It has been over four years since the evangelical Christian community was rocked by a scandal involving former Colorado Springs megachurch pastor Ted Haggard and a male escort named Mike Jones. Haggard is already back in the pulpit and this past weekend he was back in the public eye.
The TLC Network broadcast Haggard's "comeback" story on Sunday titled Ted Haggard: Scandalous and is considering an entire spin-off series.
That's right...the same network that brought you the genius of Toddlers & Tiaras, The Little Couple, and Sarah Palin's Alaska may now be poised to give the evangelical black sheep a shot at reality tv stardom.
The show would hold no allure whatsoever if Haggard was just a minor character in contemporary Christian history. Reality is, however, that he was an influential figure who evangelicals can't simply pass off as an undesirable distant relative.
Around the middle of the last decade at the apex of his ministry, he pastored the largest church in Colorado Springs--a city regarded by some as the "Evangelical Vatican." He was simultaneously the head of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) which represents some 45,000 churches from 40 denominations. In 2005 he was also named one of TIME Magazine's "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America." He was kind of a big deal--in Christian circles at least.
As an evangelical Christian myself, I am disappointed with Haggard's most recent foray into television but not because of his past moral failures. I realize that Christians are as flawed as the rest of the non-Christian world and anyone making claims to the contrary is delusional. Every Christian is a hypocrite to some degree because everyone consistently fails to live up to Biblical standards whether they admit it or not.
I know full well that if all my dirty laundry were put on display for the entire world to see, my mother would cry and my wife would divorce me. I take that back. My mother would cry and my wife would kick me squarely in the privates and then divorce me.
It isn't Haggard's moral shortcomings that bother me. It's his shameless attempts to profit from his failures in the name of God that make me queasy.
The embattled minister seems to have suppressed his passion for "massages" and methamphetamines, but it is clear that he hasn't quite quenched his thirst for fame and fortune.
In a press release from TLC earlier this month. Haggard commented,
My family and I endured the darkest hours imaginable in the public spotlight, and have spent the last four years fighting and struggling to rebuild our lives, our faith and our family...showing the world the new chapter of our lives will hopefully inspire others to find their own path to overcome their struggles and embrace the power of acceptance.
For someone so tired of life in the "public spotlight," he sure hasn't made much of an effort to avoid it. Since Haggard's removal as the pastor of New Life Church, he has appeared on Oprah, Larry King Live, ABC's 20/20, Good Morning America, Dateline NBC, The Today Show, and Divorce Court just to name a few.
He was also the subject of Alexandra Pelosi's 2009 documentary entitled, The Trials of Ted Haggard which traced his "exile" from Colorado and his attempts to function as a normal citizen.
He is as bad at being ordinary as he is at telling the truth about what happened with Mike Jones in 2007. His amended explanation of his encounters with Jones from his own website reads:
Initially, I publicly lied about my knowledge of Mr. Jones and his accusations, but after a few days I admitted to being "sexually immoral" because I had one massage from him that had become sensual and had purchased drugs from him as well.
"One massage that had become sensual?" I think Jones and the surrounding evidence would indicate otherwise. However, outright admission would make it unlikely that Haggard could serve in his present capacity as pastor, and as Pelosi's documentary shows, he isn't qualified to do much of anything else except mooch off other Christians.
Haggard has claimed repeatedly that he is in financial ruin, but I have a hard time believing it.
He is still receiving royalties from a dozen books he has authored or co-authored, he still lives in a house valued at over $700, 000 north of Colorado Springs, and he has a new gig as the pastor of a church that he started that currently boasts about 300 attendees.
If this is what financial ruin looks like maybe I should start emulating Haggard by fake baking, bleaching my teeth, and spouting spiritual generalities in an annoying voice.
Looking at the situation from a Biblical perspective, Haggard's drug and sexual escapades aren't all that different or worse than some of the great saints of Christian history. Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer. Peter was a liar.
However, none of the aforementioned profited financially from their shortcomings. I can think of one Biblical character that did make a nice little mint from selling his friends and community out though. His name was Judas.
Public be warned. Ted Haggard is not looking for redemption. He's looking for a payday.