Last week a 25-year-old former church aide told a Colorado Springs radio station that Ted Haggard, the disgraced former pastor and National Association of Evangelicals president—once one of the most influential Christians in America—had performed a “sex act” in front of him in 2006. What wans’t clear was why Grant Haas was revealing this info now? The AP reports:
The pastor’s dramatic fall began in November 2006 when a Denver male prostitute alleged a cash-for-sex relationship with Haggard. Haggard confessed to undisclosed “sexual immorality” and resigned as president of the National Assn. of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life Church.
The new revelations involve Grant Haas, who told the TV station that he met Haggard in 2005 when he was 22. He said he told Haggard that he had been kicked out of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for “struggles with homosexuality.”
“It seemed like at that moment his eyes lit up and his whole attitude towards me changed,” he told the station. Reached by text message Monday, Haas agreed to be identified by the Associated Press. Haggard’s statement also identified him.
Haas said he contacted the church after the Haggard scandal in November 2006.
The church has said it struck a legal settlement with the man—it has not named Haas—in 2007 that paid him for college tuition and counseling as long as he did not speak publicly about the relationship. Brady Boyd, Haggard’s successor as pastor at New Life, called it “compassionate assistance—certainly not hush money.”
“Haggard certainly hasn’t been restored,” his former writer and editor wrote for Slate last week. Patton Dodd, now at Beliefnet, continued:
And now Haggard is back, telling Oprah Winfrey and Larry King that he’s confused about his sexuality and accusing his former church of telling him to “go to hell.” In his interviews, Haggard has ranged from humility and self-deprecation to wondering aloud how Christians can be so mean and claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, mother of Trials of Ted Haggard director Alexandra, sent him words of encouragement during his time in exile. (Pelosi’s office denied that claim.)
Haggard has complained to some of his old friends, including me, that if he had been a CEO instead of the senior pastor of a church, he would have been back at work in one month. New Life Church needed to protect itself and had to shun one of its own in order not to expose itself to financial ruin in the form of fleeing members. Haggard has complained, and now has Alexandra Pelosi complaining for him, that New Life Church refused to do the main thing churches are designed to do: forgive.
The problem for people like Ted Haggard—the problem that John Profumo intuited—is that he was in a position of public trust. Once fully lost, that trust can never be fully restored. Robert Downey Jr. can become an A-list actor, ruin himself with drugs, sober up, and become an A-list actor all over again. A businessman, a scholar, or a parent can do something similar. Why can’t Haggard? Because his very public career was based on the antithesis of his failures. Downey wants only to be a damn fine actor, and he can be that no matter the content of his character. Haggard wanted to be a minister, a position that makes claims on his behavior—claims that Haggard professed to be equal to. Haggard didn’t have to be a big supporter of President Bush, or outspoken against homosexuality, or any of the things that charged his public life. But he did have to have character that was consistent with the values that he so loudly espoused. His life did have to be consistent with what he preached, because preaching is based on public trust within the preacher’s community of followers. Integrity is the deal-maker, hypocrisy the deal-breaker.