Friday, November 16, 2007

Big Gay Ted: Another One-Year Retrospective (Plus Money Laundering for Dummies!)

This message was commissioned by the official Canadian representative of the Church of the Orange Sky. The Church urges all followers and readers to consider donating to its Big Gay Ted support campaign, since at the moment the Church is dirt-poor on account of a current deficit of rich donors.

A year ago this month, Ted Haggard -- aka "Big Gay Ted" -- was unexpectedly outed by his prostitute and dealer, Mike Jones. To many, the fact that one of the national leaders of the anti-gay marriage movement was himself gay was proof positive of the repressed sexuality and blatant hypocrisy inherent to the modern Christian political movement (or maybe to the Christian religion more generally). Like many people caught in a lie, Haggard first denied everything, then issued a few qualified confessions, then let someone else admit publicly on his behalf that actually pretty much everything Jones alleged was actually true.

What makes Big Gay Ted's unfortunate situation even more ironic is that he played significant roles in a pair of Christian documentaries over the past two years, Jesus Camp and Friends of God. Both were filmed before the Jones incident, though the latter actually came out afterwards, and cheekily reminds viewers of this fact both at the beginning and the ending of the film (just in case you missed it the first time around). Haggard comes across as a little eery in Friends of God, waxing poetic about how Christians have lots of sex and how Christian women have more orgasms. He's genuinely disturbing in Jesus Camp, mugging for the camera in the middle of a sermon, expounding on his "ten year rule about dating" (i.e. if you marry older people, do it for the money), jokingly suggesting that he'll help cover up extramarital relationships for cash, and giggling like the jackass he is. Later he even explains to the documentary crew that he lives a "fabulous life," which I guess was more true than he was willing to admit at the time.

After being outed, Big Gay Ted resigned in semi-disgrace and promised to get his life back on track. He acknowledged that he had been struggling with homosexuality for his entire life. I think this was intended to win the sympathy of his evangelical listeners, who usually have a soft spot for stories about people who fight valiantly against sin and occasionally falter. On the other hand, it does raise the question of why Ted was so cavalier about condemning homosexuality in others if he knew just how difficult the struggle was within his own life. Oh, well. Nobody ever said Christianity had to be compassionate.

The solution to homosexuality, it turns out, is a three-week intensive course in reaffirming heterosexuality. I'm not going to go into detail on this, since it's been covered ad nauseam and I want to move on to current events before I go back to writing my thesis. However, I will note that a gay-to-straight counseling course is an interesting idea. I wonder whether there's a course that can accomplish the reverse, as well. And I also wonder whether there's some sort of final exam you have to pass.

A couple of months ago, it turns out, Haggard re-emerged on the religious scene with a new fundraising request. In late August, he sent an emailed request for money, saying that he was planning to work for the Phoenix Dream Center (a halfway house for homeless people and recovering addicts), while working towards a master's degree at the eminent University of Phoenix.

According to a recent article at Christianity Today, Haggard sent the request to "friends." This may be a very loose interpretation of the word, since when the request first went out in August, CT's blog declared shenanigans on this, saying it was probably "sent to a lot of people." Lots indeed; at least one included an ABC reporter, which might have been a bit of a tactical blunder on Haggard's part.

At this blog, readers are always encouraged to make their own judgement, so here's a copy of the letter, posted by ABC's subsidiary KRDO. The letter does start off as though it's on a first-name basis, but it does have most of the hallmarks of a standard form letter: a generic appeal for "people" to send money, a request to forward this on to anyone else who "might have an interest," and so on. Somewhat disturbingly, Haggard actually proposes that his would-be supporters send the money via the Families with a Mission charity in order to claim a tax deduction. Families with a Mission will deduct a 10% fee for playing the intermediary. In secular society, we call this "money laundering" - or, at the very least, tax evasion. Suddenly that "tax war on evangelicals" thing I mentioned a couple of posts ago is starting to sound like a good idea after all. Perhaps Big Gay Ted is looking forward to a new career in organized crime (or should I say, resuming his career in organized crime?).

Why Big Gay Ted needs money is not immediately apparent. His last job, according to Christianity Today, paid him $200 000 the year he left, plus a $140 000 severance package. Then there's the royalties from his book sales, though these have no doubt declined since Ted's fabulous double life was revealed to the world. He also owns a $700 000 home in Colorado. Even if Ted's been spending money like a drunken lord, he should still be in a lot better shape financially than I've been since I started grad school myself, even considering the fact that he has a family to look after. (Though it does raise the question of why, in a world full of poverty and misery and supposed gay conspiracies, any church has enough extra money to pay its pastors with six-figure salaries.)

In addition, according to CT, it turns out that Big Gay Ted has gone off the reservation with this latest request. His committee of "overseers," who are responsible for making sure he stays straight this time around, has condemned the money request as an "unacceptable" act, and the Phoenix charity, the Dream Center, apparently has no intention to employ Haggard. Instead, "he will be seeking secular employment to support himself and his family." Oops. So much for the laundering scheme.

On behalf of the Church of the Orange Sky, I have decided that I will financially support Big Gay Ted myself, by kicking off the Big Gay Ted Support Campaign. After Ted dismisses his overseers, apologizes for the harm he has caused during his years of anti-gay campaigning, acknowledges that he is in fact homosexual and admits that sexual orientation is not in fact a matter for national debate, I will personally write a cheque for $500 for Ted and his family. Sorry I couldn't sweeten the pot further, Ted, but I'm a student myself, see. After paying for the prostitutes and the crystal meth, there's not much left for charity cases. However, I am happy to forward donations from other interested parties through the Support Campaign. I can't promise the same tax benefits that Haggard did in his original letter, but on the bright side, I can guarantee none of us will get hauled away for tax fraud.


Anonymous said...

I see you have written a lot lately; it is no doubt related to the fact that you are currently writing your thesis, eh?

Well, it was great procrastination reading for me. . . .