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Where Grace Abounds

How do evangelicals “cure” homosexuals like Ted Haggard? When the author enrolled in one local treatment program, he discovered the prescription involved a regimen of Twinkies, margaritas, a little Cher, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and sing-alongs to the musical Grease.

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The year was 1985 and Colorado Springs was a sleepier town. That is, with the exception of one man, a pastor who lived with his wife and young family in the city’s northeast corner. It’s not amiss to say that the devil had his number. Covens had dispatched emissaries to screech like cats in the field behind his home, a known technique for summoning demons. And there were the late-night phone calls, expletive-laden and anonymous. “We control this city, and we will control you. You’ve opened your stupid mouth too many times, so we will destroy you—and your family…. We want you to suffer.” The man shot upright in his bed. “Who is this?” The voice on the other end continued, “We are everywhere and we will get you. If you stay in this town, you will suffer, Ted Haggard.”

More than two decades later, Ted Haggard’s suffering has been thoroughly documented in Colorado and beyond. The president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals, Haggard had championed Colorado’s Amendment 43 campaign, advocating a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He enjoyed close ties to the White House, participating in conference calls with presidential advisers and other leading evangelicals. When President Bush noticed that Pastor Ted was not on the invite list for the ceremonial signing of the 2003 partial-birth abortion bill into law, he directed an aide to invite him to D.C. And then, last November, less than a week before the midterm elections, a Denver prostitute—a male prostitute—came forward to say that he’d had sex with Haggard.

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Religious leaders sinning and plummeting from perches is nothing new, but Haggard’s scandal was different. Unlike Jim Bakker, who embezzled funds and had a heterosexual affair, and unlike Jimmy Swaggart, who visited a female professional, Haggard’s transgressions seemed to violate more than commandments. His lapse struck at the heart of the evangelical right’s most determined bogeyman: gay sex. Days after the news broke, an evangelical dream team was assembled to see him through this troubled time. Its original members included two big names and one giant in the world of professional Christianity: pastor Tommy Barnett of the 15,000-member Phoenix First Assembly of God; Jack Hayford, founding pastor of the 20,000-member Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California; and the Christian kingpin himself, Colorado Springs’ very own James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

And then, shortly after the New Year, it was reported that Haggard had been cured. De-gayed in three weeks of counseling at an undisclosed Arizona treatment center. Even fellow Christian conservatives waxed incredulous. “The truth is that’s not my story, and it’s not the story of anyone I’ve ever met,” Alan Chambers, president of the largest ex-gay umbrella organization, Exodus International, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I don’t know Ted Haggard’s journey over the last three weeks, but…I would say that it’s something that—it doesn’t seem like something that is really the case.”

Because New Life Church paid Haggard a year’s salary of approximately $130,000 on the conditions that he leave Colorado Springs and never speak of the scandal publicly, the details of his treatment have been kept confidential. Christi Cessna of the Sierra Tucson center, a private Arizona treatment facility that handles high-profile cases regarding sexual trauma, would not confirm whether Haggard stayed there. However, she did say that an intensive stay would involve a highly structured program consisting of individual, group, and family therapy, as well as some specific somatic-related therapies, and that a high-profile client is treated no differently than any other. If Haggard was treated like so many thousands of Christian “ex-gays,” the program he went through likely incorporated teachings similar to those employed by Where Grace Abounds, a Denver-based ministry that aims to assist people in leaving the “homosexual lifestyle.” Not long ago, while Pastor Ted was still perceived only as a heterosexual evangelical superstar, I started attending weekly Where Grace Abounds (WGA) meetings, to witness what this treatment was all about.

It’s a crisp autumn evening in the fall of 2003, and I’m in Westminster, trying to keep my hand jive in sync with the class of Rydell High.

Now can you hand-jive, baby,
Oh can you hand-jive, baby?

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Three months earlier, I started attending meetings at the Corona Presbyterian Church. I had anticipated being privy to a lot of prayer, some self-loathing, and perhaps some heavy-handed personality realignment. What I experienced was even stranger, even gayer, than anything I might’ve conjured.

