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March 3, 2009

The Trial of Ted Haggard – pastor soliciting homosexual sex activity with Mike Jones

This morning, following a long sleepless night of illness, I laid on the sofa and watched the HBO documentary, The Trial of Ted Haggard. I’d been meaning to see it but hadn’t found the time – especially considering that I usually have to share the tv, and I was definitely the only one in the house who had any interest in watching it.

Religion has always fascinated me; regardless of what “type” of religion, I’ve always found it extremely interesting. I was actually brought up in the United Church of Canada, and while I currently don’t have time to attend (thank you, work schedule) I look forward to getting a new schedule in the future that will allow for attendance. (For those unfamiliar with the Christian church spectrum, the UCC is somewhere in the middle – not exactly hardcore evangelism, but more structured than the really laid-back churches.)

Ted Haggard, Pastor Ted as he was once known, was the founder of the New Life Springs Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. In November of 2006, Pastor Ted was fired or stepped down from (depending on your source) ministering in Colorado Springs, and was “exiled” out of the state. The reason behind this? Ted admitted to soliciting homosexual sex from a “masseur” named Mike Jones, and also buying methamphetamines from Mike Jones’ friend. Drug use and homosexual activity, of course, being a contravention of the evangelical church, it was obvious that Pastor Ted could no longer be in a position of authority over his flock.

The documentary followed Ted and his family during part of their exile, as they moved from safe house to safe house, unable to return to their home in Colorado Springs until receiving the green light from the New Life Springs Church. During this time, Ted was supposed to be dealing with his spiritual crisis, while also trying to find a job to support his wife and two children. As you might imagine, Ted was not very successful at finding any work; most people know his face from his televised evangelical program. He solicited financial support from a few friends, which was leaked to the media, and according to Ted, spun into something it was not, which cost Ted more “points” with his public.

Ted has since been permitted to return with his family to Colorado Springs, but is forbidden to set foot in the church he helped create. He is working now as an insurance salesman, and identifies as a “heterosexual with issues.” This documentary was interesting, because it highlights one of the pitfalls of the evangelical church: a willingness to allow their own to fall, and not help them back up. Ted’s faith, and the faith of his followers, says that Ted’s affair and drug use was wrong; he committed some grave sins. However, faith also commands forgiveness and support, which in my opinion, Ted has not received from his church. The whole point of faith and church, as Ted points out in the documentary, is to help those who are suffering and who are in need of help; who is helping him now? His own people exiled him out of the state (can they even do that?) and he has been forced to begin anew, without anyone to lean on besides his wife and children. Some friends he has.

While I don’t agree with the philosophy of the evangelical church on the issue of homosexuality, I respect their right to believe what they want to believe. However, by casting Ted aside, publicly humiliating him and refusing to allow him to return to their fold, they have proven to be extremely unforgiving and un-Christian. Those in need of help should be at the front of the church, not left outside its doors.

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