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The Rise and Fall of Ted Haggard

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William Crawley | 15:59 UK time, Sunday, 5 November 2006

haggard.jpgTed Haggard isn't well known in Britain and Ireland. And until this week he wasn't exactly a household name in the United States either. Time magazine recently named him one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America -- founder and senior pastor of the nation's most powerful megachurch, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals, the largest evangelical group in America, and, according to Harper’s, “No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted.”

None of which adds up to nationwide celebrity. But all that changed this week when Mike Jones, a former escort based in Denver, went on radio and television programmes, coast-to-coast, to claim that Pastor Ted has been one of his clients for the past three years. In fact, he says, it's been a monthly arrangement, and the pastor liked to take drugs with him -- Crystal Meth, to be precise -- during sex.

At first, Ted Haggard, who is married with five children, denied everything. On Wednesday evening, standing outside his 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he speculated that the male escort, whom he has never met, must be targetting him as a political ploy ahead of next Tuesday's congressional mid-term elections. After all, Ted Haggard is a distinguished and influential Christian leader, a supporter of President Bush, and a champion of "Amendment 43", a controversial legislative measure, also to be decided on Tuesday, that will introduce a state-wide ban on same-sex marriage.

Mike Jones, for his part, says he at first had no idea that his client was a leading member of the Christian Right. He knew Ted Haggard as "Art" -- Haggard's middle name, as it happens, is Arthur. Seeing the pastor on television making arguments against gay marriage, Jones decided to expose Haggard before the election.

Who to believe? Ted Haggard immediately agreed to take "administrative" leave from his pastorate and resigned his leadership role within the National Association of Evangelicals -- yet denied any association with Mr Jones.

Then the smoking gun turned up. A voice-mail message from "Art" on Mike Jones's answering machine, which voice analysts identified as Pastor Ted's. In that message, the pastor is heard arranging a meeting with Mike Jones and asking him to buy some meth.

Pastor Ted's story began to crumble under the weight of new evidence of his deception. His story changed. By Friday, he was acknowledging that he knew Mr Jones: he had been referred to him for a sports massage by a Denver hotel; he admitted to having been "tempted" by drugs -- but not sex; but maintained that he threw the drugs away without trying them. The pastor's interviews with Channel 9, a local TV station, are both bizarre and painful to watch.

These and other revelations prompted a speedy response from the church commission quickly established on Wednesday to investigate the allegations. Yesterday, the board members ruled that the pastor should be dismissed from his post immediately.

The White House has responded by downplaying Ted Haggard's political influence; but it seems likely that this episode may discourage many American evangelicals from voting on Tuesday. House Republicans are already extremely exposed given their handling of the Mark Foley case. And since every development in the Ted Haggard affair has been reported on TV news programmes and talk shows across the nation, this can only serve to further depress their hopes of holding onto the reins of power in the House of Representatives.

Beyond the political fallout for a struggling Bush administration that relies on support from the Christian Right, very deep personal questions remain to be faced by Ted and Gayle Haggard and their family. One can only hope they will be given the chance to work through those issues with the privacy they both now deserve. I expect Ted Haggard is about to discover who his true friends are -- and whether they go to the same church.

Comments

my first reaction - just shows that religion particularily in america is just abour money!

  • 2.
  • At 08:28 PM on 05 Nov 2006,
  • molly dee wrote:

How the mighty are fallen! The amount of disappointment and betrayal I experienced when hearing of Ted Haggard's deception and secret life, made me realize how much integrity and honesty we expect from Christian leaders. How desperately is accountability needed for those in leadership! Every leader needs someone or a small group of peers with whom he/she can be accountable, must be honest, and can turn to when temptation comes.

where's Roberto? - I'm a bit worried abour his absense lately - but interested to hear his excuse for haggard!

  • 4.
  • At 08:26 AM on 06 Nov 2006,
  • Stephen G wrote:

Unbelievable...the folks here jump to the conclusion that this man is a homosexual drug taker because a homosexual prostitute junkie says so?

