While I appreciate that Ted Haggard, the immediate past president of the National Association of Evangelicals, has acknowledged his errors, calling himself “a deceiver and a liar” in a letter of apology he wrote to his New Life congregation, I take no comfort in his apparent reference to his homosexual feelings as a part of his life that is “repulsive and dark.”
It is one thing to admit error, quite another to see one’s own feelings as dark forces. To be sure, we all have feelings which are indeed dark and repulsive. And sometimes we act on them, hurting others and ourselves. One’s sexual/emotional feelings, even when directed to one’s own gender, are not, in and of themselves, either dark or repulsive.
It is how we act on them that defines who we are. And how we act when recognize that we have made mistakes and strayed from our path.
Haggard has done the right thing in admitting his error. In seeking some kind of contact* with a prostitute, he cheated on his wife.
Tammy thinks Haggard has a better “chance of becoming a better person” than former President Bill Clinton and former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey because he has at least admitted his wrong. While I highly recommend Tammy’s post, I wish Haggard had not dismissed his own sexual feelings as dark forces deserving contempt.
But, Tammy is right to distinguish Haggard from Clinton and McGreevey. It’s unfortunate that all too many gay people are so eager to forgive the former New Jersey Governor his faults because he has come out as a “gay American.” That Democrat behaved as badly as did Mr. Haggard.
The primary differences are that Haggard admitted his wrong and did not choose to come out as gay — that is, while he seems to have acknowledged his attraction to men, he will try to repress those feelings in the future. It’s unfortunate that he could not both admit his wrong and acknowledge the possibility of living a moral life as a gay man.
That said, as social conservatives go, Haggard has shown some sympathy for gay concerns, even before last week’s revelations. As Eva Young noted in an e-mail to me, he has “criticized one of the more extreme anti-gay candidates in a GOP primary in Colorado.” Another reader e-mailed me a link to an article noting that he supported Lawrence v. Texas, “2003 Supreme Court decision striking down Texas’ anti-sodomy law on privacy grounds.”
Mr. Haggard has the freedom to live his own life as he chooses. So, I will not pass judgment on him if he decides to stay with his wife and raise his children together with her. If he does not return to his past practices and is faithful to her, that choice may very well be a very good thing for those children. But, it would be nice at least, if he could say that while he has chosen this life, he understands that other men with feelings for men make different choices, acting on attractions which are neither dark nor repulsive, but merely natural feelings on which one can act in a moral manner.
-B. Daniel Blatt (AKA GayPatriotWest)
*I use the term “some kind of contact” to acknowledge the difference between Haggard’s account and that of Mike Jones, the gay man whom Haggard claims he paid for massage.