[The situation in the U.S. today] "is very similar to late Weimar Germany," Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. "The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum [in] which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.
"The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says 'I have got an answer, we have an enemy'? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don't think all this is very far away."
Chomsky should know, the interviewer points out in his introduction, as he has spent his entire life thinking about politics from an iconoclastic perspective. And I think he's right about how the main difference is the lack of a galvanizing figure, a leader (like that envisioned by "Coach" Daubenmire in his plea for the Tea Party to line up behind him). Not that there aren't plenty of people like Daubenmire and Kenneth Hutcherson and Newt Gingrich. But as Chomsky points out, each is too obviously venal and unstable to attract much of a following.
Trijicon, a Wixom-based supplier that has a $660 million multi-year contract with the Marine Corps and additional contracts with the U.S. Army, inscribes coded references to New Testament Bible verses on its ACOG high-powered rifle sights sold to the military.
I published yet another short story on the Fictionaut website, something I wrote several years ago. It's titled "Instrument."
For a long time I've had a morbid fascination with right-wing Christianity and its various flavors. I'm a regular listener to Christian radio stations, and I follow a few websites; the most recent person I follow is a Pentecostal preacher, web site designer and home products pyramid scheme maven named John Burton. (I've linked occasionally to his blog posts, like this one where he begs you to send him money so he can "minister" and work on his book.) The main reason I monitor these wack jobs is to understand how they think and how they work to influence the country's culture, essentially to understand the enemy.
After several years of following a particularly strange outbreak of Pentecostal fervor in, of all places, Florida, I wrote a short story based on what I'd learned about the event. I tried to make the story much more respectful of the sect and its practices than I really feel about them, so it's not just pure parody. I tired to use the writing to the story to understand the appeal of being "caught up in the Holy Spirit."
The new head of the organization is a retired Air Force general -- Colorado Springs is also home to the Air Force Academy, which has been the site of alleged proselytizing by evangelical Christians -- who is also a former executive with defense contractor Northrup Grumman.
Focus on the Fundies: Give money so he can 'minister without hindrance'
For a few months I've been monitoring the ravings of a Pentacostal preacher who is madly trying to establish a nationwide "ministry" dedicated to ridding American cities of Satanic influence. I first noticed him when he made some passing comment about how the Colorado mountain tourist town of Manitou Springs is well-known as a Satanic base camp.* Since then, I've seen him move spastically around the country, from Kansas City to Detroit, attempting to gather followers.
Recently he's been begging openly for money, and a blog posting yesterday really takes the cake for shameless solicitation. Emphasis mine.
Biblically it's clear that believers live in a different economic system, and I'm convinced that the church is called to be financial forerunners -- we are called to lead the way by giving our way out of this recession.
We pray you would consider this to be fertile and good soil for your seed in 2009. In fact, we have many challenges right this very moment, and we'd like to invite you to give before the end of 2008. Your gifts are tax-deductible... Would you invest in this ministry of teaching, planting and revival? Your donation will help us as we... (m)inister in the cities of the earth without any financial hindrance. God has moved powerfully in Detroit and other places through the ministry in 2008. Due to a timely rumbling in this city, we will be ministering in Detroit 6 times (at least) in the first half of 2009 alone.
So he goes to economically devastated Detroit and invites followers to "Give our way out of this recession." And how will he use that money? To help the poor of Detroit? To retrain auto workers being thrown out of their jobs?
Your donation will help us as we... (d)evote ourselves to the time consuming yet deeply important ministries of prayer and study. It's common for full-time prayer missionaries to devote 6 hours or more to prayer each day. (And to) Focus on our call to author prophetic materials. I've had a book burning in my spirit for over two years, yet have not had the time to start it.
Nice! He wants to spend hours of day in prayer, and the rest of the time writing a book. Me too, dude!
To top it all off, he illustrates his plea with a picture of his family. Is it a nice soft-toned picture of them wearing sweaters around a Christmas tree? No, they're all looking glumly into the camera with tape over their mouths with the word "LIFE" written on the tape. (A one-year-old baby is spared this discomfort; they stuck the LIFE label on its chest.) I guess the point is, If you don't send him money, it's the same thing as gagging him and his whole family.