Clap-and-slap-happy, I sit in a row of fold-out chairs inside a cozy living room. Surrounding me in giddy spectatorship are 25 men and women suffering from “unwanted homosexuality,” among other carnal afflictions. But no one’s suffering right now. We’re watching the 1978 musical Grease. There are Twinkies and margaritas and a DVD player set on closed-caption so we all get the lyrics right. As if we didn’t already know them. Projected on the sort of fold-out screen normally reserved for numbing family-vacation slide shows, John Travolta’s Danny Zuko has dissed his summer love for the last time. When Danny stumbles into the notorious Cha Cha DiGregorio, the two doff their dates and set Rydell’s gym floor ablaze with 1950s dancing, envisioned through the sexed-up lens of the disco decade. About half the guests around me are decked out in leather jackets, cut-off T-shirts, chiffon dresses, even a few satin Pink Ladies jackets. All costumes are gender-appropriate.

Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, yeah!
Born to hand-jive, oh yeah!

The woman to my right has decided Cha Cha is having too much fun. Is it her flagrant hip switching, her trampy makeup, or her brazen flaunting of sexuality that, by the standards of any contemporary MTV show, seems profoundly quaint? Whatever. Someone needs to put this hussy in her place. “Slut!” She shouts at the screen, following her exhortation with a naughty giggle.

In the middle of “Greased Lightnin’,” with its none-too-coded lyrics (you know that I ain’t braggin’, she’s a real pussy wagon), Scott, a sprightly ministry staffer, stands up, shakes his arm, and scolds the young Travolta: “Daannnnny, stop. Being. A Potty Mouth!” He seems less scolding than pleading, as if he could will it to be true. Scott has spent the last 16 years in the ministry, and this party is his brainchild—a follow up to last year’s much talked-about sing-along The Sound of Music fete. Normally he patiently ministers to those on the front lines of the “struggle with sexuality and relationships.” Fielding questions, coaxing people through their initial fears. But tonight he’s letting loose, facing the audience, his audience, as his outstretched arm hovers across the room in lockstep synchronicity with the T-Birds.

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My summer of WGA, the summer of 2003, was what appeared to be the gayest summer in American history. In June the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in 13 states, decriminalizing consensual gay sex and setting the stage for the culture war’s ultimate battle royale: gay marriage. In August the Episcopal Church voted in the Reverend Gene Robinson as its first gay bishop; dissidents talked splits. And, oh, those summer nights where Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s preening power fags taught heterosexual men the ways of applying product, grilling asparagus, and all things fabulous. Though the ministry has its office off East Colfax, Where Grace Abounds meetings occur where gays abound. That is, in the heart of Capitol Hill, where rainbow flags hang proudly from apartment balconies, King Soopers is “Queen Soopers,” and the Diedrich Coffee shop is a continuous, caffeinated sausage party. Outside a church that is literally around the corner from all that, the ministry’s smiling greeters welcome scared strangers and hug returning friends.

Scott is the de facto cruise director for Thursday night’s meeting and one of a handful of people on the ministry’s full-time staff. Short and bouncy, with big eyes and a buzz cut, Scott is invariably dressed in low-rider jeans and a neatly tucked polo shirt. It’s likely he would set gaydars into a tizzy from here to Lincoln, Nebraska. As my face becomes familiar over the next several weeks, he makes a point of greeting me by name with a smile and by squeezing my upper arm. I know better than to mistake it for a come-on, but it’s a gesture foreign to any heterosexual man I’ve ever met. In that world, touches are reserved for handshakes, dap slaps, and fleeting pat-on-the-back hugs. Here the cues are crossed.

“Hi, and welcome to Where Grace Abounds. Can anyone tell me why we exist?” In a church basement of fluorescent lights, pea-green carpet, and dry-erase boards, the weekly ritual begins with this question. Less ontological than rhetorical, it is followed by awkward silence before someone eventually breaks it with the responsorial psalm: “Where Grace Abounds exists to guide and support men and women who seek to understand sexuality and relationships, and to inspire all people to know and personally appropriate God’s plan for their sexuality and relationships.”

Despite this mouthful of a mission statement, God’s plan is seldom spelled out. In small group discussions, members seem painfully aware that His vague plan might have very specific implications. Canceling home Internet service and its constant lure of perpetual pornography, or steering clear of certain neighborhoods, certain bars, certain parks, and certain people. These are conclusions people expressed on their own, not edicts delivered from on high. But beyond avoidance and celibacy, where God wants them to go is the big question that keeps many coming back (as opposed to out) for years.

