Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The scandal that just won't die.

The Ted Haggard scandal simply won’t die -- nor can it. As much as the fundamentalists want to believe the scandal is his fault, it isn’t. The true cause of this scandal is the absurd views that fundamentalists hold and their steadfast refusal to let reality have any role in their appraisal of life.

You may remember that Haggard ran a fundamentalist “megachurch” in Colorado Springs but it was revealed that he was a drug user who hired male prostitutes. Haggard lied about the whole thing and then admitted it was true. He was using crystal meth but then one purpose of that drug is to lower sexual inhibitions. So a guilt ridden fundamentalist, convinced he is doomed to hell for being gay, but who is nonetheless gay, might find this drug an easy means to being true to his own nature.

Haggard, of course, was not just a self-hating homosexual but one who expressed “Biblical” contempt toward other gays in public. That was the reason his prostitute friend decided to “out” Haggard to the media. And Ted’s house of cards came tumbling down.

One safe assumption to make about this was that the scandal wasn’t over. I say that because it was highly likely that Haggard had other same-sex partners in his history as well. While it was possible that the prostitute was the totality of his “experimenting” it was unlikely, not for someone his age.

Now, a 25-year-old church member has come forward and confessed that he had sex with Haggard as well. (See video above.) This young man is clearly another victim of fundamentalist theology. He is gay and also can’t accept himself. He had been a student at Moody Bible Institute, an ultra-fundamentalist school in Chicago (oddly located next to the main area for male prostitution in the city). This young man made the mistake of telling the school that he thought he might be gay.

He says he had been class president for two years running. He had excellent grades and was just one semester away from graduating. But the guilt over his sexual orientation was eating him away and he went to the school for help. He asked them to help him deal with this and the school said they couldn’t help him and basically told him to leave. What lovely people, they wouldn't even let him finish his degree because he came to them for help. (I should note that any help they would have given would probably have been destructive anyways.)

Moody told the young man to go to Colorado Springs where various fundamentalist groups pretend to be able to “cure” homosexuals. And when he got to Colorado Springs he started attending church: Ted Haggard’s church to be precise. As the president of the National Association of Evangelicals Haggard was one of the most prominent fundamentalists in the country.

Haggard meet the young man and asked him what brought him to Colorado. The young man first lied to Haggard as to why Moody Bible Institute had kicked him out but then told the truth. The young man stupidly thought that the “Holy Spirit” was compelling Haggard to help him.

This young man and Haggard both suffered needlessly because of their religious beliefs. And it is clear that Haggard, while coming on to the young man one day, was horrified about it the next. Back and forth they spun from one emotional extreme to another, tortured because they sincerely believe their church was right.

Eventually Haggard was revealed and stepped down from the church. The church then sent Haggard off to “be healed” by some ministry that promised cure. Church officials proclaimed the healing was a success, something Haggard says is not factual -- although he still suffers from religiously-induced self-hatred.

This young man went to the church and told them what happened, how Haggard, instead of counseling him, masturbated in his presence. Of course, because this young man is infected with the same self-loathing, Haggard’s actions only made them both more miserable and disturbed.

The church then offered the young man a large sum of money for “counseling” provided he promised to not reveal the truth about what happened. All in all they were to pay him $179,000 for his silence. The young man said: “I really felt the church staff did what they could to get me to move to a different city, to get me to stop going to the church, to make these promises to do whatever they could to help, but their main focus was to cover it up.”

What is astounding is that the church played up how Ted Haggard had lied to them in order to appear the victim. But then they were quite happy to engage in public dishonesty themselves by attempting to cover up another incident which they knew about. And from what I understand there are yet more such incidents that may yet come to light.

The church still can’t tell the truth and insists that they gave the young man the money “to help him” so he can “get on with his life.” They call it “compassionate assistance... certainly not hush money.” Yet they insisted that the young man agree to silence in order to get the money. He wasn’t required to “get on with his life” or to use it for “assistance”, he was only required to stay silent. That sounds like hush money to me. It is also clear that the church leadership knew of this incident at the time that the male prostitute made his story public. So they consciously choose to hide the facts from the members and the public.

The young man, only named as Grant (now revealed as Grant Haas), says he tried to kill himself four times. Clearly this was, and is, a young man traumatized by the beliefs of his own faith conflicting with the facts of his own sexual orientation. What fundamentalists refuse to see is that they are creating mental cripples; they are destroying people. Hundreds of thousands of young people, raised in this toxic faith, are having their minds warped to such a degree that many of them will attempt to kill themselves. Many will succeed. This same hatred inspired millions of other fundamentalists to mount campaigns to strip people of their rights. Grant tried four times to kill himself -- precisely where did he learn that it is better to be dead than to be gay?

Look what happened when he turned to his faith for help. They could do nothing -- of course not, but they can’t admit the reason they can do nothing: their faith is in conflict with truth. Fundamentalists try to force reality to conform with their beliefs instead of their beliefs conforming with reality. And when you do that you commit psychological treason and there are consequences.

Christian fundamentalism is toxic. It is a mental poison. Ted Haggard took this poison, so did Grant. They imbibed it, they believed it and it turned them into sad, pathetic individuals who may never learn to accept reality. Even now many, many more such scandals are being carefully incubated by these beliefs.

Fundamentalist Islam creates individuals who terrorize others. Fundamentalist Christianity creates individuals who terrorize themselves. While it clearly less deadly to innocent people, it is destructive and utterly evil to those who embrace it, and to those nations where it flourishes.

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