Focus on the Fundies: Haggard pushes himself back in the spotlight
Ted Haggard, the disgraced megachurch leader whose outing as a meth-snorting Big Gay embarrassed the Christian Right just prior to the 2006 midterm elections, has agreed to promote an HBO documentary about his rise and fall.
The documentary, "The Trials of Ted Haggard," was shot by Alexandra Pelosi, who earlier made an HBO documentary "Friends of God," which also featured Haggard. The film is scheduled to air on HBO next month.
Haggard startled observers earlier this fall by appearing in the pulpit of a rural Illinois megachurch as a "Christian businessman" talking of his rise an fall as a star of the conservative Christian Evangelical movement, and now he's pushing himself into the spotlight on television. It's not enough for him to appear in a documentary; he's so starved for attention that he also signs on to promote the film, which I suspect will show him as a complete lying douchebag. What a media whore!
A Catholic priest in Modesto, Calif. has told parishioners that voting for Obama was a sin that must be confessed and forgiven before they receive church sacraments (courtesy Huffington Post). It's not the first time, according to the Modesto Bee story; a priest in South Carolina told his parishioners the same.
At least The Catholics require an actual act before condemning people. You may recall the Alabama city administrator who told the NYT that people who aren't disappointed by Obama's victory "need to be at the altar" to ask forgiveness.
The Central Valley where Modesto is located is one of the most socially conservative areas of California. Churches in the region's Episcopal diocese left the national Episcopal church last year over the national body's endorsement of an openly gay bishop -- not in their diocese but in New Hampshire -- and voters in Stanislaus County, where Modesto is located, voted 68 to 32 percent in favor of anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 earlier this month.
Then the 50-year-old president of the National Association of Evangelicals and a symbol of the relationship between the Christian Right and the Republican Party, Haggard was outed by the male prostitute whom he had patronized and bought drugs from over several years in Colorado. His very public fall, coming just days before the 2006 election, was preceded a month earlier by the fall of Mark Foley, and marked the beginning of the end of Republican domination of electoral politics in the U.S. for several years.
Be sure to read to the end of today's story where an elder of Haggard's former church compares him to a "mouse" in his present state.
Focus on the Fundies: Dobson 'jubilant' over anti-gay election wins
Focus on the Family head James Dobson was "jubilant" over passage of gay marriage bans in Florida, California and Arizona, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported. While Dobson praised the election of Barack Obama as "historic," he also said he was concerned that Obama is "in favor of much of the homosexual agency" (sic -- don't know whether this is a typo in the news story or just a brain fart by the sexegenarian Dobson; he undoubtedly meant to refer to the well-known, if non-existent, homosexual agenda).
Dobson's group contributed half a million dollars to help pass California's Proposition 8, which intends to amend the state's constitution to disallow gay marriage. Pro-marriage groups sued Thursday to keep the vote from being enforced.
By today, disgusted contributors from across the country had donated nearly $500,000 to her opponent, one El Tinklenberg, a former Methodist minister, mayor of Blaine, Minn., and state transportation commissioner.
Strangest thing in the story is her description of "a half-used tray of communion wine, its thimbles of juice with frayed pull-tops." They have little bitty juice containers with pull-tops for communion? Now that's déclassé.
The debate around Massena's yoga program is not unprecedented. In 2002 in Aspen, Colo., a group of Baptists objected to a proposed yoga program in the public school district, citing separation of church and state as well. In the end, all of the Sanskrit terms were dropped -- "meditation" became "time in" and "yogic panting" became "bunny breathing." The only term that remained was yoga.
Whatever the likelihood that McCain might die in office, it's 100% probable that if he does die in office, the president will then be Sarah Palin... This darling of religious conservatives who is forcing her own 17-year-old daughter to bear an unplanned-for child and to marry her deer-in-the-headlights boyfriend would be appointing Supreme Court justices until 2012, and maybe for four years after that.
It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years.... Between now and the end of the year, we have to find the people who want to help us transition into our future. So I am starting today to let friends like you know that we are raising money ...
The story goes on to say that Haggard is living in the same Colorado Springs mansion he lived in when running a magachurch there. And there are still five big cars in the driveway.
Some fundies in Colorado Springs (where else?) stage a bizarre "Father-Daughter Purity Ball" annually -- this was the tenth annual such rite -- which judging from the photo seems to involve using a cross like a maypole. And is that a crown of thorns they're doing ring-toss with?
