Another day to reflect on the trials of Pastor Ted Haggard

I have been finding fellowship of late, albeit inconsistently, among politicos in the municipal election campaign more than even my most liberal Christian friends recently; also spending much time reading blogs, writing a few entries of my own, and eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s U.S. mid-term elections.

There’s that politics thang again!My faith journey has always been filled with many more questions than simple, ‘It’s-in-the-Bible’ answers. So, with many evangelicals feeling pretty wounded by the whole Ted Haggard affair, my liberal tradition ought to be a good antidote, right? We’ll see.

Truthfully, my faith – always, as I see it, in need of disclaimers such as “Christian, but not like them” – is feeling a little more comfortable right now away from “church”, even the uber-liberal United Church congregation I am part of.
Is it because I feel overwhelmed by a task or two there? Or is it just my fragile psyche feeling better alone or withdrawn (a recipe for chaos, I admit)? Am I more of a secular humanist with social justice causes filling that need some people only find in church?

But enough about me for now. Before Saturday, Ted Haggard was pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado and President of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. Here are some excerpts from a letter read, to his congregation on Sunday, by an associate:

“I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything that I believe and teach.Through the years, I’ve sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn’t want to hurt or disappoint them.

The public person I was wasn’t a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.

The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry. Our church’s overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family.

I created this entire situation. The things that I did opened the door for additional allegations. But I am responsible; I alone need to be disciplined and corrected. An example must be set.”

If this is not the first draft of a tragic coming out letter it certainly could be. As I wrote yesterday I have a couple of things in common with Pastor Ted. Neither one of us is a suitable poster boy for ‘how to come out’ untarnished.

The almost universal feeling of any gay, bi or trans person, who has not come out yet, is that of ‘deceiver and liar’. Pastor Ted’s narrow view of the Bible has trapped him into feelings of ‘revulsion’ for a part of his life – granted, he does not name it in the letter. I, too, tried to wish, pray and will it away and experienced what I, too, thought, were ‘victory’ and ‘freedom’ from time to time. Then, like Pastor Ted, the feelings would resurface.

Other than my own self-counsel, and immersing myself in the life of that evangelical church I mentioned yesterday, I did not seek much in the way of assistance. (Frankly, I would not put much stock in any such help Pastor Ted might have ever sought.)

When he says that the public person he presented was not a lie, just incomplete, that is exactly the way a lgbt kid or young person feels. Telling my parents, and being assured of their love, was the most important thing I wanted to do (and did) once I determined that I was gay and there was no more denying it. It felt like a lie – Pastor Ted may call it ‘incomplete’ – to hide it.

With such secrets we are susceptible to doing stupid things, even dangerous or illegal things. These only heighten the sense of “darkness” Pastor Ted refers to and, no surprise, he gave in to his natural (though he may not see them as such yet) desires. Unfortunately there were layers upon layers of deceit and betrayal so that any potential ‘natural’ feelings were covered as if the walls fell in.

So, and of course I would not presume to be able to give Pastor Ted any advice, rather than confess the lies, come out and try to patch up the lives of him and his family, Pastor Ted will ‘submit’ to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, among others, as he goes through a ‘program’.

Christianity would be far better served by evangelicals re-examining their obsession with homosexuality as a family-threatening “moral issue”. Of course it is adulterous when someone is in a marriage, heterosexual or otherwise, and engages in extra-marital sex. Fundamentalists – and there are even some gay Christians who, rightly or wrongly, look to the Bible with a similar degree of authority – might do well to reach out and learn from years of research and life experience with sexual orientation, and other believers with a less literal approach to scriptures, rather than focusing on the sexual acts themselves.

Meanwhile I continue to keep a comfortable space between myself and the Christian label.

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