The Decade in American ChristianityEssays, Featured — By Jordan Green on December 31, 2009 at 12:35 am
If you are ever in a group of people who identify themselves as Christians, and want to start some type of heated discussion, bring up the topic of homosexuality. In the ’00s, this issue was often at the forefront of both the nightly news and the pulpit. Homosexuality moved from being a taboo subject to something that the majority of people, especially Christians, had a firm vocal opinion and belief on. One of those people who had a publicly held firm belief against homosexuality was former Colorado pastor Ted Haggard.
In 2005, Time Magazine listed Haggard as one of top 25 most influential evangelicals in America. He, along with notable Christian leaders Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and the late Jerry Falwell, were active in their political support of former President George W. Bush. Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that has had three Presidents address it during conventions, including Reagan and George H.W. Bush. His church in Colorado, New Life Church, had over 10,000 members at the time the scandal broke.
In November 2006, prostitute Mike Jones came forward with allegation that Ted Haggard had engaged in homosexual acts with, and bought methamphetamines from him. At the time, Haggard was a vocal supporer of a Colorado amendment banning same-sex marriage, and when Jones allegedly learned of Haggard’s true identity, exposed him. At first, Haggard denied all claims by Jones, but eventually admitted to buying the crystal meth (not using it) and receiving a massage from him. Later, on one of the numerous talk show appearances and interviews he made, Haggard admitted that he had masturbated with Jones. After resigning from his position as President of the NAE and being fired as the pastor of New Life, Haggard entered “intense counseling” with the goal of removing/curing himself of any homosexual desires. Haggard has recently identified himself as a “heterosexual with issues.”
Exactly two years later, an online organization, ProtectMarriage.com, sponsored the initiative that would become California’s Proposition 8 (California Marriage Protection Act.) The proposition was simply worded, containing only two sentences, and by legally defining marriage as between one man and one woman, sought to overturn California’s Supreme Court ruling that legally recognized the right of same sex couples to marry. Huge campaigns both for and against the proposition were raised. The proposition’s supporters raised $39.9 million to the opposition’s $43.3 million, making this the highest funded campaign on any state ballot ever, barring the Presidential race. There were countless commercials, political and celebrity endorsements, and bumper stickers utilizaing pink and blue mathematical equations to define marriage. Numerous churches and religious figures backed the measure, including the Roman Catholic church, the Mormon church, Rick Warren’s Saddleback church, and Focus on the Family. Despite powerful opposition, the proposition banning gay marriage passed with over 7 million votes and 52% of the electorate.
Proposition 8 finished what Ted Haggard started. No longer hidden and stigmatized, homosexuality became the American church’s new battleground, for better or worse.