Ted Haggard, Part 2: Responding to Christian Critics and Learning the Limits of Faith

Former megachurch pastor Ted Haggard responds to evangelical critics who used to be friends.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

In the second part of my interview with Ted Haggard (first half here) the fallen evangelical leader knocks some former friends, responding to evangelical critics and decrying Christian Right. He also answers questions from God & Country readers.

Since my interview happened—on January 15—there's been more news in the Haggard sex scandal. The Associated Press reports that a young male volunteer disclosed a sexual relationship with Haggard to his then-church, New Life, after the pastor was enveloped in a gay sex and drugs scandal in 2006. The church reportedly reached a settlement with the man that kept him from going public.

This new disclosure is sure to complicate Haggard's campaign to seek forgiveness and understanding in conjunction with a new documentary about his year in exile after the scandal.

You said you were making a mistake pre-scandal by being too judgmental and by forming "evangelical opinions" without each of those opinions being saturated in love. Do you think the evangelical movement's political spokespeople continue to make that mistake?

Yes. This generation of evangelicalism is becoming increasingly impotent because we're off message. We're political activists on the right instead of true representatives of the nature and the life of God. One of your lines from the documentary seems to encapsulate your feelings toward your church after the scandal: "The reason I kept my personal struggle a secret is that ... the church would exile me and excommunicate me. And that happened and more."

Now that you're back on speaking terms with your church, do you regret that line?

That's exactly how I felt then. And that's exactly what goes on too often... we say we don't believe in abortion until somebody does something wrong, then we in essence kill them—we stifle their voices, send them away, and say "We don't ever want to see you again." I no longer feel that way, though, about my story because of [New Life Church senior pastor] Brady Boyd's reaching out to me and the people of New Life church reaching out to us since we've [returned to Colorado Springs] in June.... But I know thousands of pastors and it would be a handful, maybe two handfuls that openly showed the love of Jesus toward us during out darkest time.

Focus on the Family's H.B. London, who was initially involved in overseeing your "restoration" after the scandal, has criticized you for surfacing in the news again. "If you're going to come out and begin a new life," he said, "why would you choose an HBO documentary and then meet with the liberal Hollywood press?"

Number one, H.B. never counseled us. Number two, there was no restoration process.... I was saddened when I saw H.B.'s comment because I felt as though it was a very typical comment, uninformed by the Gospel. To deride HBO and to speak negatively about people in the press, I don't think is reflective of Jesus' attitude toward people. HBO simply wanted to do something to inform, which is what they do in documentaries. At least the Hollywood press is interested in talking to me. I still have not heard from H.B. I solicited questions from God & Country readers. One asks : Did Haggard's struggle with homosexual desires help compel him to be born again, in hopes that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ would release him from its clutches?

I don't think it contributed to my desire to be born again, but I do think that when my struggle would arise, my prayer and my fasting and my Bible memory was done in order to facilitate inner transformation to deal with this issue and of course it didn't happen. And the inner transformation came in a counseling center. It did not come in a prayer closet. Does that suggest the limits of prayeror faith?

Spiritual problems can be solved spiritually and physical problems need to be solved physically. Spirituality gives us power to address different issues but if you need an appendectomy you need to go to the hospital. If you need counseling, you need to go to a counselor... I needed counseling and I tried to pray about it and it didn't work. Counseling helped me accept me for who I am so I could get my life in order. This was Christian counseling, right?

It was not Christian counseling per se. It was counseling but the people who did it were Christians but they did not have on their sign Christian counseling center. But a secular counselor wouldn't have identified homosexual urges as a problem or something to be avoided.

Nor did my counselors. They believed in the Bible, but they did not impose that philosophy. They let me settle that myself. I asked them, "Am I gay, am I bi, am I straight?" and they would not answer the question. Is the counseling ongoing?

I'm still in counseling. Another question from a God & Country reader: Haggard said he was without money after the scandal broke, having to depend on friends for money to live on and a place to stay, yet there was over $20,000 a month in severance from New Life.

Number one, I wish there was that much in severance.... What they gave us was gracious and kind and we are very grateful. They paid our health insurance. They paid me... they gave me a truck. They have been funding my handicapped boy Jonathan through this whole thing. A lot of folks would have difficulty understanding your anger toward the church when the church has been so financially generous.

It doesn't replace Christian fellowship. It doesn't replace kindness. It doesn't replace gentleness. It doesn't replace the relationships that our children have had all their lives. So I'm grateful for what they did, but to be shunned and excommunicated and exiled is something I will never in my lifetime impose on anyone else because I know the pain associated with it.

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