A quick recap of the Ted Haggard affair so far: a man came forward saying he was a male prostitute, that he had been meeting with Ted Haggard for three years, and sold him meth at least twice. After an initial full denial, Haggard admitted that he had bought the meth but not used it. More recently, he admitted to “sexual immorality”, which I guess is as close as he’s likely to get to saying that he’s gay. I think he said about one of the voicemail messages that has surfaced that he was going to see the guy for a massage.
Okay, so what’s wrong with this picture? (Or, alternately, how much schadenfreude can we dig out of it, and what kind?)
For starters, it’s not the fact that he’s gay, though that does play into it, since Haggard’s been opposed to gay rights and gay marriage for years.
He hired a prostitute. That, in itself, doesn’t bother me, since I don’t think prostitution ought to be illegal. Haggard is married, however, so he betrayed his wife’s trust, which is wrong. But let’s not ignore the irony of a supposed upstanding pillar of the community visiting a prostitute. I don’t know whether he ever said anything in public about prostitution, but it’s safe to assume that he would have come out against it if anyone had asked.
Then there are the drugs. This too is ironic, and his Clintonesque “but I didn’t inhale!” defense is amusing in a pathetic sort of way. As with prostitution, I lean toward the libertarians in that I think that banning drugs just because they make people feel good is stupid. I’m all for decriminalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, and probably others as well.
Then again, I suspect that meth is one of those drugs that’s illegal for a good reason. So let’s put that on the “pillar of the community doing things he shouldn’t” pile.
And yet, I can’t help pointing and sniggering. Why? Is it the hypocrisy, that one of the loudest homophobes in the country turns out to be gay?
Well, yeah, it’s that. But I think it’s also the fact that this problem is of his own making. He could have come clean on his own, saying that he had a problem with “sexual immorality” and drugs, checked himself into rehab (it’s all the rage among prominent Republicans these days), his congregation would’ve praised him for being so forthright, they would’ve forgiven him, there would’ve been a few stories on the evening news, the rest of us would’ve sniggered, and the thing would have died down.
But no. He’d been having sex with this guy for years, had bought drugs twice, and clearly intended to continue, all the while preaching about how the gays want to corrupt our precious bodily fluids.
So yeah, it’s about the hypocrisy, but also that it didn’t have to be this way. Presumably at some point he realized that he’s gay and and decided not to talk about it because people like him make it hard for gays to be open about it. He probably thinks that Gawd hates teh gays because they (i.e., people like him) want to corrupt America. If he’d thought about it a bit, he might’ve realized that if he’s gay and doesn’t hate God and America, then maybe other gays don’t, either. And that if he’d been able to question his dogma, he could’ve come up with a milder, more tolerant understanding of Christianity.
Of course, this assumes that he actually feels bad about living a lie. If, on the other hand, he’s just a right-wing authoritarian who got drunk on power and saw the Republican party and the right-wing sheep as a way of getting and keeping power, then I’m not going to waste any sympathy on him.