If you believed Rev. Ted Haggard on Christ and homosexuality you might also believe Bush and Cheney on Iraq’s WMD and now on Iran’s "guilt" for the Iraq War. Millions of fundamentalists recently rejoiced because Haggard recovered from his homosexuality with Christ’s help, of course! It wasn’t easy. Haggard acknowledges it took three entire weeks of intensive counseling to make him "completely heterosexual." Yes, Rev. Tim Ralph assured the flock of the same mammoth National Association of Evangelicals that last November threw poor Haggard out like a piece of smelly garbage, "he’s cured."
Haggard, Ralph added, helped his confessional cause by limiting his sins to the favors of one prostitute, Mike Jones, who engaged Reverend Ted in imaginative exercises known by the sin crowd as booty bumping.
Jones administered methamphetamine anally and enhanced sexual pleasure by keistering. You mean, my wife asked, "Mike the Masseuse tweaked Teddy’s booty with his you know what?" This kind of anal, I mean venal, sin cost poor Teddy three nerve wracking weeks after which, happily, he got born again. I wonder if he went to counseling on Sundays.
Luckily, he didn’t admit to multiple partner sinning or injecting drugs with needles! And no other Mike Jones’s emerged to recount intimate encounters with the homo-hating Reverend. Had the Evangelical elders heard such evidence they might have forced Haggard to spend as much as four or even five weeks in intensive counseling the time it apparently takes for Jesus to carry out his healing.
After twenty one days of "analysis and treatment," Ted felt reborn. "Jesus is starting to put me back together," he emailed the Colorado Springs Gazette (February 5). "Halleluja!"
Why can’t I get reborn? It sounds so easy. Commit a sin, like getting booty bumped by drugs and flesh, get caught, confess and say you’re sorry, go to counseling and declare yourself "cured" by Jesus, who I believe died dramatically and very publicly some 2,007 years ago.
I guess my underdeveloped sense of humor doesn’t allow me to think of the public as so idiotic. H. L. Mencken, however, possessed that cynical ability to laugh at "the unending procession of governmental extortions and chicaneries, of commercial brigandages and throat-slittings, of theological buffooneries, of aesthetic ribaldries, of legal swindles and harlotries, of miscellaneous rogueries, villainies, imbecilities, grotesqueries and extravagances."
Mencken viewed the frauds perpetrated as "so inordinately gross and preposterous, so perfectly brought up to the highest conceivable amperage, so steadily enriched with an almost fabulous daring and originality, that only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night, and to awake every morning with all the eager, unflagging expectation of a Sunday-school superintendent touring the Paris peep-shows."
One can see evangelical burlesque in church. Indeed, last November Haggard owned up to his sinful pleasures — how exciting after Mike Jones outed him. Jones said he and Haggard had regular trysts for which he received $200 a pop. Then, Mike Jones got invited to the very church Haggard used to make his weekly denunciations of sin, especially the homosexual variety." Jones said that "it made me angry that here’s someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex." Jones advertised himself on the Internet and in newspapers serving the gay community as an "escort."
Jones told the Denver Post (Jan 29) that "a couple of ladies cried when they were touching me." Jones said people thanked him "for exposing the church, for helping Ted Haggard. A couple of them said they hoped I get God into my life. And they all said ‘God bless you,’ every one of them."
Jones smirked. "If the Gospel message is enough," he said, "why the loud music and MTV-quality production?" Associate pastor Rob Brendle saw Jones’ presence in church as a reminder of both grief and God’s faithfulness. "I told Mike, ‘I don’t want to impose my religious beliefs on you, but I believe God used you to correct us, and I appreciate that.’"
"One of the wonderful and enduring truths of Christianity is to love people the world sets up to be your enemies," said Brendle. I wonder how they feel about Muslims and Iraqis in particular!
