Recently, www.religiondispatches.org interviewed “The New Haggards”. Gayle Haggard, Ted Haggards wife… STILL! has now written a book on the subject of why she stayed with Ted after he was cheating on her with a male prostitute and using drugs. The following is an excerpt from the interview:
Ted Haggard, one of America’s most successful megachurch preachers, was officially separated from his church back in 2006. His wife and partner, Gayle, has stuck by his side through it all and has written a new book on the experience. RD spoke with her about their former church, their evolving views on homosexuality, and the future.
Before Ted Haggard’s 2006 fall from grace—the result of a scandal involving drug use and a male prostitute—he and his wife Gayle coauthored a breezy, heavily-illustrated marriage guide, From This Day Forward: Making Your Vows Last a Lifetime. Post-scandal, the book seemed to epitomize the unrealistic demands the Christian right puts on women: that a “wife loves her husband with unflinching devotion,” seeks to please him, love him, and above all help him, since, as the book warns, men often have affairs with coworkers because they “are drawn to the women who help them do their task.”
The warning applied little to Gayle, who had dropped out of Oral Roberts University to “support a man of God” like Ted, and worked at his side for years as a nationally-recognized evangelical women’s figure, running New Life’s women’s ministry teaching students to be better wives. Yet when Ted fell, fellow megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll took the opportunity to crudely chastise Gayle Haggard by insinuation, writing that pastors’ wives too often “let themselves go,” confident that their pastor husband is trapped by vocation into fidelity.
Although Driscoll’s remarks were widely condemned, they merely highlighted a commonly held view that Ted’s actions became Gayle’s shared sin, and revealed the certainty from the outset that all eyes would be on Gayle as the couple responded to the crisis. Gayle announced as much in a goodbye letter that was read to the congregation in her absence, providing a parting lesson to the women of the church: this was no rupture in their marriage, but a continuation of her life’s role. “My test has begun,” Gayle wrote, “watch me. I will try to prove myself faithful.”
In time, however, once the Haggards fell into an unglamorous obscurity in the suburban Southwest, and after Gayle stood by her man through betrayal, financial uncertainty, and the disdain of most of her community, they seemed to stop watching her.
Until now. Gag rules imposed on the Haggards by both separation and spiritual “restoration” agreements with New Life have been lifted and the couple is free to discuss their side of the scandal—which they’re doing extensively, in nationwide church appearances and through Gayle’s promotion of her new book. Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made In My Darkest Hour (Tyndale House, 2010) chronicles her and her family’s years in exile and urges women to follow her in choosing a path of forgiveness and love towards their flawed husbands.
Why I Stayed paints a compelling picture of an eternal evangelical women’s leader continuing to demonstrate the path of virtuous Christian wifehood to a now national audience by following her disgraced husband into exile, taking on his sins as her own, and submitting her own pain to the rigorous doctrine for Christian women that “love is a choice, not a feeling.”
It’s also an uneasy tale of redemption from Ted’s gay sex scandal that flirts with the language of tolerance. The Haggards found support and even friendship from many in the gay community, and continue to lobby for broader categories of sexuality to include Ted’s self-identified “heterosexual with issues” orientation. At the same time they declare that his gay attractions were a sin born of childhood abuse and describe gay sex as a menacing influence on a victimized Ted.
For a family that fell from evangelical grace so spectacularly, a resurrection like this seemed inevitable. But both in the book and in an interview with RD, the new Haggards sometimes seem much the same as the old Haggards, if somewhat humbled. For icons from the era of compassionate conservatism, maybe this message—a slight repackaging of love the sinner, hate the sin—makes sense as revelation to them. But the strictures of the narrative they’ve laid out for themselves—a steadfast wife and a repentant husband whose sexuality is only as sinful as any other sin—may strike the outsider as more bump in the road than divine revelation. FOR THE WHOLE INTERVIEW VISIT: THIS LINK
Maybe some of these other wives and husbands need to pick up Gayle’s book… ACTUALLY, they should just pick up the BIBLE! And if you Google it, please don’t forget to add the “LE” at the end of Gayle’s name… please, it could get ugly real quick!