In addition to the Why Are We Here question, each meeting kicks off with an icebreaker scrawled on the blackboard. On my third night, it reads as follows: “In what historical period would you most like to have been alive?” Scott wants to live in the big-band era, so he could “go to those Ricky Ricardo clubs every night.” We go around the room, sharing our first names and our answers. Christopher chooses Victorian England, because “they had the most amazing furniture…I’m not kidding!” I say I want to be an adult in the mid-1980s, so I could gain a more thorough appreciation for cultural luminaries like Scott Baio and David Hasselhoff before they became targets of Gen-X ridicule. An hour later, a younger man pulls me aside to tell me that when he was 14 he used his sister’s name to send away to Tiger Beat magazine exclusively for Scott Baio centerfolds.

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Long before Haggardgate, the ex-gay movement had its share of critics: everyone from gay-rights advocates to mainstream psychologists and social scientists to former members. The reasons are less than surprising, given that the premise of the ex-gay movement—the idea that homosexuality is somewhere between a personal choice and a developmental disorder—undermines the gay civil-rights cause. If gayness is merely a lifestyle choice, it requires no more special legal consideration than people who choose to sleep in hammocks or dye their hair pink.

But the ex-gay movement went beyond that. Its adherence to therapies such as “aversion” and “reparative” are practiced by unaccredited therapists, putting it beyond the pale of a mainstream, peer-reviewed profession. What’s more, in their 30-year history, no ex-gay organization has ever compiled definitive statistics on success rates. How many people have turned straight? If so, for how long? Couple this with a history of prominent defections and disgraces and many might wonder how the movement has tread water this long.

Regardless of what Haggard experienced or did not experience during his treatment in Arizona, the notion that gays can change their orientation through therapy or a tag-team intervention of prayer and counseling is a position that’s never been more on the defensive. In March, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, an arm of one of the country’s largest conservative Christian blocs, floated a major shift in thinking. Where the religious right has been largely united in its belief that homosexuality is a choice, Mohler said scientific studies suggest otherwise. As he wrote on his website in early March, “If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.”

Ever since the American Psychological Association struck homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in the early 1970s, “treating” homosexuality has been a marginal psychological niche conducted without any accreditation. With few exceptions, the work of leading gays to heterosexuality has been the domain of religious ideologues and activists. And despite the conventional political wisdom that Karl Rove’s so-called base, with its culture-war kingmakers, is politically unstoppable, gay civil rights have soldiered on to near-mainstream acceptance, with states like New Jersey and California joining Vermont and Massachusetts in offering gay couples the rights of marriage, if not marriage itself.

Formed in the 1970s, the ex-gay movement has been a loose confederation of pastors and ministries. Its umbrella organization, Exodus International, currently claims over 120 affiliated ministries in the United States and Canada. Different ministries adopt different tactics. Techniques vary from strict live-in ministries that seek to weed out anything that smacks of gay, like Abercrombie & Fitch clothing and gym memberships, to those that take a more meditative approach. All of the organizations are subject to the idiosyncrasies of different pastors. In short, among those united in their belief that homosexuality is curable, there’s less consensus on how this might be accomplished

In the late 1970s, Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, the founding members of Exodus International, fell in love, left their wives, and denounced their ministry as hopelessly misguided. In the 1990s, Colin Cook, founder of the ex-gay ministry Homosexuals Anonymous, was caught having lewd phone conversations with men he was ministering to. Not long after, Cook was accused of giving sexual hugs and engaging in phone sex with his clients. In 2000, John Paulk, a drag queen turned ex-gay icon, was photographed at a gay bar in Washington, D.C. Paulk initially insisted he was not seeking sex, that he merely stopped in to use the bathroom. During “National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day” in 2003, organizer Michael Johnston was exposed after having unprotected sex with several men while failing to disclose his HIV-positive status. On the national stage, the last few years have seen a somewhat graceless exodus of adult gay men from various closets, including the 2004 confession that New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, despite being married, was “a gay American.”

