The Fall of the House of Haggard

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2006

Rev. Ted HaggardThe lead story on all the news channels this morning is the resignation of Rev. Ted Haggard, pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and head of the National Association of Evangelicals. His resignation comes on the heels of revelations that he had a three-year sexual relationship with a male prostitute.

Michael Forest Jones, 49, of Denver told a local radio station that he had sex on a monthly basis with Haggard over the past three years. Jones also said that Haggard used methamphetamine before having sex to enhance the experience.

When the story first broke, Haggard forcefully denied the charges, saying:

“I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver. I am steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.”

He went on to claim that the charges were politically motivated to derail the vote next week on Colorado’s proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage. His pal, Dr. James Dobson also rushed to his defense:

It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man’s accusation. Ted Haggard is a friend of mine and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday’s election — especially the vote on Colorado’s marriage-protection amendment — which Ted strongly supports.

He has shown a great deal of grace under these unfortunate circumstances, quickly turning this matter over to his church for an independent investigation. That is a testament to the character I have seen him exhibit over and over again through the years.

Rev. Haggard is a very big fish in evangelical circles. New Life Church claims 14,000 members while the National Association of Evangelicals represents some 30 million conservative Christians. Time magazine named Haggard one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in America. Harpers describes New Life Church as America’s most powerful megachurch. Haggard is among the small cadre evangelical leaders who talk to President George Bush every Monday. According to Harpers, “No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted, and no church more than New Life.”

In the latest sign of Haggard’s high regard in evangelical circles, a news conference was called for later yesterday in Colorado Springs, where civic and religious leaders planned to rally in support for Haggard. But it was quickly cancelled for reasons no one would explain. But we soon found out.

Mike Jones didn’t just have baseless allegations, he had proof. He released two voicemail messages that Haggard left (using the alias “Art”) to a local Denver television station. That station called on voice recognition expert Richard Sanders to listen to the tapes. He verdict: “This certainly sounds like the same person.” Here is what the tapes revealed:

August 4, 2:18 pm

“Hi Mike, this is Art. Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply. And I could pick it up really anytime I could get it tomorrow or we could wait till next week sometime and so I also wanted to get your address. I could send you some money for inventory but that’s probably not working, so if you have it then go ahead and get what you can and I may buzz up there later today, but I doubt your schedule would allow that unless you have some in the house. Okay, I’ll check in with you later. Thanks a lot, bye.”

August 4 at 5:10 p.m.

“Hi Mike, this is Art, I am here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then that would be great. And I’ll get it sometime next week or the week after or whenever. I will call though you early next week to see what’s most convenient for you. Okay? Thanks a lot, bye.”

The Denver Post describes their relationship this way:

They met at least once a month at Jones’ Denver apartment, and Haggard paid cash, Jones said. “He was very nice and very soft-spoken,” Jones said. “We never talked about anything heavy-duty.” …

About six months ago, Jones said, he was watching TV when he saw a History Channel program on the Antichrist that included Haggard as an expert. He researched Haggard on the Internet. “Once I pulled him up, I’m going, ‘He’s big.”‘

According to Denver’s KUSA-TV Channel 9, Jones contacted the station two months ago saying that Haggard has been paying him for sex over the past three years, all the while preaching that homosexuality is a sin. This angered Jones, who said:

“People may look at me and think what I’ve done is immoral, but I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody’s back.”

In retrospect, one might have recognized some of the warning signs earlier. Haggard was inordinately preoccupied with homosexuality, preaching that it wasn’t just evil, but evil incarnate. According to that same Harpers article:

The life of the gay man, in the evangelical imagination, seems to be an endless succession of orgasms, interrupted only by jocular episodes of male bonhomie. The gay man promises Christian men a guilt-free existence, the garden before Eve. As such, he is not just tempting but temptation embodied…

He was always on the lookout for spies. At the time, Colorado Springs was a small city split between the Air Force and the New Age, and the latter, Pastor Ted believed, worked for the devil. Pastor Ted soon began upsetting the devil’s plans. He staked out gay bars, inviting men to come to his church; his whole congregation pitched itself into invisible battles with demonic forces, sometimes in front of public buildings.

This scandal is huge; bigger, I think, than the Mark Foley scandal. A leading light among “values voters” has been revealed to be a hypocrite — a term that I almost never use. But what other term is there to describe someone who has made a very comfortable living and whose power reached as far as the White House by demonizing millions of Americans, but all the while he is cheating on his wife by having sex with another man?

My heart goes out especially to his wife and children. I also offer my prayers and condolences to all of those who trusted him for their own spiritual and moral formation. But it will take a very long time for me to fulfill my Christian mandate to forgive our enemies in his case. I suspect I am not alone in that. Haggard was not a man of God. He made an idol out of power and influence. But his idol, like all idols do in the end, let him down.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

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