Like Exodus International executive vice president Randy Thomas, fallen evangelist Ted Haggard refuses to discuss his sexual orientation in a straightforward fashion.
Neither will say whether they are primarily attracted — either sexually or romantically — to the same sex. The question is not a very complicated one for people who are really homosexual — unless one’s livelihood depends upon giving answers that are contrary to reality.
Both Thomas and Haggard avoid using the “ex-gay” label to describe themselves, but they consistently preach ex-gay ideology: Both are persons with unresolved emotional disabilities who claim dubious expertise about homosexuality based on extreme personal circumstances — and who then project their own unflattering extremes of compulsion and behavior onto normal, well-adjusted, healthy persons who are predominantly or exclusively same-sex-attracted.
Both Thomas and Haggard say that they were sexually abused as children, and that this abuse confused their attractions. Both eventually resorted to self-abusive behavior — sexual compulsion and drug abuse. So when either Thomas or Haggard touts their “former homosexuality,” even briefly, their appeals for attention are perceived by many gay people to be desperate efforts to claim expertise about a subject — homosexuality — in which their experiences are atypical and self-deluded. During the 1980s, in fact, Thomas rejected the advice of his gay peers in Tennessee and instead engaged in reckless sex and drug abuse, before he eventually turned against his friends and declared his own unhealthy lifestyle — and his warped relationship with parents and relatives — to be synonymous with the homosexuality of his peers. Haggard has behaved similarly.
Two years after his extramarital sexual activities with a male prostitute were exposed, Haggard is again seeking media exposure. He says he has changed; and he says anyone can change what he calls a “learned behavior.”
In interviews with the Associated Press (Jan. 9) and with Newsweek (Jan. 19), Haggard promoted “The Trials of Ted Haggard,” an HBO documentary on Haggard’s exile from the conservative evangelical community. The documentary, which will premiere on Jan. 29, reportedly focuses upon Haggard’s resentment toward New Life and its ex-gay orthodoxy. With AP’s help, Focus on the Family has issued a pre-emptive strike against Haggard’s complaints.
When the scandal broke, New Life and Focus on the Family offered Haggard a program of rigid and doctrinaire ex-gay counseling and monitoring. He rejected their offer, and instead sought out unspecified “secular” counseling. When he refused to surrender his autonomy to New Life, New Life responded as many ex-gay ministries do: by throwing him away.
According to Newsweek:
[Haggard] believes that New Life cast him away when he needed it the most. As he says in the movie: “The Church has said go to hell.” Haggard now thinks that he lashed himself too hard. “I understand why when a criminal is caught they will sometimes admit to things they didn’t do,” he says. “I wanted to overrepent, and I think I did overrepent. In my [resignation] letter to the church I said I was a deceiver and a liar, but I hadn’t lied about anything except to keep quiet about what was going on inside me.”
According to the AP article, Haggard claims to be happy now with his marriage — but he never says whether the relationship includes either romance or sex. He says his same-sex attractions, if any, are “not anywhere near” where they were when the documentary was filmed in 2007 — but he doesn’t actually say whether the attractions are greater or lesser.
According to AP:
Haggard said Friday he hopes to build his business selling insurance and debt-reduction software and is considering marketing himself through a speakers bureau to share his story ‚Äî “if the terms were right. I have to earn a living.”
Haggard plans to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show later this month.
An executive at Focus on the Family, which spends millions of dollars per year creating a wholesome facade for the unseemly ex-gay lifestyle through its “Love Won Out” roadshow, told AP that he is displeased with Haggard’s media tour.
“If you’re going to come out and begin a new life, why would you choose an HBO documentary, then meet with the liberal Hollywood press?” said H.B. London, a former counselor to Haggard and an executive at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. “The fact that he’s attacking the church or New Life Church, when they did so much to help him and his family, is below the belt.”
The ex-gay leadership’s excommunication of one of its failures is lacking in grace, and its self-pity in response to criticism is selfish and perhaps a bit paranoid.
However, Haggard is not a victim of the movement; despite his discontent, he is a perpetuator of its obfuscations and prejudices. And Haggard remains an enemy of sexual honesty and equality. According to Newsweek:
One thing that hasn’t changed is his conservative philosophy. Haggard still opposes gay marriage, telling Pelosi that “God’s best plan for human beings is for man and woman to unite together,” and he believes that homosexuality is a learned behavior “like alcoholism.”
Like many ex-gay activists, Haggard is someone who projects his own unhealthy life onto others in order to pre-judge them. And like many ex-gay activists, Haggard is a salesperson without principle: Someone who will obfuscate, redirect questions, and parse words for the purpose of financially and spiritually profitable deception.