A twirling mass of white lace surrounded a rough wooden cross as a troupe of young women danced in a circle looking like porcelain dolls come to life.
Then Randy Wilson and Kevin Moore hoisted swords in the air and a ballroom full of 149 fathers and daughters walked beneath them toward the cross and laid white roses at its base. The swords symbolized the fathers' commitment to battle for their daughters and the roses symbolized the daughters' commitment to God to remain pure.
Then Wilson announced, "Let the ball begin."
Good Christ, what are these people on? Of course, they has a website, which contains this strange passage:
The Father Daughter Purity Ball is a memorable ceremony for fathers to sign commitments to be responsible men of integrity in all areas of purity. The commitment also includes their vow to protect their daughters in their choices for purity. The daughters silently commit to live pure lives before God through the symbol of laying down a white rose at the cross.
Yes... They live in a fantasy world where women are still chattel and cannot legally sign anything, so the men sign the documents and the girls "silently commit" to the deal.
There is something else mentioned in the story, an organization called the Abstinence Clearinghouse. I'll let you Google that for yourself, but the mind boggles. "What do they clear??" Cris asked. "A clearinghouse is a place where accounting takes place... Do they have a database of all the virgins or something?"
But the best quote from the news story is:
(The family who started the event) say most in the mainstream media see their family as a fundamentalist freak show.
Cris and I had a talk this morning about the candidates. She thinks Clinton would have a chance to do more in office. A pragmatist, she said a political machine, such as the one Clinton is connected to, is a valuable tool. I countered by saying she may be too beholden to certain people and institutions and may have too many favors to repay. I guess it's two sides of the same coin. Yes, she would put very experienced, well-connected people in her administration. But who's to say such people wouldn't also flock to an Obama administration. "Kind of like a Camelot thing," Cris said thoughtfully.
I also don't relish the thought of the Rush Limbaughs of the world being able to gnash their teeth on the Clintons for another eight years. If Obama wins the nomination, it would at least set them back on their heels for a time. Maybe not long.
Meanwhile, if you want to see what a race to the bottom looks like, take a look at this article from the Colorado Springs Gazette, depicting the one-term incumbent COngressman and two Republican challengers in a competition to prove who is more "conservative" than the others. One man, the aptly named Crank, wants to defund Amtrak, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Dept. of Education. "Those are not things the government needs to fund," he argues, contrasting them with Kevlar vests required by soldiers. Yes, let's be a nation known by our Kevlar.
Jesus is coming again, this time as an 'action figure'
Talking Jesus action figures are a big seller this Christmas, according to a Mlps Star Tribune story. "The new-and-improved version tells stories about David and Goliath or feeding 'the five thousand' with loaves and fishes, in addition to speaking Bible verses such as John 3:16 and Mark 12:30-31."
In my bio page I've long had a section on "the Mark Pritchards I'm not," highlighting some of the other colorful people around the globe with my same name -- a Welsh footballer, an Australian cult leader, a British trance/ambient musician (he's probably the most famous), and so on.
There's also a fellow who was elected to the British Parliament a few years ago. This last worthy has never done anything significant, but today he's in the news because he's decided to carry water for far-right conservatives and yap about the "war on Christmas."
That he chose Dobson's show for this odd forgiveness ritual -- odd because Dobson, for all his power in the religious right, is not even a minister but only a psychologist -- is a transparent attempt to appeal to the far religious right.
The Tulsa newspaper did not manage to ask Latham the larger questions of whether he is gay or whether he regrets speaking out -- as he reportedly did when a pastor of a large Baptist church in Tulsa -- against gays and gay rights. Or even if he plans to resume his career as a minister.
That didn't take long: Mike Jones, the male hooker who outed right-wing Xtian Ted Haggard, has a book deal. The publish date is June and the publisher is Seven Stories Press.
Meanwhile I ran across this blog entry (courtesy some other evangelical's blog). In it the writer compares what he felt as a child when his family was shunned after his father was uncovered as a pedophile, and he is all concerned about protecting Ted Haggard's kids from the same public shame. Seems to miss the point, which is that Haggard himself helped to create the environment in which he is now shamed and mocked, by publicly condemning homosexuals and presenting himself as superior. His hard fall is a function of how high he rode that hobbyhorse before falling off.
