Reading this article on CNN about last night's Larry King interview with Ted Haggard was a real "Ugh" moment for me this morning. It bothers me for a number of reasons, many of which I just don't have the time to get into this morning. I would be remiss not to mention that Haggard's staggering hypocrisy is nothing short of...Well, really old news. This is the kind of thing those of us who 'pay attention' have come to expect from these evangelical leadership types. And it's also the kind of thing that makes me shy away from organized religion altogether.
In "Age of Reason", Thomas Paine wrote, "My own mind is my own church." This single phrase brought me more in touch with my spirituality than I had ever been before. (Honestly, I was still pretty fuckin' far from spiritual when I first read that, but things have gotten better since.) Without going too far of the intended path, I'd like to say that I consider myself a Christian (That is how I was raised), I believe that Jesus was a historical figure, and I try to follow the red words in my daily life, which are non-coincidentally very similar to the important words in let's say: The Quran, The Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, The Mahayana sutras, etc. Do I think Jesus was the son of God, or God on Earth? Well, I don't know. To me those are questions of parliamentary and ecclesiastical dogma and hence, have no real impact on my faith or the practice thereof.
I suppose the point in all of that is: When one places a set of supernatural expectations on a human being, who is no more or less frail and fallible as the rest of us, well that person with the expectations is setting himself up for a huge letdown. With all the sincerity of my heart, believe me when I say I know something about unreasonable expectations and the associated feelings of planned outcomes not matched by reality.
Still, as much as I am bothered by all of this, what I found most troubling was Haggard's lack of acceptance - or at least what I perceive as his lack of acceptance.
Controversy involving Haggard first erupted in November 2006, when a former prostitute, Mike Jones, said the pastor had paid him for sex over three years and had used methamphetamine in his presence.
In the CNN interview, Haggard credited Jones with having helped him by disclosing that information.
"I think he rescued me. I'm very grateful to him," Haggard said. He said he would have lost the support of his wife of 30 years, Gail, and their five children "and been a drug addict" had he not been caught.
"I paid a heavy price. It was stupid," he said.
You should be grateful. This man gave you an out, Ted. You don't have to hide who you are anymore. You are a gay man, at least a bi-sexual man, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Haggard likened his struggles with his desires to the struggles faced by dieters who say, "'I'm not going to eat today' and then they eat."
There are dieters who break their diet so they can have a piece of cake, and then there are people who are addicted to eating. There are people who cheat on their spouses on the impulse of lust, and there are those who are addicted to sex. There are those who can socially drink, and there are those who turn into complete lunatics as soon as they ingest alcohol - we're called alcoholics (I know. I am one, and I'm okay with that today. Because I've admitted it, I can do something about it.)
Now, there are men who experiment sexually at some point in their life, and there are homosexual or bisexual men in heterosexual relationships who pay male prostitutes to sleep with them. Such people are not addicted to sex, alcohol/drugs, or eating. (I should rephrase that...they might be addicted to any number of those things.) They have primal, instinctive, and emotional feelings, love maybe, towards members of the same sex, not because they have a disease like addiction, but because that is the way God made them. And that is okay.
However, I don't know what it's like in the closet, and I can only imagine the kind of hell one must suffer through while living in one.
And yes, I will acknowledge that in saying all of this I have opened the door for hours of semantic debate about whether or not love is an addiction - I have been debating myself the whole time I'm writing. My point is this, there is nothing spiritual in addiction. In my opinion, the foundation of spirituality is love. Whether it's the kind of love that develops between two friends, or the kind that manifests both in friendly and physical ways. So, for me, to deny such feelings is in essence to deny my spirituality. I can think of several examples in my life today where things would be a lot tougher - impossible perhaps - if I couldn't count on those around me whom I love.
I hope I made my point clear enough, I'm getting really pressed for time and this thing, this post became much more than I originally intended it to be. I really have to go and I wish I could have elaborated more thoroughly, but such is life.
By the way: My inner thirteen year old says, "Dude, could you have made that post any gayer?"