I am so grateful to finally have people in Washington who actually respresent me. Thank you Russ Feingold and Tammy Baldwin!

Thailand Gal said...

Anvil, that's really my point. How many of us get trapped living with belief systems, trying to believe them ~ feeling compelled to believe them because they surround us?

Jen, the hypocrisy is certainly there. It's the cause that's so curious. Did he adopt the fundamentalist belief system because he loathed his own inclinations ~ or did he truly not know he had them?

Pam, I agree with you. I wasn't meaning to express sympathy for him. He is still responsible for his behavior.

Stephen, exactly. It's the old "take the log out of our own eyes before worrying about the sliver in someone else's." This is a culture that is built on such hypocrisy.

Lucia, yes. He is a hypocrite. But what's the origin of it? I figure mercy is always leagues above revenge ~ and this is the direction I hope we can go with this. I hope it will cause some examination of why this guy wasn't able to live his authentic self without having to hide behind, if appropriate, or deny, if appropriate, his fundamentalist belief system. Why was he living in that kind of fear?

And.. I LOVE Tammy Baldwin! I remember when she was first running there in Wisconsin years ago. I'm not too familiar with the views of Russ Feingold.

Peace all.. and thank you! :)

Thailand Gal

Gobody said...

I agree with you 100%, I wish the day will come when people don’t judge others on what they do, but look first to themselves and what they do. I can understand the man’s position, and why he didn’t want to come out. Who would risk losing everything he has to be the man he is, only a very few. And it needs a lot of courage, so let’s give the man a slack.

Annie said...

Ehem...pardon me for just dropping in like this, but I just have to remind all of us that in this country (last time I checked anyway) a person is considered innocent until proven guilty BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT before a jury of his peers. Okay? I think it's entirely, entirely possible this has been "created" to destroy Ted Haggart and the group he's with. Think that isn't possible? It's every bit as possible as him being guilty is. I say wait and see. Don't convict him at this point. Thanks. I feel better. Now I'll go back to my knitting. Peace!

Leann said...

God loves every one!he loves the saints and sinners alike.but his rules are ment to be followed.He calls the sin of homosexality a abondnation.he loves the person but hates the sin they have fallen out side of marriage is just as offencive to the Lord.but like he told the good old boys who brought the lady caught in adultry to him."yee among you who have not sinned cast the frist stone."He was saying clean your own back porch boys then come and talk with me.after all it was why Jesus came!He knew if we were in sin we needed a savior.He came to pay the price for our sin,s.I thank God every day for what Jesus did for me.11 years ago I was dieing of cancer.and He came to me in my hospital room to let me know I wasn,t going to die.I was so sick and had prayed to see if I was going home?He said "this is not unto death but for my glory."I said Jesus tell me again once more and I will believe only you!!! so He said it again"this is not unto death but for my glory."and two days later when they told my daughter I had only 3 weeks to live,I believed Jesus and lived!!! I been walking with Him for over 37 years.and its been the best choice I ever made.I ain,t by any means perfect just forgiven.and I can speak for people who are traped in the gay best friend was stuck there for over 20 years.I prayed for him for 17 years and he was delivered 3 years ago.there is a nasty spirit that is hooked with this is a lie and people traped by it are as traped as those traped by booz or anything that chains or trapes you.if we were able to free our self we would have years ago.sin is a trap.Jesus came to help us be free.none of us our free from being traped just cause we are christians.we have enemy and he is good at what he does.but the Lord is bigger and stronger.when the scales were removed from my fiends eyes he was so ashamed of his life he thanked the Lord for freeing him.before that he had thought he was ok in the life cause miss informed people had lied to him and said that God was ok with it.but its not says that sinners and that covers all known sin.liers, thiefs,sex sins,exstra.will not enter the kingdom of God.we most all come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness for our sin,s.we don,t get to heaven with out coming to Jesus.the word says "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."we all need a savior!!! it doesn,t matter what congress men our woman matters what Jesus said.your congress man or woman may say well Iam gay or so and so is.but God says if you are a pacticing gay you will not get into that is it may seem right unto man but if it ain,t what God says then you better get on His I loved my best friend,but not the sin he was living in.its a selfish sin degarding and un natural.God made Adam and eve not adam and steve.or eve and evea.if he had none of us would be here.He said be fruitful and I ain,t seen two men do that or two genesis tells you Gods plan.its there for all to read.He said man and you can get mad at me but its not my word its Gods.and He doesn,t change.if He said it He ment it.pray for the guy who messed up.He is going though hell for a dumb mistake.christians sin.they fall just like every one else.its just all see it .others can sin to their hearts content and hide it,they think!!but there is a angel standing right by them and it goes in the nothing is hidden that won,t be uncovered.this man will have to get him self right with God just like all the rest of us have to.its easy."Jesus forgive me Iam a sinner,please forgive for all known sin and come into my life and help me live for you.I need your help cause I can,t do it by my self.thank you Lord for forgiving me and coming into my life.Iam now a child of God headed to heaven.this is what I did 37 years ago and He came in and has helped me ever since.that is way He came.have a great day and think about what I said.if Iam wrong you have nothing to fear,but if Iam right you have alot to fear.forever in the wrong place is too long.

Anonymous said...

Compassion is a virtue, certainly. But at this point, I'm having a hard time extending compassion to Ted Haggart.
I grew up in the Evangelical church, and agree wholeheartedly that it is indeed an incredibly restrictive environment that promotes shame and guilt at every turn. So yes, it would have been unspeakably difficult for Haggart to "come out" and absolutely impossible for him to do so without losing respect from those in the Evangelical community (right along with his job, of course).
But my problem is this: Haggert was the LEADER of the system that opressed him. He made very good money and lived in fine style by adopting a holier than thou attitude and blasting anyone who deviated from his version of the straight and narrow. Haggart even went so far as to liken gay pride celebrations to "murder's pride celebrations" - a shocking charge that is completely devoid of any so-called Christian compassion. Furthermore he (and many other Evangelical leaders who followed in his stead)spent much of their lives making their faithful followers feel like dirty, rotten sinners in need of spiritual cleansing. Yes, it's great to say that we should remove the log from our own eye before judging Ted Haggart. But maybe Ted Haggart should have removed the log from HIS eye before he worried so much about the splinters in others'. What it all boils down to for me is that Haggart, in a position of supposed moral authority, abused the innocent, both with his hateful attitude about gays AND the hellfire and brimstone thinking he imposed on his congregation to keep them toeing the moral line. The Bible says that you reap what you sow. Haggart didn't sow much compassion during his tenure as leader of the National Association of Evangelicals and one of the nation's largest cults (I mean churches), so to my way of thinking, he'll be lucky to get some now.