But as for Haggard's children, they may be learning something entirely different from their father's situation than what the very concerned writer thinks they are learning. As we saw earlier this week, not only are many of Haggard's former followers so eager to demonstrate their pious forgiveness of his betrayal that they gave what I suppose are thousands of dollars for the family's support, but the congregation itself is calculating a severance package for the man. So what are the kids learning from that? That the consequences of extraordinarily bad behavior -- of lying to your family, your church, and Karl Rove; of tossing your reputation into the toilet; of doing drugs with a male prostitute -- are really not so bad?
Well, this week he is due to officially begin his "restoration" -- a sort of hyper-Xtian rehab. A trio of fundie pastors will give him a thorough going-over, doesn't that sound like fun for him? But here's the point: now that he's out of a job (and has been for six weeks), how's his family making out?
According to the news story, members of the congregation he founded and then betrayed have made a "generous outpouring" of donations to the family, and the church is yet to decide on his severance package.
Severance? For living a double life as a drug-snorting cocksucker? Those nutty Republicans!
Brad Stine runs onstage in ripped blue jeans, his shirt untucked, his long hair shaggy. He's a stand-up comic by trade, but he's here today as an evangelist, on a mission to build up a new Christian man ó one profanity at a time. "It's the wuss-ification of America that's getting us!" screeches Stine, 46.
Jesus Christ. Don't miss the lyrics of one of the songs played at the event:
Forget the yin and the yang I'll take the boom and the bang. Don't need in touch with my feminine side! All I want is my testosterone high.
This is why satire like The Reverend Billy will never gain much of a foothold. You can't satirize a movement that is all too full of self-satire.
Focus on the Fundies: no broad agenda, Chr. Coalition insists
For the second time in a year, the Christian Coalition has fired an incoming president before he took office. The erstwhile leader, a Rev. Joel Hunter of Florida, wanted to expand the lobbying group's agenda to include AIDS and global warming, but the board said no dice.
The action came after four state chapters broke away from the group in reaction to Hunter's positions.
In recent years -- and especially since the 2006 midterm elections -- some conservative Christian leaders have tried to moderate the their reputation for being only about abortion and gays, suggesting, for example, that Christian notions of "stewardship" justify caring for the environment. But not everyone welcomes the oppurtunity to enlarge the "tent" of religious fundamentalism, resulting in fractiousness.
The funny part about this is when center-right evangelicals use a term like "compassionate conservatism." As recounted by author David Kuo, the former staffer in the White House's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, many conservative Christians supported Bush when he took this line -- but it turned out to be mere lip service. It's just a catchphrase invented by Karl Rove to snare religious right-wing voters; there is no commitment behind it. So to see well-meaning Christians still using the phrase, as if it actually means something, is pathetically sad.
Perhaps the last word on l'affaire Haggard -- or at least its political implications or lack of them -- is contained in a long, very interesting Colo. Springs Gazette analysis piece, in which the writer admits the scandal had little effect on local races but suggests fundies' political influence is waning:
The bad news for evangelicals who remain loyal Republicans is that their influence may wane in a party that is looking to swerve to Americaís middle so that it can better compete with Democrats. The drubbing taken by Sen. Rick Santorum, the Republican evangelical Christian from Pennsylvania, underscored what looks like a big swing of the political pendulum. The looming question comes down to this: Did Republicans lose their religion or did they scare off moderates with religious zealotry?
"I think the big story of 2006 is the support for Democrats by religious moderates," said David Domke, a professor at the University of Washington who has written several books on the relationship between evangelicals and the Republican Party. "The GOP is not the only game in town for Christian voters," Domke said. "The Democrats have made tremendous inroads."
But did fundies ever really have that much influence in the GOP -- or did Karl Rove just make them think they did? Don't forget the analysis of David Kuo, whose disillusioned take on the relationship between Christians and the Bush White House, "Tempting Faith, accused Rove et al. of manipulating evangelicals for their votes.
Finally, this article from the center-right Christian Century outlines the "rehabilitation" Haggard is embarking upon.
Patricia Calhoun, editor of the Denver alt.weekly Westword, writes how her paper was approached by Mike Jones -- the male escort whose allegations led to the outing of Colorado Springs preacher Ted Haggard -- but was reluctant to run the story on the slim evidence Jones provided.