Dear oh dear oh dear...whatever happened to rigour?

Stephen G.

  • 5.
  • At 11:31 AM on 06 Nov 2006,
  • Peetsen BJ wrote:

Stephen G - are you eating your words yet? If you'd bothered to watch the interview with the man you dismiss as a homosexual prostiture junkie youd find that it was the pastor who wanted the drugs (so he's the junkie), and there are two homosexuals in this story (the pastor and Mike Jones). Incidentally, the term "former prostitute" is more accurate, and maybe even "former pastor". Where's your rigour?

It is a mistake to expect exemplary standards from 'Christian leaders' per se, because they are no better or worse than any other section of the community. In any case, integrity and honesty have absolutely nothing to do with religious belief. They arise from basic human decency. As Emerson put it, nothing is sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
Hypocrisy, on the hand, is a very common trait among those who pontificate and moralise about behaviour, especially where sex is concerned. John Major was a classic case, exhorting the country to go 'back to basics' even as he was having an extra-marital affair with Edwina Currie. And Haggard is not the first and certainly won't be the last religious hypocrite.
As Thomas Fuller wrote, a hypocrite is in himself both the archer and the mark, in all actions shooting at his own praise or profit. We should learn to take what any religious or political leader says about sexual morality with a large pinch of salt. Instead, we should formulate our morality from our own thoughts and judgments, not from the preachings of others.

Brian McClinton- AMEN.

  • 8.
  • At 07:11 AM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • pb wrote:


I cant not contribute here, because I have done previously on homosexuality.

I think BJ may have a point, in post 1. The apostle Paul said he did those things he loathed and failed to do the good he wanted to do, as part of his Christian journey.

But I dont know he is on such sure ground to jump to the conclusion that Pastor Ted is "gay" and should own up to it. Why does the gay lobby immediately assume that any married man with children involved in gay sex is "gay".
It seems to me this is a propaganda tactic which aims to claim as many people as possible for its own argument. But how do we explain all those years of heterosexual relations and those children without putting words in the mouths of such people? Especially if you believe, contrary to much evidence, that sexuality is fixed?
And all the celebrities who engage in same sex behaviour or affairs and yet remain or return to being ostensibly straight?

Of course people expect higher moral standards from Christian leaders, otherwise what is the point?

But where has all the love understanding and compassion gone from this blog?

I'm not sure that gloating is normally a bedfellow any of us expect to find with truth.

PB


  • 9.
  • At 12:21 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • 'Lanre Iroche wrote:

Brian McClinton makes an interesting point, but the fact remains that we come into the world as infants largely ignorant of the 'situation' into which we have been thrust, which means that our own "thoughts and judgements" are formed in a very large part (if not completely) based on the "thoughts and judgements" of others. There is hardly a person alive today who possesses a "new" thought or judgement in the accurate sense of the word, and the only thing we are truly capable of is choosing whose thoughts and judgements we will believe and base ours on, often with limited information about the source of these thoughts and judgements. And, using the broader definition of the word "preaching", Mr McClinton has just advised us to ignore his thoughts and judgements altogether.

On the Reverend Haggard situation all I can say is that no-one's perfect - and it would have probably served him better to admit this than to act as though he was above that which ailed and troubled him - but one of the pitfalls of public exposure is public falls from grace. For his sake, and particularly for his family's, I hope this won't be the incident that defines him (not sure how likely that is though). That he is a 'man of God' doesn't make him any less deserving of an opportunity for redemption. God knows we all need it in one way or the other.

  • 10.
  • At 05:47 PM on 12 Nov 2006,
  • Martin wrote:

The pastor's sin is hypocrisy, hypocrisy, hypocrisy. I have nothing against anyone snorting meth or having gay sex, even though I don't personally partake in either pleasure. What pains me is that even after the revelations Pastor Ted admits to "immorality", that is with a judgement on drugs or sex as being immoral - HE WILL NEVER ADMIT TO BEING A HYPOCRITE!

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