Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Completely Heterosexual"

When the Rev. Tim Ralph told The Denver Post that Colorado Springs' fallen pastor, the Rev. Ted Haggard, was "completely heterosexual," it brought the whole issue of Haggard's sexual identity back to the forefront. Is he gay? Is he straight? Is he just confused? Media outlets ranging from the New York Times to -- ahem -- The Gazette have offered expert punditry on how tricky a thing like human sexuality is to pin down.

Rob Brendle, associate pastor for New Life Church, said that "it's fruitless to speculate" on what Haggard's sexuality is. And maybe he has a point. We, as a society, speculated months ago. Now we speculate again.

To me, an even more compelling offshoot of these comments is how the evangelical church, the media and we as a society still view homosexuality as a curiosity -- something that in itself (at least in the case of a pastor) is worth talking about.

When the Haggard story broke, few people wanted to hear as much about Haggard's alleged methamphetamine use as they wanted to know more details of his relationship with Mike Jones: The when, the how, the how it felt. It's human nature, I suppose. But it's curious, nevertheless.

Evangelicals have told me the biggest issue at play here is not homosexuality, but infidelity. The fact Haggard cheated on his wife was the biggie. The fact he did it with a man, they say, is practically beside the point. So why do we care if he is "completely heterosexual" or mostly heterosexual or a tiny bit heterosexual?

Whether evangelicals say so or not, there's still an extra-special stigma attached to gay acts in many, perhaps most, Christian churches. It's doubtful Ralph would've made his comment had that not been the case. When the Rev. Don Armstrong was suspended from Grace Episcopal Church for (according to the diocese) the misapplication of church funds, I heard from many Armstrong supporters who were VERY angry that Armstrong was mentioned in the same paragraph as Haggard. "How dare you compare our pastor with someone who had a homosexual affair!" was a common theme.

But folks outside the church also are entranced by these issues of homosexuality. Never mind that the "completely heterosexual" comment was made by a pastor not involved in Haggard's restoration process. Never mind that even Haggard's church gently distanced itself from Ralph's comments. Never mind whether we'll ever know if it's true or not. It's the talking point now, and everyone wants to hear about it.

The question is why.


Anonymous zen said...

The biggest issue is how difficult it is for any struggling pastor to find someone to confidentially confide in without fear of losing one's job & career.

How much more so when you are as famous and influential and in the spotlight (and on the pedestal) as Ted.

1:02 AM  

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