What ultimately happened is that another organization, a Colorado Springs television station that had already interviewed Jones and likewise sat on the story, heard Jones interviewed on a Denver radio station making allegations about an unnamed clergyman. Recognizing Jones from their contact with him, the station went straight to Haggard and interviewed him -- this was when he issed his first denials, claiming, for example, not to know any Mike Jones. (My favorite quote from that interview is still Haggard asking "What'd you say his name was?" I'll bet he can remember it now.)
If I were Calhoun I would have done the same thing -- sat on the story in the absence of incontrovertible evidence. The TV station showed cleverness in going to Haggard directly with the allegations they had from their own previous conversation with the escort. Why Haggard granted them the interview, before his name was even linked to Jones, will never be known.
Now that everyone has fully reported, analyzed and digested the Ted Haggard affair, the amount of news about it is greatly diminished. There was something six days ago about how Focus on the Fundies Family chief James Dobson said he didn't have time to participate in Haggard's rehabilitation, evoking laughter from the peanut gallery. Now a FOTF lieutenant, H.B. London, has signed on. The only remotely thing interesting about this is:
London told The Associated Press last week that Haggard's restoration could take three to five years and would likely involve counseling, in groups and alone, and prayer. He said it could sometimes be confrontational, and that only about half the ministers who enter such programs succeed.
Emphasis mine. Wow, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall during the confrontations? "What the h - e - double - eck is this, Ted? An issue of GQ? Where's that Playboy we gave you?!"
1. Jesus loves Pastor Ted and his family very, very much. Pastor Ted and his family love Jesus very, very much.
2. All people sin and make mistakes. Pastor Ted said he made some mistakes. A group of pastors who love Pastor Ted are helping him to correct those mistakes.
Und so weiter. It doesn't say how to answer the question "But what's crystal meth?" and "What's a massage?"
Meanwhile, the Denver Post has a run-of-the-mill overview of the issues of how Christians view homosexuality, and whether homosexuals can talk themselves out of homosexuality. It does contain one interesting note, toward the bottom:
"I am concerned he will go through this restoration process and come out the other end a confirmed heterosexual and become a poster child for the illegitimate process of reparative therapy," said Michael Brewer, public policy director for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Colorado.
Good call. I can just see it now -- Haggard redeems his standing in the Christianist community by becoming an example of the "saved" homosexual. He lobbies constantly against civil rights for gay people, since if he can "change," then being gay isn't a permanent condition, and thus gay people don't deserve civil rights.
Not looking forward to that. I am looking forward, though, to his inevitable and eventual final crackup and fall.
The summer camp for little right-wing Chrstians seen in the documentary "Jesus Camp" will close, the management said.
Associated with disgraced preacher Ted Haggard -- who appears in the film leering directly into the camera: "I think I know what you did last night!... Give me $1000 and I won't tell your wife!"... If you use any of this, I'll sue you. [video clip] -- the camp will close because of negative reaction to the film and to Haggard's fall. Link courtesy PostAnApology and Technorati.
Ironically, the same documentary that had liberal Christians and non-religious people cringing was viewed positively by some irony-challenged evangelicals. You can read this fascinating interview with the filmmakers on the website of Christianity Today, a conservative (though reasonably responsible and not completely foaming at the mouth) Christian magazine.
Sheldon disclosed that he and "a lot" of others knew about Haggard's homosexuality "for awhile ... but we weren't sure just how to deal with it."
Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard's secret relationship with him, and the reverendís drug use as well, "Ted and I had a discussion," explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: "He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn't. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that."
God, just in those quotes there is so much evil and forked-tongued speech. They "weren't sure just how to deal with it"?? Oh, I'm sure any Christianist demagogue would be able to tell a garden-variety fag just how to deal with his homosexuality -- but this wasn't just any gay man, this was one of their own. So rather than treat him the way they would treat someone without power and influence, they froze and shilly-shallied. I'm sure they would have liked this situation to go on forever -- just as the Catholic Church wished all those pedophile priests would eventually just die and the problem would go away -- all because of their totally unrealistic and wishful view of what sex is.
Then there's the smug, superior note: "They need to say that."
