|Focus on the Family Headquarters|
During the past twenty years Colorado Springs has become the prime continental US location for church planting and spearheading any organization aimed at spreading the Christian agenda. Because of its concentrated religiosity, this conservative stronghold, with a population of nearly 400,000, is often considered by many to be the evangelical equivalent to Vatican City. within a short drive one can see the Focus on the Family headquarters (which boasts 1,400 employees), the Association of Christian Schools International, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Compassion International, Every Home for Christ, the International Bible Society, The Navigators, WAY-FM Media Group, The Fellowship of Christian Cowboys, and Gary Betchman (the guy who made those silver "evolve fish." The ones with the Christian fish that has feet you findÂ lacqueredÂ on the back of sedans across the country. He created the emblem in rebuttal to the extreme religiosity of his community.) If that isnâ€™t enough, when not inÂ Hawaii,Â Dog the Bounty Hunter also calls this Midwestern town his home.
Before his fall from grace Haggard was the founder and lead pastor of New Life Church, a 14,000-member mega church. He also was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (The NAE consists of over 45,000 churches nation wide) giving him the helm over 30 million people.. As such he held weekly conversations with President Bush and was often seen rubbing elbows with Tony Blair and other key political players at the beginning of the new millennium. Known for championing anti-gay rhetoric, Haggard famously lost it all in 2006 when a male prostitute, Mike Jones, confessed to selling him methamphetamines as the two maintained an alleged three-year sexual relationship (Haggard claims the two never had sex, Jones only sold Haggard drugs on multiple occasions and "masterbated him" after a message." After admitting that there is some truth to the allegations, New Life Church, a multimillion-dollar corporation, contractually asked Haggard to resign and the leave the ministry as well as the state of Colorado for a minimum of two years in exchange for one years severance pay (roughly $200,000).
The questions for the Haggards came from diverse ideologies. The first:
â€œIs president Obama the Antichrist?â€
â€œWe are all citizens and we all should influence the discussion. The lively debate is what protects our freedoms. Now, I think Christians should use their strengths to protect others that are not like us. Rather than saying, â€˜we are the righteous ones,â€™ or â€˜we are the moral ones.â€™ Are we really? I mean it, Really? No weâ€™re not. But what we are, are the ones who can care for others. I remember back in the day when Martin Luther King Jr. was doing his work; the evangelicals hated him. Why did they hate him? Because he had a couple adulterous affairs.â€
Haggard explained, â€œOh, yeah. No comparison. I feel so much more freedom with what I say and how I live my life for God than ever before. In fact, I feel closer to Jesus than ever before and believe that my life is affirmation that he lives.â€
Gayle Haggard was also kind enough to chat with me a bit about forgiveness and to give me a copy of her book, Why I Stayed. While Gayle and I were conversing, Megan approached Ted about marriage equality. As Haggard was trying to convince MeganÂ that he has been for civil unions and equal legal rights for gays since the nineties, I entered the conversation. Megan and I, not ignoring his hypocritical and bigoted past, expressed our remorse for what his family went through in regards to the condemnation from the public and predominantly the so called believers.
|Ted Haggard giving Richard Dawkins the Christian side-hug|
â€œWhat it is, is that they (evangelicals) get into a mindset where they just arenâ€™t thinking.â€ stated Haggard. â€œThey just start to become robots. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™re crusading against here.â€ He thanked us again and restated that he would be glad to talk to me at his home and that we should at least stay for the meal about to commence. Unfortunately, we didnâ€™t have the time to do so, but with his arm around me in a Christian side-hug, Ted Haggard thanked us again for coming and welcomed us back anytime.