My friend Sister Paula and I were discussing gays in church a couple of weeks ago. As a follow up, she forwarded me the thoughts of A RETIRED GAY MCC MINISTER.
I thought they were interesting enough to share.
Here are my thoughts today on Ted Haggard and his confession:
Rev. Ted Haggard confessed in a letter to his 14,000 member congregation in Colorado Springs that he is "a liar and a deceiver" and that he has had a "lifelong sexual problem."
Rev. Haggard has a lifelong problem all right, but it's not his sexuality. It is his religion. The rigid, moralistic belief system of fundamentalist Christianity has prevented him from being honest with himself in a way in which he could have meaningfully integrated his sexuality into the fabric of his life. Instead, his sexuality occupied a hidden compartment, divorced from his public self and even most of his private life. The shadows of the closet not only hide much of who a person is from others; they also hide a person from oneself. This divided life breeds a kind of pathology that corrupts the soul with guilt and fear of discovery and exposure. In such a state, one never acts as a whole person in any arena of one's life. Every act, in public and in private, becomes a lie. I should know: I lived that way for the first half of my life and for many of the same reasons that Ted has. Having grown up in the same kind of fundamentalism, I know how difficult it is to break out of the prison of one's lifelong conditioning.
Religious fundamentalism is every bit as addictive as alcohol, gambling, food and sex can be. And it can be very difficult to break free from until one faces a crisis or "hits bottom" in a way that the truth becomes unavoidable. Fundamentalism is poisoning Ted Haggard's life. Like all addictions, it poisons the soul in ways that the addicted person often does not realize until they are free from its power.
I'm sure the evangelical friends surrounding pastor Ted will try their best to get him cured of what they see as his "problem." But if you think the person has one disease and they in fact have another, and you treat them for the wrong condition, the patient gets worse, not better. Ted Haggard's only hope is to become liberated from the brainwashing he received in his early religious life and to begin to view himself and all his impulses with honest compassion and compassionate honesty. Because his moralistic beliefs unmoored his sexuality from his capacity to love and be loved, his sexual desires occupy a kind of wasteland of physical gratification without emotional and spiritual fulfillment. He has created for himself the worst of all possible worlds – a life where every option creates more suffering.
Right now, inflexible religion is Ted's greatest obstacle to healing and wholeness. If Ted Haggard can find the strength within himself to get honest, jettison his fundamentalism and begin a journey toward becoming real with himself and others, including his family, he can discover the true spirituality that will enable him to be a whole person. Then his homosexual feelings can become part of what he loves about himself, instead of what he hates. In a climate of self-acceptance, he can compassionately work out his relationships with others. And in the process, he might even rediscover the Jesus who reached out, without condemnation, in such deep compassion to those whose lives were broken.
Ted used the name "Art" when he communicated with his male "escort." It turns out that Arthur is, in fact, Ted's middle name. Let's hope that Ted and Art get to know each other and that they become one person.