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Haggard was much more than just another midlife-closet crisis. His fall placed both the ex-gay movement and the broader Christian right in a curious predicament, as he was a religious and political leader exalted as the personification of evangelical church and state. Leaders scrambled to downplay the notion that a 21-day cure was plausible while still holding out hope that “change” is feasible. Melissa Fryrear, a Focus on the Family gender-issues analyst and self-proclaimed former lesbian, was no less confusing speaking of her own transition to heterosexuality as a years-long process. At the same time, she maintained that God can perform “instantaneous works” for people, making them—poof!—instantly straight.

Where Grace Abounds was founded shortly after Mary Heathman’s stepson came out of the closet in the mid-1980s. The news forced the Denver rape-crisis counselor to study books on psychology and scripture, attend meetings of all sorts, and arrive at two tough conclusions. Her stepson’s sexuality smacked head-on with her understanding of scripture; the two could not be reconciled. And just as painfully, she found most churches ill-equipped—if not downright resistant—to support her and those in similar situations.

“Most churches don’t know how to deal with these issues, or the way they deal with them is not effective,” Heathman tells me and eight other initiates on our first night at WGA. In the months that follow, I’d hear echoes of her statement again and again. WGA’s program consists largely of informal lectures from members and guest speakers, followed by small group-therapy-styled discussions. Staffers and volunteer ministry leaders tell us that there are many plausible theories on what causes homosexuality. But they caution that focusing on the “why” is not as important in our healing process as reconnecting with God.

Yet there’s one “why” theory that receives more play than others, and it comes from Dr. Elizabeth Moberly and her book Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic. Moberly and WGA make a clear distinction between homosexuality as an orientation and homosexuality as behavior. The former, they claim, is not the least bit sinful. In fact, it’s a corrective developmental response to a broken relationship with a same-sex parent. The impulse to re-establish this bond, “the reparative drive” as it’s known, is actually healthy. The problem, we’re told, is when the orientation becomes sexualized in adolescence. Sexual activity with the same gender derails the healing process.

Like any theory on something as complex as sexual development, it raises as many questions at it attempts to answer. Like why do boys with caring dads still go gay? And why does every girl raised by Mommy Dearest not grow into a full-fledged lesbian? The exception proves the rule, but since there are so many, the “buts” are invariably pre-empted by a staffer who confesses that, “we just don’t know.” Instead, the emphasis turns inward, toward cultivating our relationship with God and one another. Forming appropriate, intimate relationships with members of the same sex is essential to the healing process. Hence the emphasis on socializing after the ministry officially breaks at night, usually with a visit to Village Inn in Cherry Creek.

The folks who find their way into WGA on Thursday nights are mostly men between 20 and 40. Almost all come from conservative evangelical or fundamentalist Christian backgrounds, with a smattering of Catholics and Lutherans. Many arrive upon the recommendation of a pastor or, more often, a Christian counselor. The ministry is a nonprofit, so everything’s free, but as with most religious entities, a donation basket is passed around at the start of each meeting. While WGA was established to deal exclusively with homosexuality, it soon found itself welcoming people dealing with problems like sex and pornography addiction. In addition, families of gays trying to overcome their homosexuality or not find themselves in supportive company.

For the first 12 weeks, new initiates are segregated in “Foundations Series,” a mandatory acclimation program designed to familiarize us with the scriptural and psychological concepts that underpin the ministry’s larger mission. These lectures are followed by “Small Group” sessions, which is where we’re encouraged to open up, speak in “I statements,” and share our struggles with sexuality and relationships. Group starts with the facilitator asking if we brought anything with us to share, or if we just need some “check-in” time. Along with words like “process,” one of WGA’s buzzwords is “struggle,” but in Small Group I can only think the real word is “stilted.” It isn’t until my fifth week that I witness someone with the guts to not dilly-dally and to put his cards on the table.

Dressed in the Colorado-casual uniform of T-shirt, shorts, and Tevas, Eric complains of the ubiquity of hot guys. Back in Denver for the summer, unemployed and staying with his parents, he confesses that a few hours earlier he’d “jacked off with two other guys in a bookstore.” Scott asks him what he needs from the group. He thinks for a moment before saying that he only needed to get it off his chest. I find out later that Eric has since moved to Marin County, outside San Francisco, to be part of a live-in ex-gay ministry. Before moving, he’d spent several years in Denver attending WGA. It’s been a long struggle, one he gives no indication is anywhere near over.

