Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Glimpse of Ted Haggard's Past

The opinion pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer--of late a pedestrian wasteland of second-tier syndicated columnists, bland and inconsequential editorials, and mindless filler dumped from the brimming inbox of readers' emails--was exceptionally enlivened Thursday with reporter Cindy Schroeder's memoir of working on the high school newspaper in the 1970s with the boy who became disgraced pastor Ted Haggard. We commend the column to gentle readers for its poignant depiction of adolescent life in the bleak era of Watergate, Saigon's fall, stagflation, fuel shortages, televangelist Oral Roberts, poorly designed automobiles, and disco music.

Where the column loses us, as so many do on subjects like this, is when the author moves from reminiscence and the sad surprise that it provokes about the present to cliched moralizing about the present. Schroeder can't help applying the progressive bromide that a Haggard true to himself would not have been troubled by his or others' acting on the impulses of same-sex attraction. We quote the closing sentence, clearly the weakest in what is otherwise an exceptional piece of writing:

The Ted Haggard that I knew in high school would shun the hypocritical, homophobic dogma of Pastor Ted. He would become a model for the acceptance of others, regardless of their sexuality.

We have explained before why even secular thinkers should be careful about this accusation of hypocrisy, so we won't repeat ourselves except to say that it was Haggard's actions, not his dogma, that was hypocritical. And we would hope further, as an adolescent of the 70s, that no such person would so casually romanticize the moral vision of an 18-year-old in that grim period of social anarchy.

But Ms. Schroeder does invite us to point out an irony. As she closes her essay, she shows that everyone, it seems, wants to be a preacher.

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