Another Closeted Religious Hypocrite

Wow. Yet another gay conservative has been outed, this time one of the most powerful leaders of the Religious Right :

Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and founder and leader of the Colorado Springs-based New Life Church, stepped down Thursday following allegations that he has had a three-year homosexual affair with a male prostitute.

Haggard resigned as president of the national association and placed himself on administrative leave from his church.

Mike Jones, a self-professed male escort, claimed publicly on Wednesday to have had a three-year affair with Haggard, during which Haggard allegedly ingested methamphetamine. Haggard denied the affair Wednesday night to KUSA Channel 9News.

But today, Haggard stated he could “not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations made on Denver talk radio…”

The sad thing about this is that Ted Haggard seems to be, relatively speaking, one of the good guys (at least, as close to “good” as you’re likely to find in the evangelical movement). Here’s a choice bit from a profile on Haggard from Christianity Today :

“Evangelical does not mean any particular political ideology,” Haggard continues. “The African American [evangelical] community has an honorable concern for social justice, and that affects their politics. That concern comes from the Scripture. The Anglo community has a different history, so different Scriptures stand out to them. To the Anglo [evangelical] community, most of their sermons are theological. It’s salvation by grace through faith, and other theological points, so social-justice issues don’t have the same compelling justification.”
. . .
Haggard is a loyal member of the Religious Right who dials in for a White House conference call every Monday. Yet he embraces ecological concerns and says the Supreme Court made a good decision in the Lawrence v. Texas case, ordering the government out of the private lives of homosexuals.

Haggard thinks churches should keep their doctrinal distinctives to themselves, but he broadcasts political stands that some NAE members find objectionable. (When he produced a memo last spring listing “judicial restraint” at the top of the NAE’s priorities and “care for creation” at the bottom, the NAE board made clear they didn’t share his priorities.) Talking with Haggard, it isn’t entirely clear why politics should be argued in public, but doctrine shouldn’t.

It’s nice to see that Haggard takes a more moderate stand one some social issues (like breaking ranks with his fellow fundies over civil unions), but the impression I keep getting from Haggard is that he is, like so many of his peers in the evangelical leadership, a politician first and a man of god second. The CT profile even calls him on it :

Haggard isn’t searching for perfect consistency. He is attracted to what works. For him, everything seems to work these days. He loves to drop names of the politicians and journalists who have called. But he’s not stuck on politics. Should the political scene change and his influence wane, he would move on to the next thing.
. . .
But personality-driven and media-centric organizations don’t necessarily develop strong institutional foundations. Politicians are notoriously fickle. Today’s darlings are tomorrow’s has-beens.

And as the Bible amply warns, success is seductive. Haggard’s optimistic evangelicalism could become self-congratulatory religion-lite, baptizing the American way. It could turn evangelicalism into the church wing of the Republican Party. It could wrap free-market individualism around the Cross, confusing material wealth and personal happiness with spiritual riches. It could neglect the Cross altogether. The new evangelicalism that Haggard represents suffers such temptations, most obviously in the prosperity gospel.

While Haggard’s rhetoric doesn’t perfectly mirror the hate-mongering that defines the politicians of the “religious” right, his political activism is getting him in trouble. Though Haggard is, to a degree, a moderating force within the evangelical community, his accuser has come forward because of Haggards hypocrisy on gay marriage and Colorado’s upcoming homophobic ballot initiative.

Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, made his allegations on the Peter Boyles show on KHOW 630 AM, saying he was compelled to come forward because he believes Haggard, an opponent of same-sex unions, is being hypocritical.

“After sitting back and contemplating this issue, the biggest reason is being a gay man all my life, I have experience with my friends, some great sadness of people that were in a relationship through the years,” and were not able to enjoy the same rights and privileges as a married man and woman, Jones told Boyles on air.

“I felt it was my responsibility to my fellow brothers and sisters, that I had to take a stand, and I cannot sit back anymore and hear (what) to me is an anti-gay message.”

Let this be a warning to the religious hypocrites who exploit their own faith for political gain. Matthew 26:52

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

Then again, whenever these self-appointed arbiters of moral purity turn out to be hypocrites, my reaction is more like that other religious J.C…Jack Chick :

If Ted Haggard wasn’t the leader in a religious and political movement whose modus operandi was the demonizing of homosexuals, he’d probably still have a job. HAW HAW HAW

UPDATE : Check out Haggard’s soon-to-be-legendary appearance in the documentary Jesus Camp (via Americablog) :