Now Haggard wants to be clear: He supports civil marriage rights for gay couples. “The word marriage is a big deal to people of faith,” he says. “We’ve made it sacred. That’s why I believe that churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples should have total freedom to have whatever types of unions they believe as godly. But I think that we as a democratic society, as a constitutional republic — if we don’t respect individual civil liberties, then we’re making a horrific mistake. The church is in the early stages of another ‘the earth is flat’ crisis. I say to all religious people that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry on the subject. Or we’re going to be embarrassed in another 10 or 20 years.”
There’s some difference of opinion over the question the Advocate asks on its cover: Can you forgive Ted Haggard? I think his advice to “religious people” is good advice for us all. If nothing else, his story shows that at least some of the time, those who behave in ways that harm us are actually in need of rescue. Here’s another story of someone who decided to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. “To be a safe person. And to try to be aware of the meaning behind what’s being said – and what’s not being said.” This interaction could have taken a very different direction.
Ted Haggard is on a journey that isn’t over yet. I’m not saying, as some others have, that he’s “really” gay, and that to complete his redemption he needs to admit it. No. That behavior is just as oppressive and presumptuous as that of the “ex-gay” charlatans. What I’m saying is that he has the capacity, because of what he knows, to become a tremendously powerful ally. We should give him the chance to do that.