Monday, February 02, 2009

Ted Haggard: Poised for a Comeback? (And Just What Does Nancy Pelosi Have to Do With It?)

Joe Dallas from Genesis shares some excellent comments here about Oprah Winfrey's interview last week of Ted Haggard, the former mega-church pastor and president of the National Association of Evangelicals who was caught in a clumsy web of lies and denunciations about his longstanding relationship with a male prostitute two years ago. Dallas' observations are appropriate, balanced and astute.

But you ask, "Ted Haggard on Oprah? What's up?" Well, Haggard seems poised to make his comeback, although probably in a much different guise than before. You see, he was on Oprah (and on Larry King, the network morning shows and other programs too) because he's promoting an upcoming HBO documentary about him...a very sympathetic film that was made by Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Alexandra.

It is her second film in which Haggard played a "starring role." The first being a HBO flick called, "Friends of God." (See this Vital Signs post from January 2007.)

Interesting? Wait; it gets better. Haggard claims that, through Alexandra, Nancy Pelosi "reached out" to Haggard after the scandal broke with the comforting message, "God is bigger than this." Says Haggard of he and his wife, "We felt understood and comforted by the Pelosis."

And Haggard explains to US News and World reporter Dan Gilgoff that because of 1) the Pelosi family's kindness and 2) the changes in his personal finances, he is disposed to Democrat policies nowadays.

"...Because I was an incredible failure at trying to find a job that would work — we knew we would have to depend on programs that Democrats had put in place.

So, our political position shifted a little bit. Our view of what it's like sitting in an emergency room and not knowing if your insurance card is going to work—I understand that emotion now. I know what it feels like to walk somewhere instead of driving somewhere to save gas. And so, I'm different. And I am optimistic about the new administration. This whole thing had changed me. I never dreamed I would be left out this quickly.

Here's what I'll the Haggard household we didn't make any impact because many of us voted for Obama and many of us voted for McCain...I am still a Republican but I am not the same kind of Republican I used to be."

But hold the phone, Rev. Haggard. Your whiny comeback is already on shaky ground...unless you're only appealing (as you well might be) to the left.

For you certainly aren't going to impress many on the right with your ongoing obfuscations about your sexual sins with other men or even your views on aberrant sexuality itself. For example, Haggard is now explaining to journalists that he is a "heterosexual with complications" who no longer sees the "black and white" lines drawn by Scripture about sexuality as being for everyone.

And this even as revelations of yet more homosexual relationships involving Haggard are forthcoming, including at least one young church volunteer. Haggard has now admitted the sad business on Larry King.

Sigh. Haggard seems to confess only when he's cornered and his previous lies all roundly disproved. And yet even then he tries to suggest he's being humble and courageous by his "Okay, let me tell you the truth" confession.

(On a related note, check out this Denver Post story with a description of the shameful actions of the post-Haggard New Life Church who paid that volunteer's counseling and college tuition costs in exchange for the man's "legal agreement" to keep quiet about the relationship with then-pastor Haggard.)

But back to whether or not Haggard's previous constituency will buy into his comeback.

Certainly conservatives will not be impressed by Haggard's new-found faith in the irresponsible economic policies of the new administration -- even though they may well appreciate his honesty in underscoring that such policies reward failure rather than productivity. What a line -- "Because I was an incredible failure at trying to find a job that would work — we knew we would have to depend on programs that Democrats had put in place."

Haggard must have felt comfort too in Barack Obama's warning from his inaugural address. “A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.”

Because prosperous Ted Haggard isn't. At least, not in the lavish ways he luxuriated in when he was a preacher. And so, rather than do the things his Christianity once taught him (depend on God, get to work, be patient and save, be satisfied with what you have, store up your treasure in heaven, etc.), Haggard would rather whine and depend on others, whether it's selfish schemes like this one ("Ted Haggard's "Dream" Brought Back to Earth," Vital Signs Blog, Sept. 5, 2007) or the new Pelosi/Obama socialism that will favor the unprosperous like the Reverend Haggard.

And, by the way, unprosperous though he presents himself, Haggard does have a job selling insurance. And then there's that hefty severance package which he received when he was fired from his Colorado Springs church. And his million dollar home. And...well, you get the idea.

Oh yes, there's one other tiny flaw in Haggard's story. Nancy Pelosi categorically denies it ever happened.

From Pelosi press secretary Drew Hammill: "The Speaker and Ted Haggard never met and they never spoke. The Speaker has never talked to her daughter, Alexandra, about Mr. Haggard. This account is simply not true."

But will the Pelosi press release put an end to Ted Haggard's comeback bid? I doubt it. After all, the perennially smug Charlie Gibson seems to have bought it. And Oprah. And Larry King. And, even though she doesn't want to get too close to the guy, Nancy Pelosi is probably happy with anyone who can bring some embarrassment to those traditional Christians (evangelical or Catholic) who oppose her anti-life, anti-family reconstruction policies.

No, despite what Ted Haggard has done to hurt so many, despite the terrible damage he's inflicted on the reputation of the Church, he's effectively enjoining the mainstream media's help to instead portray himself as the aggrieved victim. And nowadays, playing the victim card (especially if the bogeymen be religious and economic conservatives) makes for a winning hand, indeed.