My thoughts on Rev. Ted Haggard have oscillated between feeling like the chickens came home to roost for someone who tried to run with big boys James Dobson and Chuck Colson in opposing same-sex marriage, and feeling sick at heart knowing what he will have to face over the next few years, in repairing his relationship with his wife and kids, and finding out how many friends and supporters will actually stick around now that the whole house of cards has collapsed. After reading his letter yesterday to his former congregation, I feel relieved for his sake that he finally stopped running, opened up his soul and came clean.
How can I begin to talk about the problems in the evangelical church that lead to this sort of thing happening over and over again? Let me put it this way. It seems to me Rev. Haggard basically has two options from here on out: 1) he can continue living at some level of denial about the reality of his own homosexuality, or 2) he can try bravely to grapple with this issue in a brutally honest, soul-scouring way. Evangelicals will continue to be supportive of him as long as he goes with option 1, treating it as merely “temptation,” “addiction,” or “demonic oppression” that can be fixed. But taking that road is what has caused the pressure cooker to explode into this current mess in the first place. Surely Haggard must know that. As he explained in his letter, “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.” In other words, he had to pretend to others that he was making progress in overcoming his homosexuality because he couldn’t bring himself to admit to them (or maybe even to himself) that, in fact, no progress was being made.
Yet how can Haggard go with option 2? Even though it would be the road toward a genuine healing of the soul and most likely lead him to the conclusion that he will be homosexual the rest of his life (i.e., that he is gay), it might also mean watching the support of his family and friends dry up faster than rubbing alcohol in desert heat.
While I’m not unaware of the hypocrisy Haggard has indulged in, in the end I can only look upon his situation with a heavy heart. Being evangelical means being in a culture where facing the truth about one’s own homosexuality is not an acceptable option. Even if someone does eventually face up to the truth about himself, managing to fight his way out of the dark maze of his own soul, he does not emerge blinking and smiling into a warm and welcoming light. More often than not his reward is bile and accusations and painful rejection from those closest to him. There is so much incentive to stay in the darkness of the maze, lying to oneself and to others.
I was disappointed to learn that one of the counselors Rev. Haggard will be submitting himself to during this “healing and restoration” process will be James Dobson. On the other hand I also sense from Haggard’s letter that there is a genuine person in there, who seems to understand that embracing honesty and humility is the only way to be free from this nightmare. As I’ve learned from various experiences in own my life, sometimes undergoing the humiliation of a big crashing failure is the best thing that could ever happen to your faith. I hope this is the case here. I hope and pray that Rev. Haggard will find his way out of the maze and into a place of peace with himself and with God.