Sunday, November 05, 2006

Haggard's nightmare may be far from over

Ted Haggard's statement to his congregation has been published, as has a letter from his wife (both .pdf files). Ted's statement says, in part,

The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem.

I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life.

For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them.

The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.

The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry. Our church's overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual,emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family.
It sounds as if he's going to stay trapped in the nightmare. The nightmare is the fantasy, in which so many evangelical/conservatives are invested, is that same-sex attraction can be prayed/counseled away, that with the help of a supernatural, personal God one can change something this fundamental and hard-wired. The nightmare is believing that one's same-sex attractions are "repulsive and dark" and "dirt." The problem nightmare is not his attraction to men, but what he has been taught and has been teaching about homosexuality.

In my last post, I said I don't consider everyone who is (primarily) same-sex attracted to be "gay." It's clear that many "ex-gay" people continue to be attracted to the same sex. They just distance their identities from this part of themselves, just as Haggard is continuing to do (although he can no longer do it in secret). They are no longer "gay," they say; they are just tempted by sin. Virtually everyone I've met, or known online, or read about, who considered themselves "ex-gay" to one extent or another, eventually realized that same-sex attraction is just part of who they are and that it was more realistic and healthy to accept themselves rather than to continue to try and deny and change themselves. You find very few genuinely long-term (i.e., over 10 years) "success" stories in the ex-gay movement.

"I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom," Haggard writes. Oh, how many times did I, and so many others, think this same thing. "Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires . . . " that he succumbed to. It does tremendous damage to say about a profoundly integral part of one's self that this is not me. Haggard is evidently going to continue to do that, at least for a while. Look at who's guiding him: listed first, James Dobson, that cruel moralist who wears a pleasant smile. The nightmare cycle of repression and denial, then the eruption of buried feelings, will continue until he can accept all of himself.

One can be deeply and even rather evangelistically Christian and openly, proudly, self-affirmingly gay or bisexual. There are thousands of members of Metropolitan Community Church members who can show him that. And you can love and be committed to your wife and children and be a wonderful, involved father, and yet choose to live separately and even divorce--while remaining loving and committed (ask my ex-wife and me). Haggard and his wife have a lot to explore. It's going to be all the harder if Haggard's primary counselors through this have strong agendas of their own. Could James Dobson ever say, "Look Ted, if you are gay I love and support you in living an honest and open life. You can be a loving and involved father to your children and a loving, committed friend to the woman now your wife. The form of your relationship may change, but your love and commitment need not."? I doubt it.

I imagine Haggard is now destined to be a poster-child for ex-gay "therapy." My condolences to him and his family. Acceptance of reality, combined with a commitment to unconditional love and unending forgiveness, is the only thing that I've ever seen be genuinely healing. Faith-based pseudo-science, wrapped in a Bible, can cause deep and lasting pain.

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