A man whose mind stopped functioning long ago, for the most part, except the parts that animate the knee-jerk response.
Also classic is this statement: Speaking of the election results, in which Rick Santorum and several other darlings of the Christian Right were drubbed:
"We know that in America the people are with us," insisted the founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, one of the largest groups in the Christian right. "They're just confused."
Right, Lou. It's just a PR problem. The American people are confused about what you represent. Sure.
And remember that case where a reality TV crew was sued for staging a confrontation between a woman and her estranged husband, on whom she had previously gotten a restraining order? A judge threw out some of the criminal charges but the trial on other charges is going forward.
Modern-day celebrity pastors have Web sites, where they promote their books, along with the DVDs, TV shows and films they produce, while preaching internationally. With such high profiles, word of any wrongdoing will spread quickly, intensifying the damage to them and their congregations.
Haggard felt the impact firsthand last week.
So that's what they're calling it now -- "the impact." I can think of a few others who "felt the impact" this week, and they all have an (R) after their names.
That is a lie. As Larry Stockstill, the head of the "overseers" panel appointed by the church to look into the allegations against the senior pastor, said in a Sunday press conference, the investigation continues:
...Leaders at the former pastor's church believe he is still being deceptive about the extent of his sexual activity, the Rev. Larry Stockstill said Sunday.
Stockstill, Haggard's mentor and head of the church's investigation into allegations by former male escort Mike Jones about Haggard's sexual and drug activity, said officials will require Haggard to take polygraphs and undergo psychological evaluations before considering his return to church life.
Haggard's computer hard drive also will be examined for evidence of longer-term illicit sexual activity, Stockstill said during a news conference at New Life Church. The church's board of overseers is also undertaking a thorough review of Haggard's financial situation, although no allegations of improprieties have been made and no evidence has surfaced of any financial wrongdoing.
The Rocky Mountain News has a couple of interesting pieces on l'affaire Haggard today:
In a press conference following Sunday's sermon, the "overseers" charged with investigating Ted Haggard's errors said they would be inspecting his computer hard drive and his finances and will require the disgraced preacher "to take polygraphs and undergo psychological evaluations." They also said they believe "he is still being deceptive about the extent of his sexual activity."
The RMN also asked local gay pastors to comment on the events.
Jones said he had sex monthly with Haggard for three years, ending in August. From those sexual encounters, Jones said he believes Haggard is a homosexual, despite having a wife and five children.
"Ted, you need to be honest with yourself," Jones said over the air. "If you're a gay man, you're a gay man."
Somehow I don't think that's the direction the Team Haggard is going.
Update no. 1: On Huffington Post, Harry Shearer: "Of all the people who sprang October surprises, I trust Mike Jones. The former gay hooker, unlike the Iraqi "court" and other late newsmakers, had the balls to say upfront that he was timing his allegations about Ted Haggard's sex life in the hope of affecting the election. Even before Haggard acknowledged the truth of the matter, Jones--who had lie-detector problems--passed the ultimate lie detector: he was telling an obvious truth: he wanted to sway the vote."
MS: Was he a top or bottom? What was he interested in?
MJ: When I was on the radio show in Denver, the question was asked: Did you practice safe sex? I said, 'We used a condom once." The talk show host goes, "You mean he wore the condom once?" I said, "Uh, no, I did."
MS: What about with oral sex. Was he the passive partner or the active partner?
MJ: You know, it kind of went back and forth --- and I can't say he was very good at it.
Oh, snap! Does this ever stop getting better and better!!?!
Dobson inadvertantly confirms some Haggard details
The pope (as it were) of right-wing Christians in Colorado Springs, Focus On The Family head James Dobson, tackled brother Ted Haggard's mess today on his organization's daily broadcast, and along the way confirmed something about Mike Jones' story for the first time.
Up to now, Jones -- the Denver male prostitute whom Haggard called "my accuser" has said that he had a three-year sex-for-pay relationship with Haggard. Haggard denied that early on, and when he subsequently dribbed out various confessions and admissions, it became unclear just what he was confessing to. As Haggard said in his letter to his former church, "The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry."
