Wow, what a week!
We all thought we were going to get blasted after the New Jersey Supreme Court decision that same-sex couples should have equal rights. Speculation was that conservatives would go to the voting booth in droves to put a stop to this horrible gay marriage agenda. But then, some interesting things happened.
First, Ted Haggard’s bombshell hit the shores of the evangelical land. Mike Jones, a male prostitute, came forward with accusations that Haggard had a 3-year sexual relationship with him. Haggard. Jones claimed that Haggard paid him for sex on a monthly basis. Haggard was, up until this week, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was senior pastor of New Life Church, a 14,000 member megachurch. His worship pastor is Ross Parsley. Thankfully, there’s no relation to notorious anti-gay windbag preacher Rod Parsley (I thought there was a relation, but I was informed that there isn’t. I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong).
We’ve seen gay accusations and confessions in the Christian churches before. In 2002, Roberts Liardon confessed a long-term gay relationship with one of his staff. Liardon was temporarily removed from ministry to receive “counseling.” He’s back in the pulpit now, and has even reportedly preached at several gay charismatic churches. Instead of denial, it seems that Liardon has embraced all aspects of his life.
More recently, Paul Crouch, founder of the popular Trinity Broadcast Network, was accused by Enoch Lonnie Ford, a former staff member of forcing him to remain quiet about their gay relationship. Crouch completely denied all the charges. That is, right after it was revealed he paid Ford off to remain quiet. How much? $425,000. And we believe Crouch, right?
Haggard’s situation is even more interesting that either of these two other incidents. Haggard was well-respected, and was the first charismatic to ever lead the NAE. He brought credibility to the charismatic community. He also was vehemently anti-gay in his preaching, and fought against the “evils” of gay marriage.
When Jones realized who “Art” (the name Haggard had given him) was and saw him on TV, he became angry. He realized that a man who paid him for sex and drugs, preached against gay marriage.
The Christian evangelical community is reacting in many different ways. Jerry Falwell calls the fall of Haggard a “bump in the road.” But then, Falwell has always had comtempt for charismatics. Remember Jim Bakker? Falwell personally saw to his fall. By and large, however, the evangelical community is stunned. One of their finest has been accused of a gay relationship. Then he was accused of buying methamphetamines.
In a bizarre twist, Haggard denied all of the accusations at first. Then later, he “admitted” to puchasing meth, but “never used it” (but did he inhale?). And he admitted to going to Jones for a “massage.” Yeah. Right. A heavy-hitting evangelist goes to a male prostitute to get a massage. Sure. We believe that. It’s almost as if he’s saying that taking Meth isn’t anywhere near as bad as having gay sex. Unbelievable.
I think the biggest tragedy here is that Haggard had bought the lie… that a person can’t be Christian and gay. In my opinion, he chose to deny his sexuality and do the “Christian” and try to repress his sexuality. I’ve said it before (and I say it again in my book) that no matter how much prayer, supplication, or self-abuse you go through, your sexuality will not change. Eventually, a person will find himself “falling off the wagon” with tragic results. I think this is what’s happened with Haggard.
Instead of reconciliation, he chose suppression. Instead of freedom, he chose bondage. Instead of integrity, he chose duplicity. And now he’s paying for it. I hope and pray that Haggard will have the courage to be honest with himself and the rest of us.
Another event that isn’t getting nearly as much press is the “coming out” of Neil Patrick Harris. The 33-year old actor is the former star of Doogie Howser, M.D and current star of the CBS comedy, How I met your Mother.
Harris said in an interview with People (what is it with people coming out in People, anyway?), “So, rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love.”
Bravo, Neil. Of course, I didn’t realize that he was ever closeted. There had indeed been a lot of speculation on his sexuality, but it’s so great that another actor in a popular prime-time TV show came out. T.R. Knight, one of the principle actors of the hit show Greys Anatomy came out a few weeks ago.
So, it’s a week of people coming out and being outed. Who would’ve thought? These events bring one critical truth into light: We must live with integrity. If that means living as a gay man, then live as a gay man. Ellen Degeneres, Rosie O’Donell, Lance Bass, T.R. Knight, and now Neil Patrick Harris are all doing that. Now what would happen if we Christians started to do that too?
Come out, come out, wherever you are!