A Tale of Two Hypocrites
I've always been a tad suspicious of secretly queer homophobes who get outed, only to then morph, hey presto, into crusaders for gay rights.
Take Roy Ashburn, for instance. As we all no doubt recall, back last spring, the California State Senator with a near-perfect anti-gay voting record was pulled over for driving drunk—on his way home from a gay bar with a male passenger in tow. But when booted from his comfy closet, Ashburn, maybe surprisingly, did the right thing. Five days later, he came out. And that wasn't all.
He recently wrote, "I am sincerely sorry for the votes I cast and the actions I took that harmed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Just as important to me, I am sorry for not stepping forward and speaking up as an elected official on behalf of equal treatment for all people." What's more, he called on his fellow Republicans to stop being prejudiced pricks.
Which means, I guess, that I'll have to revise a lot of the things I thought about Ashburn. His saga may not be inspiring, exactly, but it's at least comforting. Sure, he only found his moral compass after he was forced to, but at least he's now put his ass on the line in away that suggests that, yes, his repentance is real, and that people can indeed change.
Not so with our old pal the Reverend Ted Haggard. Yep, the hustler-hiring meth-head is back, starting a new church in a barn in his backyard. He explained, "Tiger Woods needs to golf. Michael Vick needs to be playing football. Ted Haggard needs to be leading a church." I kid you not. Hey, I can't make this shit up.
He echoes his missus in saying that he's free of same-sex attractions, indeed that his crystallized fling with the pro was merely a massage that got, um, out of hand. Decrying the "witch hunt" that surrounded his thudding fall, he now regrets that he "over-repented."
Thank you, Jeebus! The Tiger Woods of religion is back! Hooray! I anxiously await Entertainment Weekly's announcement that Mel Gibson playing him in a bio-pic.
Haggard's fucked-upness is far from unique, of sad course. Arch-homophobe George Rekers was caught in May with a hustler at the Miami Airport (hired, he said, to carry his luggage, a euphemism in the same league as "clean his pipes"). Rekers not only steadfastly maintains his straightness, a quick trip to his website will reveal "what Professor George shared with his travel assistant about the Christian faith." (He also threatened a defamation suit, but there's no word of that actually being filed; perhaps someone has since explained to him what happened when Oscar Wilde tried a similar gambit?)
Compared to Rekers and Haggard, Ashburn is indeed a profile in courage. (Former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey somewhat less so. Unlike Rekers, McGreevey had a pro-gay legislative record, but post-outing, he flogged his tell-all book on Oprah, then went on not to be a pro-gay campaigner, but to study for the Episcopal priesthood. Oh well, at least he didn't convert to Mormonism.)
Repentance and forgiveness are, as we all know, mainstays of Christianity…at least in theory. Compassion is a swell idea, of course, and no one likes to hold a grudge… again, at least in theory. And—let's face it—many of us have traveled a bumpy journey to self-acceptance ourselves. On the other hand, not all of us have, like Rekers and Ashburn, made life miserable for our fellow queers, even made careers out of homophobia. So my joy at Ashburn's volte-face is tempered with just a smidgen of contempt. Even when you were drunk, I thought, you must have known what you were doing was fucked. And I wonder just what his fellow Republicans in the legislature—to whom, apparently, Ashburn's double life was an open secret—think of his urgings toward tolerance.
There's no way, really, that Roy Ashburn can "over-repent." But at least he's made a start. And—much more important—he's making amends. Cynicism, I'm sad to report, only goes so far. It's a jolly fact of life that the American public's views on LGBT people are changing, and sometimes changing quickly. And if Ashburn's sincere contrition and newfound activism help that process along, even a teeny bit, then huzzah!
Haggard, on the other hand…well, what can you say about someone who acts like a second-rate parody of religious hucksterism? How much of his schtick is self-delusion, how much due to damaged self-esteem, and how much is just plain crap?
The question, I suppose, is whether Rev Ted actually and wholly believes what he's saying? It's pretty clear that he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and being a fundamentalist Christian does assume a certain disregard for the strictures of rationality, but still…
Ah well, at least he's all relaxed and common-people now. He boasted, "I cuss now."
Well, so do I. As in: holy shit is still just shit.
Even the bullshit in a backyard barn.