Until this morning, no one had said anything about which of the allegations the "board of overseers," appointed by Haggard's church to look into the matter, had confirmed. But this morning Dobson blurted out that Haggard's "sins" had stretched out over "several years." I take that to be a confirmation that either Haggard's visits to Jones had indeed taken place over the three years claimed by Jones, and/or that Haggard had had other same-sex encounters over "several years." We're clear on that now.
Another interesting note was struck by one of Dobson's radio guests, a preacher named Ravi Zacharias, who said twice that problems of "sexual sin" like Haggard's often "begin in the home" and are the result of marital problems and "often a loss of sexual intimacy." (Racy talk for the Christianists!) So all this foofah about how great Haggard's wife is, and how none of this could possibly be her fault -- the implication is that things weren't all that great between them.
Of course, none of this matters, who cares about these people's problems -- EXCEPT for two things. One, these people put themselves on a pedestal as wonderful examples of everything that's good and Christian, and they influence many thousands of people, so it matters when they say one thing and do another; it speaks directly to their credibility. Not only that, but Haggard took part in the weekly teleconference between evangelical leaders and Karl Rove's staff -- he can hardly claim not to have been in a position of power and influence. And two, these were the very people who jumped all over Clinton for his little sexual indiscretion, and you can bet they made hay over that FOR YEARS. So excuse me for talking about this twerp Haggard for a few days.
Finally, there is clearly one aspect of this whole thing the Christian conservatives have decided not to talk about at all: the drug problem. Not a single word on Dobson's broadcast, and not a single word yesterday at Haggard's former church. Isn't that interesting?
Here's Ted Haggard's letter to his former congregation as printed in the Colorado Springs Gazette. He calls his same-sex desires (if that is what is is referring to) "dark... repulsive... dirt" and offers a curious report on the efficacy of the homophobic, right-wing Christian approach to homosexuality:
Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn't want to hurt or disappoint them.
The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. When I stopped communicating about my problems, the darkness increased and finally dominated me. As a result, I did things that were contrary to everything I believe.
So you're saying... that whole approach didn't work out too well, did it? Every consider just facing up to the fact that you're queer and you like taking drugs?
I would love to hear what 12-step people have to say about this.
He does manage to be a man when it comes to Mike Jones, whom he calls "my accuser":
He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly. So, forgive him and, actually, thank God for him. I am trusting that his action will make me, my wife and family, and ultimately all of you, stronger. He didn't violate you; I did.
The only problem with this is that the word "devil" itself is from the Greek word for "accuser," diabolos. So it could be said that Haggard's statement, while sounding magnanimous, is the epitome of damning with faint praise.
In this accompanying story about the scene at Haggard's church this morning is a more postive note: According to one of the investigating "overseers," a Rev. Larry Stockstill (!), "God chose to reveal pastor Ted's sin."
Okay -- God... the devil... Which is it?
It's a political ploy by Satan himself and his minions to try and take the focus off the real issues of the election.
So... sounds like the jury's still out on that.
Update 1: A Salon.com article on the scene at New Life Church this morning says that suddenly everything about the place "seems so gay."
Update 2: The New York Times also reports on this morning's service: "It was not until a letter was read from Mr. Haggard's wife, Gayle, that the tissue boxes were really needed." Doesn't that sound special.
Update 3: If you have the patience, here is a very long streaming video -- about 30 minutes -- of the entire address to the New Life church by "overseer" Stockstill. Link courtesy JoshMShep (evidently a New Life member).
They were working late Saturday night at New Life Church. They squeezed extra chairs into every corner of the megachurch's massive auditorium. They placed extra boxes of tissue in every aisle.
Wonder what else they were up to? Writing press releases, probably, and trying to figure how new ways to explain concepts like "hypocrisy" and "pharisee."
Statements of apology (from the disgraced clergyman) and "encouragement" (from his wife [!!]) will be read during the service, which will probably be spoken of as a time of healing. I think it would probably be more effective if they didn't skip the moourning, bargaining and enraged anger steps.
All that remains now is the announcement that Haggard has decided to go into rehab for his drug problem. He might meet Mark Foley -- he's supposed to be in there for another couple days. They would have a lot to talk about.
This photo shows Haggard's impromptu press conference yesterday as he left his house. He admitted buying methamphetamine in front of his wife and kids -- see 'em? The CNN site has the video.
The weird smile never left his face.