Stories like this are the norm in Small Group. Aside from the looming temptations of adult bookstores, there’s the omnipresence of personal rejection. Take Peggy, a married woman who fell in love with a woman in her church. They had an affair, they knew it was wrong. Hoping for support and guidance, they confessed to their pastor. They were told, “We don’t know how to deal with this” and were asked to leave their church.

I hear about Matt. He phoned his mom after a month of no communication. He told her about his struggle with his homosexuality. She was unimpressed and expressed it by meeting his questions with single-sentence answers. He says she can’t understand “how this could’ve happened in my family.” I hear the stories of two middle-aged pastors, both fathers, one with a lesbian daughter, the other with a gay son. The former says he’s trying to figure out how to deal with “the girlfriend.” He’s going to be polite, he says, but the girlfriend won’t be coming home for dinner. The other pastor’s son came out nine years ago and told him, “If I didn’t accept his homosexuality, I didn’t accept him.” Now his wife is dying and he’s terrified of losing both.

What’s my story? Well, I keep it simple. When pressed, I tell people that I suffer from unwanted urges. Whether they’re for firemen or fish tacos I never specify. Since so many of my fellow ex-gay newbies are reticent—due, no doubt, to shame, repression, and basic male emotional constipation—my lack of forthright confession doesn’t stand out. It’s not hard to find ways to participate in conversations—dolling out noncontroversial advice—without revealing anything specific.

Eight weeks into the Foundations Series, I’m sitting on a cushy, white couch, staring at a dry-erase board with its Magic Marker outline of the enemy’s battle plans. Donny is tonight’s speaker, and the enemy is—who else?—Satan. A member of WGA’s leadership team, and a WGA vet, Donny calls tonight’s talk “The Battle from Within and Without.” Donny has short, black hair, and if he told you he was an assistant principal or a choreographer, it wouldn’t be a shock. Donny’s been married for 19 years, but for much of that time he was active in “the lifestyle,” an ex-gay buzzword for all things openly gay. He cites a statistic that 91 percent of Americans claim to believe in God, while only 67 percent claim they believe in Satan. He finds this odd.

“How strong is the enemy? As strong as God lets him be.”

Donny relates his struggle with homosexuality and sex addiction to a larger struggle—with honesty. During his teen years, deception took the form of secretly compiling “my version of pornography”—namely, photos of guys clipped from sports magazines. Donny says he never wanted to be homosexual; he always knew it wasn’t what God wanted for him. But after getting married, his sex addiction started getting out of control. “If one wants to understand how powerful the enemy is,” he says, “all you need to do is to try and walk away from a sexual addiction.”

On the board he sketches a crude house to show us more of the enemy’s entry points. Satan comes through the front door with events like 9/11 or Columbine. The back door is via humanism, which he describes as, “You know, Jesus, Buddha—it’s all good.” His talk is punched up with bullet points that, like many WGA tutorials, bounce freely between self-help pop psychology—some of it hard to poke holes in—and evangelical absolutism:

And, the real kicker:

WGA’s approach to reversing that which mainstream psychology has long agreed is irreversible is a stew of contradictions. There’s no fire and brimstone sermonizing, no one telling us we’re on a highway to hell, but there’s also a lot of lying by omission. At no time does anyone acknowledge the possibility that two gay people could have a healthy, loving relationship. It simply isn’t posited. Instead, “the homosexual lifestyle” is conflated with various forms of sex addiction, psychological acting out, alcoholism, and drug abuse. In short, a manifestation of a deeper pathology. A common theme in Foundation classes is to suggest that homosexuality should be de-emphasized in our identity. Instead, we should consider defining ourselves through our relationship with God, our interests and professions.

Never far away was the question of what now. How does change happen and when? Toward the end of a Small Group session, I ask Scott a question that’s been bugging me for weeks. “Is this ministry really ex-gay or is it more like gay AA?” As soon as it left my mouth, I knew it had been asked before. “So are we all just bunch of dry drunks?” he asks in response. “Alcoholism, I think, is more of a behavior problem, where homosexuality is more of a developmental problem.”

