Saturday, November 04, 2006

Feeling Haggard

Friday was a long day of reading and waiting for news about the latest Christianist hypocrite to learn the lesson that no one in power seems to be able to learn: there are no more secrets. Privacy is a relic of the past. Shit smells, which makes it easy to notice.

I want to feel compassion for Ted Haggard, and on one level I do. I know how easy (and how hard) it is to maintain a facade of a conventional life in order to avoid disappointing the people you love. The closet is an awful place to live, but our society -- especially its churches -- have made them the only viable housing option for millions of Americans. Spend your childhood being told that the way you feel is an abomination that will lead to eternal suffering and see how easy it is to express those feelings. So Ted Haggard started off in a bad place. And now he's made it worse.

But my compassion is also tempered by a pretty good-sized chunk of rage. This man didn't just actively lie to his family, he took it upon himself to persecute the very group of people to which he belongs. He's not the first by any means: Mark Foley, Roy Cohn...I'm sure many more could be found. Any group that is persecuted is bound to have a few members who swear fealty to the persecuters in order to avoid the lash. But it doesn't make what he did any less despicable.

Let's recap where things stand now, Saturday.

• On Wednesday morning, Mark Jones, one time rent boy (but being in his mid-40s at the time, I hardly "boy" is a fitting appelation), goes on a Denver radio station and claims he had a three-year client-ho relationship with Ted Haggard, head of Colorado's largest Christian church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, one of the largest church groups in the country. He further claims he witnessed Haggard snorting crystal meth.

• On Thursday, Haggard denies everything. Jones fails one part of a lie detector test, but the test administrator says Jones was too exhausted for the results to be conclusive.

• Friday, Haggard gets caught by a KUSA news crew and admits that he knew Mark Jones, had bought crystal meth but never used it (a most creative update of "I didn't inhale"), and that Jones was merely a massage therapist recommended by a hotel in Denver.

What surprises me most is how unprepared Haggard was. Actually "unprepared" is not the right word. "Stupid" is a better word. Did he stop to think for even 20 seconds that it was unlikely that a hotel concierge would recommend as a massage therapist a male prostitute who advertised on rentboy.com?

Then there's the fact that he's more willing to admit engaging in illegal activity (buying drugs) than he is to being gay. For all the progress the LGBT community has made in the past 50 years, that's a pretty frightening example of how much farther we have to go.

Right now I'd love to hear what's going on in the back rooms of evangelical power. (Remember when churches were about fostering spiritual life and personal improvement and not about seeking political clout and influencing civil government? Whatever happened to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's"?) What are Dobson and Falwell and Robertson saying to each other right now? My guess is someone is making a quiet personal visit to Haggard and telling him to get his ass into a very private rehab center (maybe he can room with Foley) and shut the fuck up until after Tuesday.

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