Should be an interesting time at New Life's services tomorrow, when notes from Haggard as well as "a note of encouragement" from his wife will be read. Don't miss this article in the Denver Post -- a reporter was present as remaining New Life ministers and staff planned tomorrow's services.
Update: Also in the Denver Post: Bush campaigned in Colorado today, speaking from "Mile High Coffee" -- who needs meth when you have some of that shit? -- but left it to Cheney to campaign in Colorado Springs, home of Haggard and New Life Church. Can't find anything that says Cheney was asked about Haggard or commented on the scandal, but really -- could people in that two-industry town (God and the Air Force Academy) be talking about anything else?
Lacking any new bombshells today in l'affaire Haggard, I am wiping the come off my keyboard after my orgy of posting over the last two days. Only thing I have new is this post by Slactivist, the widely-read moderate Christian blogger whose main claim to fame is taking apart the ridiculous Left Behind page by page. Slactivist has both a .gif of Mike Jones' newspaper "massage" advertisement and a good point to make about Haggard's future: the "repentence" that Haggard will be called on to show simply means "he will go back to living a lie" as a closeted gay man.
I think there is an alternative explanation to the very fine mess Haggard finds himself in: and that is, that he is a bisexual who mostly has relationships with women, but when he does meth, he likes to get really down and dirty, and he can't do meth and get down and dirty with his wife (link to an article by her about being "a pastor's wife" courtesy Wonkette).
So seeing Mike Jones does two things for him -- he gets the drugs, and he gets to have nasty sex. This is known on Craigslist as "Party and Play" -- take drugs and get down. The drugs lower your inhibitions and let you do what you really want to do. My theory is not that Haggard is a closeted Kinsey 6 but a guy who likes to do drugs and have sex, and the most convenient person to do both with is a nice male prostitute. But in any case, he certainly has some 'splainin to do.
Oh, there is one more thing: a website called PageOneQ found Mike Jones' web page, complete with pix (sfw) and rates.
A friend tipped me off to this little-noticed line in the April 2005 Harpers magazine story on New Life Church and Ted Haggard -- the first half of which the author, Jeff Sharlett, reprinted in his blog today:
At the time, Colorado Springs was a small city split between the Air Force and the New Age, and the latter, Pastor Ted believed, worked for the devil. Pastor Ted soon began upsetting the devilís plans. He staked out gay bars, inviting men to come to his church; his whole congregation pitched itself into invisible battles with demonic forces, sometimes in front of public buildings.
Emphasis mine. How clear things seem in the light of day.
CNN quotes Haggard: "I called him to buy some meth, but I threw it away. I was buying it for me, but I never used it. I was tempted, I bought it, but I never used it. He told me about it. I went there for a massage."(Thanks, Guru of Nothingness)
Non-Prophet has the email sent by Pr. Ross Parsley to the members of Haggard's New Life Church. Non-Prophet has been a burr in the side of Haggard and New Life for a long time, so of course they're the ones to have the email.
Meanwhile, the male prostitute who outed Haggard as a methamphetamine-gulping big gay failed a lie detector test administered today.
Updates will follow throughout the day. So best!!!!111!
Evangelical-friendly Christians comment in their blogs on the Haggard scandal:
"I do so hope that the "evangelical community" does not react in the way the so mercilessly tend to do in similar scenarios. Hopefully Mr. Haggard will not be laughed at, discredited, slandered, or kicked to the curb as if he were a filthy leper..."
Christianity today: In his sermon last Sunday, Haggard prayed: "Father, we pray that lies would be exposed. We pray that deception would be exposed."
Bill Kinnon: Haggard's fall has something to do with the lack of accountability typical of "the infallible-senior-pastor-model" associated with megachurches.
The Revealer: Jeff Sharlett, author of the 2005 Harper's Magazine article about New Life Church, says Haggard "is a victim of the very closet over which he publicly stands guard, as are all the New Life church members he's led into it."
That posting contains a link to a well-produced documentary video (8 min 45 sec.) posted on YouTube of New Life and Haggard.
More video: Watch the local TV news interview with Haggard (on that page, click on "Watch the exclusive interview with Ted Haggard") in which he sounds way too cheerful about the whole thing, as if he were talking about an exciting upcoming Sunday School picnic. Best line: On the man who made the allegations: "What'd you say his name was?"