Sunday, 5 November 2006
Ted is feeling haggard
The shade of Garner Ted Armstrong smirked at me over the top of my computer screen the other day. There below was the gory tale of another preacher named Ted with his substantial reputation caught firmly in his zipper.
Ted Haggard is a prominent Evangelical poster-boy, a pal of George W. Bush, and on the record as being very "old testamental" about morality, and unyielding on hot topics like civil rights for gay people. Ted is a Bible thumper par excellence, but on the caring, sharing side of the Great Divide between Fundamentalists and their PR-enhanced brethren in the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals, of which he is president... now past president)
And Ted, it seems, has been a very naughty boy indeed. Ted says he just had a nice gay massage, and bought, but did not partake of, methamphetamine. Mike Jones, the other party to the incidents, claims it was a great deal more.
Now, to put things in context, does it really matter who does what to whom? If the used car salesman I picked up my Toyota from is an adulterer, it doesn't bother me. If the woman who fields phone enquiries at the bank is doing a spot of moonlight bonking, that's her business. And why all the fuss over a gay guy (who has been scrupulously honest about living in a longstanding committed relationship) being ordained as a deacon in the New Zealand Anglican church (actually, that one makes sense: all that flowing Anglican clerical garb...)
But Haggard's alleged homosexuality and drug use isn't the issue. His actions may be unwise and amoral, but in the normal course of events, so what?
The problem with Ted Haggard is the sheer, blatant, bloody-minded hypocrisy. To moralistically hold up one standard to the world while you're indulging in the exact opposite behavior - is plain despicable. He isn't selling cars, and he isn't fielding calls on savings plans. He has been brutal in passing moralistic judgment on those who see the world in a different light from his own.
The other Ted, the late "son of the legend" one, might not agree. William B. Hinson, a WCG minister of times past, related a little-known incident in his book Broadway to Armageddon in which the young Evangelist was picked up by LA police for, shall we say "questionable activities" involving a fellow member of the male persuasion. It took, Hinson suggested, a lot of effort for Dad to pull his errant heir's chestnuts out of that particular roasting pan. From that point on, granting the veracity of Hinson's account, Ted set about creating an impregnable reputation for red-blooded heterosexuality. Most people would agree that he mightily succeeded beyond all reasonable measure (and then some!) In fact, it explains a lot... But that's a digression.
Haggard has now been booted out of his New Life pulpit. That only seems just, if only barely adequate. The question remains, once he has adequately repented (or should that be spelled with the middle vowel as an "a"?) will he do what his namesake failed in so miserably, learn a little humanity and humility before casting about in indignant judgment on others? At the moment Haggard's website lists among his beliefs this sociopathic assertion: "After living one life on earth, the unbelievers will be judged by God and sent to hell where they will be eternally tormented with the devil and the fallen angels." Too bad if he finds himself in the VIP preachers' section along with the other hypocrites gnashing their molars (Mt. 24:51.)
Related link: (BBC) Top US pastor sacked amid sex row