In 1982, I had my own experienced with the right wing evangelical life, sin and forgiveness. Filming "Quest for Power: Sketches of the New American Right" (for Dutch TV with Frank Diamand), I rode in a car with former Maryland Congressman Bobby Bauman who had used his legislative seat to block all amendments that might have benefited homosexuals. He also voted to increase war spending and for other right wing agenda items. The previous year, however, Washington DC police had spotted Bauman’s car, with his congressional license plate, parked in front of a seedy male brothel. Fearing the worst, the cops rushed inside to find the ultra right wing Member with his own member in an underage male prostitute. The married with three children Bowman blamed the "incident" on drinking, but resigned from the House. He decided to run again in the next Republican primary.
Bauman explained how his religion allowed him to confess, make amends he was vague how he did that and be forgiven, by God presumably. Now, born again, he drove Maryland’s eastern shore looking for votes. Inside a restaurant, I noticed intimate looks and quick, affectionate touches between him and his good looking and young campaign manager. Later, his Republican rival apparently got a photo of the two in a compromising position and Bauman dropped out of the race. He subsequently emerged from the closet and apologized for gay bashing and for his hypocrisy.
Leading advocates of the far religious right have excelled in the "do as I say not as I do" game. Reverends Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker extolled their flocks to eschew sexual sinning while making kinky whoopie with hookers. The devil made them give in to their sinful urges!
Some right wingers, however, forged toward Hell with premeditation. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s, a possible Republican candidates for President in 2008, must count on voters’ short memories. In the 1970s, this rising star of the new right, preached marital fidelity while dallying with a married woman.
Anne Manning said that in 1977 she and Gingrich regularly "had oral sex." Why? "He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, ‘I never slept with her.’" Newtie the Cutie also threatened her, she claimed: "If you ever tell anybody about this, I’ll say you’re lying."(Stephen Talbot, Salon, August 28, 1998)
Gingrich nonetheless became became a favorite of the "family values" movement because he stood so dogmatically against sin. The Christian Coalition’s grand masters of orthodox Christianity, like Reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, winked at Newt’s transgressions. What was more important, preaching the revealed word or practicing it?
Newt dramatized the gap between saying and doing with his first wife Jackie, with whom he had two daughters. She also worked to put him through graduate school. In 1978, after losing two congressional races, Newt got Jackie to attack the woman candidate running against him. "Would this wife and mother commute to Washington?" Jackie asked publicly, at Newt’s bidding. "Would she leave her family behind in Georgia?"
Newt convinced Jackie to assure voters that he, a devoted Christian and family man, would certainly take his family with him. At the time, "Family Values Newt had other girlfriends. In 1984, Newt rewarded Jackie’s loyalty. Newt visited her in the hospital as she lay in bed recovering from uterine cancer surgery. "Sign these," he demanded of the groggy woman, as he handed her divorce papers. Gingrich refused to pay alimony or child-support. Shortly after, Gingrich married the younger Marianne, with whom he had carried on while married to Jackie. (David Osborne, Mother Jones, November 1984)
Television Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart preceded Ted Haggard in the sex scandal column. He also had to resign from his TV ministry after being caught on tape masturbating with a prostitute. A rival preacher aired hot photos of Jimmy and a prostitute, underage apparently. Swaggart confessed. Yes, he and Debra Murphree did the naughties in the No-Tell Motel. There were others. He cried on TV. Then he asked his flock for forgiveness and to send money for his ministry. Hundreds of thousands of dollars poured in from his pious and forgiving TV parishioners.
Have super "clean" Republicans given hypocrisy a bad name? Remember Ken Calvert (R-CA)? He couldn’t forgive Bill Clinton because of "what occurred between the President and Lewinsky." In 1993, police had arrested this Christian Coalition member receiving a blow job from a prostitute.
Voters elected these people and millions listen to them in churches and on TV. Just as the Mission Accomplished duo in the White House reassure the public they will prevail in Iraq while flashing phony "evidence" at Congress to justify an attack on Iran, the "righteous" Christians assert their direct line to virtue and God in Heaven. Are they just outright liars and sex maniacs, or does something darker lie at the heart of the gap between preaching and practicing in the USA?
SAUL LANDAU’s new book, BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD, with a foreword by Gore Vidal, is now available from Counterpunch Press. His new film, WE DON’T PLAY GOLF HERE, is available on DVD from firstname.lastname@example.org