I just wanted to note this now, so it doesn’t get lost.
Conservatives are already starting to spin Ted Haggard, founder and, until yesterday, pastor of the fourteen thousand member “New Life Church” in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“Will this affect the elections next Tuesday? … You better believe it,” he said in a statement from the Huntington, Conn., base of Stephen Bennett Ministries. “The more and more hypocrisy I see each day, the more I realize next Tuesday we are going to get exactly what we deserve.”
Other conservatives disagreed — saying support for the gay-marriage bans and for GOP candidates would not be diminished. And John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, said Haggard isn’t close enough to President Bush to be an ally, merely a supporter.
Really? Haggard “isn’t close” to Bush? For those with a short memory Haggard was called one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America by Time Magazine. Pastor Haggard, not one to be bashful, quoted the Time Magazine article on himself in full on his website.
Pastor Haggard’s web site has suffered some rapid changes recently – his critique of the “Jesus Camp” movie has been removed, as has his picture, and the coloring scheme has become a somber dark gray. Just in case his Time Magazine article disappears, I’ll quote it for you here: (Note – we will see how long my link to Haggard’s site continues to work.)
Evangelicals in America This is an excerpt from Time Magazine. Complete article available at http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101050207/
The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America
American Evangelicalism seems to defy unity, let alone hierarchy. Yet its members share basic commitments. TIME’s list focuses on those whose influence is on the rise or who have carved out a singular role
. . .
Opening Up the Umbrella Group
At a meeting with President Bush in November 2003, after nearly an hour of jovial Oval Office chat, the Rev. Ted Haggard, 48, got serious. He argued against Bush-imposed steel tariffs on the grounds that free markets foster economic growth, which helps the poor. A month later, the White House dropped the tariffs. Haggard wasn’t alone in faulting the policy, and he doesn’t claim to be the impetus, but as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, he gets listened to. He represents 30 million conservative Christians spread over 45,000 churches from 52 diverse denominations. Every Monday he participates in the West Wing conference call with evangelical leaders. The group continues to prod the President to campaign aggressively for a federal marriage amendment. “We wanted him to use the force of his office to actively lobby the Congress and Senate, which he did not adequately do,” says Haggard. He is also working to broaden his group’s agenda. A document issued last fall offered a theological justification for civic activism by U.S. Evangelicals, calling on them to protect the environment, promote global religious and political freedom and human rights, safeguard “wholesome family life,” care for the poor and oppose racism. Says Haggard: “With the growth of Evangelicalism worldwide, we have to be involved in political and social action to impact the culture worldwide.”
Harper’s magazine also speaks about Haggard’s influence with Bush, and even goes so far as to show that Haggard was, until the other day, even more powerful than James Dobson. From the Harper’s Magazine website:
Pastor Ted, who talks to President George W. Bush or his advisers every Monday, is a handsome forty-eight-year-old Indianan, most comfortable in denim. He likes to say that his only disagreement with the President is automotive; Bush drives a Ford pickup, whereas Pastor Ted loves his Chevy.
The press tends to regard Dobson as the most powerful evangelical Christian in America, but Pastor Ted is at least his equal. Whereas Dobson plays the part of national scold, promising to destroy politicians who defy the Bible, Pastor Ted quietly guides those politicians through the ritual of acquiescence required to save face. He doesn’t strut, like Dobson; he gushes. When Bush invited him to the Oval Office to discuss policy with seven other chieftains of the Christian right in late 2003, Pastor Ted regaled his whole congregation with the story via email. “Well, on Monday I was in the World Prayer Center”—New Life’s high-tech, twenty-four-hour-a-day prayer chapel —“and my cell phone rang.” It was a presidential aide; “the President,” says Pastor Ted, wanted him on hand for the signing of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Pastor Ted was on a plane the next morning and in the President’s office the following afternoon. “It was incredible,” wrote Pastor Ted. He left it to the press to note that Dobson wasn’t there.
Isn’t convient how those people who could damage President Bush always turn up as, “Not that close to the President” when they get into trouble? It’s like Bush and his supporters are the new Peter, “I know him not!” (Luke 22:57)
Update 3 Nov: More Damage Control!
More media is spinning the line that Ted Haggard wasn’t really that influential with Bush or the GOP. Media Matters notes that correspondants with NPR, Time, and Slate have all downplayed Haggard’s importance today. I also found out from the Media Matters website just how many members are in the NAE. From the Media Matters article:
But these assessments overlook the fact that Haggard was the president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) from 2003 until he stepped down on November 2 amid the allegations.