I actually feel a bit sorry for him. I don't agree with the things he said about homosexuals in the past, but I have a great deal of empathy for him as a person struggling with his sexual orientation. I don't have empathy for the fact that he cheated on his wife, used drugs and used his pulpit to air his own insecurities in the form of promoting hate towards homosexuals in general.
The fact is, I don't have enough facts about him...all I really know is the things that were said to poke fun at the man. "He telephoned the White House for a weekly consultation, saying here's what Jesus thinks of all the pending legislation. Marriage is a covenant between a man and wife and homosexuals will fry forever in the afterlife" - Roy Zimmerman
I freely admit that I have a bias against those that "preach the gospel of intolerance of self-loathing" and try to marginalize homosexuals.
But, here's what Ted says we have wrong about him.
He says that despite popular perception, he was never a right-wing power broker in the vein of Jerry Falwell. His reported weekly chats with George W. Bush were usually just briefings with low-level White House staff. He was never a homophobe, either, he says, and though he supported a 2006 amendment outlawing gay marriage in Colorado, he was also in favor of a ballot measure that would have extended domestic-partner benefits to same-sex couples.
When I start to ask about Mike Jones, the escort who exposed him, he cuts me off.
"We never had sex sex," he says, glancing at the car to make sure that Elliott and Jonathan are asleep. "I bought drugs and a massage from him, and he masturbated me at the end of it. That's it."
Mike Jones wrote a book, I Had to Say Something, in which he says that was NOT all that happened, but considering he was "proud of exposing a conservative hypocrite" and he seems to hold the same bias I do...well I'm not sure how much of what he says can be taken without a little skepticism.
Bias can make people say things that aren't true, just because it justifies their point. After all...there are an awful lot of people in the Religious Right that equate homosexuality with pedophilia because advances their agenda...doesn't mean it's true.
The fact is, even if he support a law for domestic-partner benefits, Haggard was still in favor of homosexuals remaining second-class citizens because of a childish semantic argument that the word marriage is somehow the intellectual property of heterosexuals everywhere.
Ted now has a new church, right in the same city where he preached at New Life church. A church he was the pastor of for 21 years, after starting it in his basement in 1985. A church he believes was "excessively harsh" in it's treatment of him and his family in 2006 when they forced the Haggard family to leave the state and cut off all contact between himself and the members of his church. The whole situation has left him very jaded about religion and churches in general.
"I used to think the church was the light of the world," Ted says. "But I've completely lost my faith in it."
Ted's complaints about New Life are old news to anyone who's been following his saga, but tonight, when I ask him if he really means to say completely, he stops and looks at the sky already starting to lighten.
"You've got to understand, Kevin, people are, at their cores, hateful," he says, rising to stamp out the fire's embers and go to bed. "I don't want to believe that, but the facts have prevailed over my idealism."
Haggard's new church, St. James, is still small, meeting in the cafeteria of Timberview Middle School.
His explanation of his church as it differs from those in the evangelical movement (i.e. New Life) is this.
"In the evangelical movement, we've said to people that differ from us: "We want to convert you." And what that means is, 'We want you to adopt the things that we believe. Then you can be like us, and we will have won a convert.' "
"I would suggest that St. James try a different methodology. I would suggest that we try the idea of: 'We have read our Bibles. We have prayed and been spirit-filled. So our purpose is to make life easier for other people around us no matter what their theology is; no matter what their race, color, creed, or sexual orientation.' Those things are not the primary issue as far as we're concerned, because our concern is to be Jesus for them."
That's a view that even I, as an non-religious person, can understand. The thing that I can appreciate even more is this.
Part of what these guys [the congregation] love about St. James is that it helps struggling people in real, tangible ways. During the offering, when most churches pass the plate, Ted instead has his saints give money to one another. Today the gifts included a $500 donation to fix one man's car and money for another man to pay his electricity bill.
"I'd rather have that conversation with a handful of people," Ted says to me after the service, "than have a worldwide TV audience and everyone think I'm a hotshot."
His voice trembles, "That $500? That's Jesus to me now."I think it is probably the sincerity that I can feel from Haggard, even through Roose's writing, that gets me the most. I can tell that Haggard believes in what he is saying now, instead of lashing out at others because of his own confused sexuality.
I personally won't comment on Gayle, Ted's wife, for the reason that (from my reading on their interaction in Roose's piece) that she is living in a state of denial about how "straight" her husband now is. Roose did sit down and talk with them both at their home in Colorado Springs however.
It is from a section of the interview that I take my title. A conversation between Roose and Haggard when Gayle is absent, picking up lunch from a restaurant."
For the first time since we've met, Ted isn't looking directly at me. "Here's where I really am on this issue," he half whispers. "I think that probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual." After a weekend of Ted trying to convince me of his unambiguous devotion to his wife and kids, I'm at first too surprised to say anything.
"So why not now?" I ask finally.
"Because, Kevin, I'm 54, with children, with a belief system, and I can have enforced boundaries in my life. Just like you're a heterosexual but you don't have sex with every woman that you're attracted to, so I can be who I am and exclusively have sex with my wife and be perfectly satisfied."
"But what does it have to do with being 54?"
"Life!" he says. "We live an ordinary life."
The two things I disagree with here have a lot to do with a man who is so out of touch with real life that he is confusing what it means to be "bisexual" and confusing what it means to have a "normal" life.
A bisexual will always be a bisexual, they will always be attracted to members of both sexes. If Haggard is a bisexual, then that is what he is, whether he chooses to "identify" himself with the moniker or not. That doesn't mean he has to act on it though. Just as a heterosexual man or woman does not cease to have attraction to members of the opposite sex, they simply refrain from acting on those attractions if they are in a monogamous relationship. The same goes for homosexuals in a monogamous relationship, when I'm dating a woman I will freely admit I still find other women attractive, but I'm not going to go out looking for dates because of that.
That's where Ted seems to be confused, bisexuals are just as capable of having a monogamous relationship as anyone else.
The again, I've known a few bisexuals who were confused on this too...I dated a girl in high school who insisted that since she was bisexual she believed that she HAD to carry on a relationship with a male and a female at the same time. A bit ridiculous really.
The other thing that Ted is confused on is what a "normal" life is. Why is his life the normal one? Two women can have a "normal" life as can two men...well, as long as they live in a place where they can marry and adopt (or have a child through invitro or surrogacy) and, essentially, have all the same opportunities as heterosexuals have. In this day and age to say that "normal" equates to a man and a woman marrying and having children is ridiculous, draconian and more than a little hypocritical coming from a man who has spent the last four years rebuilding his life and his marriage after using crystal meth and having an affair with a man.
I also don't agree with Roose when he says that he understands Haggard because the man isn't looking for total sexual satisfaction, he's trying to get his life back and that requires "amputating" part of who he is.
A bisexual man or woman who choose to settle down with someone of the same or opposite sex and remain monogamous is not "amputating" a part of him or herself, nor is that going to rob him or her of "total sexual satisfaction". I believe this is a ridiculous claim on the part of Roose. A straight man is not "amputating" his attraction to other women when he marries his wife, he is merely choosing to remain faithful to her instead of acting on impulses that are still there!
The most telling and, to me, important parts of this whole article was at the end. Describing the lunch he had with the Haggard family, Roose wrote this.
At the table, we bow our heads as Gayle says grace: "Father, thank you for today. We pray for your blessings on all of this, and for your wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. In Jesus' name, amen."
I look up to see Ted gazing at Gayle, the corners of his mouth pressed into a slight smile. He hadn't bowed his head at all.