Friday, November 03, 2006

The Message Here—Better to Be a Drug Addict than to Admit Being Gay

The Rev. Ted Haggard first denied knowing Michael Forest Jones, who claimed Haggard paid him for sex over a period of three years. The New York Times reported recently that Haggard admitted to buying drugs but continues to deny ever having sex with Jones.

It's difficult to parse all the troubling components of this unfolding story. But the most offensive issue yet, besides Haggard's blatant hypocrisy, is the suggestion that it's better to fess up to drug use—even use of one as devastatingly addictive as crystal methamphetamine—than to admit to being a gay man.

In light of Haggard's obvious belief that being a gay man is far more troubling to his parishoners, as well as the general public, than being labeled a "druggie," poetic justice calls for the following scenario: Haggard's congregation plays against type and states, "We can live with the fact that you're a gay man struggling with your identity, but we can't accept that you're a drug user."

Evangelical Christians often claim that gays are submitting to lies by allowing Satan to twist our identities. Haggard no doubt stood in this camp proclaiming this "truth" more loudly than his Evangelical peers. There are a lot of us, gay Christians, who accept and take in stride our gay identity, struggle for recognition in a culture that decides political elections based on one issue—defeating any legaslative measure that will recognize us as equal citizens, and choose lives of relative tranquility with a same-sex partner, all while rejecting the notion of hiding who we are beneath a cloak of shame, denial, and secrecy.

There's no doubt in my mind that nobody's fooled by this man's denials. He's a gay man whose internalized homophobia has demonized him. In turn, he chose to participate in a secret life while turning his demonization on gays.

Haggard needs help. He's buried so far under layers of lies, ones he's created, and shame. It's unfortunate that he's continuing to demonize and marginalize gays. It's a shame that the people he surrounds himself with will never allow him to be who he is. And that many of them will embrace him despite his recent claims of drug procuring. I don't doubt those same people would shun him were he to choose to reveal himself as a gay man who was involved in a same-sex relationship that obviously, based on duration, brought him some sense of comfort and completeness.

Here is the most recent posting in the Haggard story from the New York Times.

November 3, 2006
Evangelical Leader Says He Bought Drugs

The Rev. Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders, admitted today that he had purchased the illegal drug methamphetamine from a gay escort in Denver, but denied that he ever had sex with the man.

Mr. Haggard resigned as president of the evangelical association and stepped aside as senior pastor of the New Life mega-church in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Thursday after Michael Forest Jones, a self-described former gay prostitute, accused him of having a sexual affair for three years and using the drug, commonly known as crystal meth, during those encounters.

Earlier, in an e-mail message sent to parishioners and obtained by local news media, Ross Parsley, the acting pastor of the New Life Church said, “It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true.”

Speaking to the Denver television station KUSA outside his house in Colorado Springs today, Mr. Haggard said a Denver hotel referred him to Mr. Jones for the purpose of getting a massage. He said he met with Mr. Jones and bought the drug. “I was tempted, I bought it, but I did not use it,” he said today. The station posted the video interview on its Web site.

He said he threw the drug out shortly after buying it. “I never kept it very long because it was wrong,” he said.

Asked if he engaged in sex with Mr. Jones, he said, “No I did not.” He also said he never used the drug with Mr. Jones as Mr. Jones has claimed.

Mr. Haggard, 50, who is married and has five children, has consistently denied the sex accusation, saying in a television interview: “I am steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.”

He also had said he had never met the man making the accusation.

In his message, Mr. Parsley said Mr. Haggard “has willingly and humbly submitted to the board of overseers and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation.”

On Thursday, Mr. Haggard said: “I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity. I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date.”

The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at the evangelical association, said the group’s 15-member executive board would meet today to decide whether to accept the resignation.

The evangelical association states on its Web site that homosexual sex is condemned by Scripture, and Mr. Haggard has advocated passage of an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Mr. Jones, 49, told KUSA that Mr. Haggard had paid him for sex over the last three years, and that he had methamphetamine several times.

“People may look at me and think what I’ve done is immoral,” Mr. Jones, who said he is no longer a prostitute, told KUSA. “But I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind, and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody’s back.”

Mr. Jones took a polygraph examination in connection with other interviews and partially failed, local broadcasters said. They said the examiner said he would like to do a re-test because Mr. Jones was exhausted at the time of the first test.

Mr. Haggard said in a lengthy interview with KUSA that he had never used drugs of any kind and that he did not smoke or drink alcohol.

Mr. Haggard has been a supporter of an amendment to the state’s Constitution banning same-sex marriage, on which Coloradans will vote next week. He told KUSA that the accusations might have been politically motivated.

“It made me angry that here’s someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex,” Mr. Jones said.