Sympathy for the Devil: Why We Should Show Some Compassion for Ted Haggard
Posted on February 1, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
By Michael Shermer
I just watched the HBO documentary film, “The Trials of Ted Haggard,” produced by Alexandra Pelosi (which the media seem curiously intent on identifying not as a filmmaker but as the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House). The film is a follow-up to her 2007 film “Friends of God,” in which Haggard was prominently featured just before his downfall from revelations that he had homosexual relations with a male prostitute, with whom he also did methamphetamine. And all this happened right in the middle of the political debate about gay marriage, in which Haggard condemned homosexuality as an abomination and gay marriage as a sin that should never be legalized.
Now, I enjoy roasting a hypocrite as much as the next person, and I sat down to watch Pelosi’s film sharpening my typing fingers in preparation for slicing this evangelical hypocrite to pieces, especially after just watching him on Larry King Live, in which he failed to apologize to gays for condemning the very “lifestyle choice” he also presumably made. (In his Christian worldview homosexuality is a choice–a bad choice, a sinful choice, but a choice nonetheless). But I came away feeling some compassion for Ted Haggard, sympathy for the devil as it were. I don’t know if Pelosi intended her film to have this effect–I suspect not from her off-camera comments in the film as she follows the fallen preacher around Phoenix selling insurance door-to-door and bumming rooms off friends at which his family can live. But given what we know about the power of belief, and the fact that this man devoted his entire life and essence to being an Evangelical Christian and all that stands for–which is a lot when you are the titular head of the 30 million-strong National Association of Evangelicals–what a striking conflict his life has been (and by all accounts still is).
By now, most of us know that homosexuality is not a “choice,” any more than heterosexuality is a choice. Asking a gay person “When did you choose to become gay?” makes about as much sense as asking a straight person “When did you choose to become straight?” The answer is the same: “Uh? I didn’t choose. I’ve always felt this way.” Right, and all the evidence from biology, psychology, and behavior genetics (twin studies) points to the fact that most people are born straight, some people are born gay, and some are even born bisexual, and that’s just the way it is. In a large population (and six billion members of a large mammalian species certainly counts) with considerable variation in most characteristics, it is inevitable that even something as seemingly straightforward (if you’ll pardon the pun) as sexuality will likely show variations on that central theme.
See sympathy for the Devil, Compassion for Ted Haggard
Huffington Post, NY -
TWO Calls on Authorities to Investigate Ted Haggard’s Former Church, Says Hush Money Scandal Emerges From New Life’s Closet
Ted Haggard says his sexual identity is … “complex”
SENEGAL: Jailing of gay activists sets back AIDS fight
Gay Bishop Says Obama ‘Stands With Us’ on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show