November 6, 2006

“the darkness increased and dominated”

Filed under: religion — ted @ 5:45 pm

Now that the sudden news frenzy concerning the allegations against Pastor Ted Haggard of Colorado Springs’ New Life Church has slowed down, a few reflective pieces have appeared on the web today.

First, there’s the letter Haggard wrote to his congregation, which was read aloud yesterday by a visiting pastor. In it, Haggard describes his struggle:

I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

Next, there’s this excellent article from Salon, which deals primarily with New Life Church’s reaction to the news. It includes this fascinating description of the church’s aesthetic and what the author thinks it belies:

Returning to New Life after visiting as a journalist last year, I wish I could say I’d suspected Haggard’s secret all along, but I didn’t. My first visit here was on another Sunday when Haggard was absent, but under very different circumstances: He was meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Coming back in the wake of the scandal, suddenly so much about his ministry feels, well, gay. The buff Air Force cadets strutting around in physique- skimming T-shirts. The scented candles lighted before prayer, the vanilla lattes available to be sipped at one of New Life’s coffee bars afterward. The worship music that ranges from bumping to ballads, punctuated by pulsing lights and clubland-style smoke machines. But most of all, the iconography: A painting of “The Watcher,” an unclothed Tyrese Gibson-looking figure with a gleaming shaved head and equally gleaming muscles, the feathers of his wings caressing his dark back, hunched but tense in a posture that could only be described as erotic. A giant bronze statue of “The Exalter” brandishing a larger-than-life sword, all veiny sinew and chiseled bulges, greeting parishioners as they enter the church. Pastor Ted’s “prayer closet,” where he prays every day, has a whole new meaning, now that he’s out of it, as do the closets offered for parishioners’ private prayer.

I think this is mostly coincidence and the result of the beholder’s eye for irony, but it’s fascinating nonetheless…


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