Scott says that people often come to WGA with the idea that they can get a quick fix. “Uh yeah, um, can you like make this stop please?” His point is that “the process” doesn’t provide quick fixes. Even after 13 years, he says, he’s only transitioned from being actively homosexual to his current state of nonpracticing bisexuality. When he’s not dealing with Thursday nights, Scott helps coordinate educational-outreach programs for churches and Denver-area Christian schools. He knows that the way he looks and talks, most people probably assume things about him. He’s 40ish and he’s used to it. From time to time, he speaks with friends he knew from “the lifestyle” and says they invariably condescend to him with comments like, “Well, I guess if it makes you happy, that’s good.”

“They want to celebrate diversity, but as long as you think just like they do,” he says. One thing Scott says he loves about Where Grace Abounds is that it doesn’t go for the quick fix, or try to get people to pretend to be something they’re not. Nowhere could this be more obvious than in Scott’s office, where the most striking feature is a life-size cardboard cutout of Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer—a show famous for its gay following.

Of the many screaming contradictions ripe within Where Grace Abounds, one is the way so many trappings of gay culture—camp and irony, to name a few—are appropriated, while the gay “lifestyle” is simultaneously cast in a light that, if not directly contemptuous, is deeply foreboding. In so much as it was a relief not to witness traditional gender roles hailed as a panacea or foisted over effeminate men like a testosterone burkah, it wasn’t enough. If it’s OK to admire gay icons like Madonna and Cher, and if singing along to Grease is an acceptable social outing, then exactly how toxic is this homosexual culture? Scott says this sets the group apart from other ex-gay ministries that are not comfortable with the ministry’s flamboyance. Activities like the Grease sing-along, he says, don’t fly in most of ex-gay America. “I think if I’d gone to any other ministry, I wouldn’t have made it.”

The California sun is setting as Sandy sits alone on an expanse of concrete. In the aquifer below, Danny Zuko has saved Greased Lightning’s pink slip from the Scorpions. Graduation is a scene away, and Sandy is mourning her innocence.
Sandy, you must start anew Don’t you know what you must do

Once again, the one-woman Taliban next to me chimes in: “Don’t do it, Sandy. Don’t do it!”

Hold your head high, take a deep breath and sigh
Goodbye to Sandra Dee

If Grease is about anything besides shooby doo-wop, it’s a bittersweet commentary on how a won’t-go-to-bed-till-I’m-legally-wed sensibility is not for long in America’s oversexed teen culture. A message that couldn’t be more at odds with everything I heard during my months at Where Grace Abounds.

Ted Haggard has more in common with Sandy than one might think. One glaring difference is the fictional character managed to embrace her sexuality while Haggard kept his firmly locked away. Well, almost. As to what his fall will mean to the larger Christian political movement, the answer, or rather the spin, is likely to be…not much. As author and journalist Jeffrey Sharlet argues, the fallen-pastor narrative is a well-established trope—one the Christian right knows how to handle. After all, what is Christianity if not the story of falling and redemption?

Grease ends with the class of Rydell High pledging they “will always be together.” If WGA has lasted for 21 years, who’s to say it won’t last that much longer? Regardless of the cultural and legal strides gay America is bound to make, scripture will still be scripture. After so many stories of hurt, so many testimonies that are less about viable recovery than successful coping, I’m only convinced how tough the struggle is for people like Scott and Peggy, Matt and Donny. But this is the price they pay for a biblically correct lifestyle, for what they believe is a larger paycheck: their salvation.

Pastor Ted walks this same road; arguably a rougher one. A man who thrived in a spotlight of his own making for so long will surely have a tough time with his audience diminished. His new quiet life—spent taking online graduate courses—seems both a gentle letdown and its own form of purgatory. In this context, one wonders if the e-mail he accidentally leaked to the media in the wake of his farewell payoff was both a snub to New Life Church’s overseers and a flare signal for those who might wish to find him. One wonders about the demons that phoned the young Pastor Ted in the 1980s. The spiritual war he saw within the confines of Colorado Springs was almost certainly raging internally. Religion offered him a clear moral paradigm but not an egress from his nature. Did the demon that brought him down ever phone at night? Is he calling still?

*All references and quotes in this section come directly from Ted Haggard’s book Primary Purpose: Making it Hard for People to Go to Hell From Your City (Strang Communications, 1995).

John Dicker is a contributor for 5280. His sexual orientation confuses everyone but himself.

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