Early in “The Trials of Ted Haggard,” an HBO documentary that will premiere Jan. 29, there is a scene showing Ted Haggard driving a U-Haul truck on an Arizona highway. Multiple cameras film Haggard as he talks and drives.
It is a surreal moment because of what it suggests about Haggard: a man willing to open not only himself, but also his wife, Gayle, and five children, to an HBO film crew.
The scene looks staged, and it seems a bad portent for things to come. But what saves the film is Haggard. As cameras follow him on a job interview, golfing, doing his laundry, moving into a house, selling insurance and dining in a restaurant, Haggard is extremely forthcoming.
He rattles on about his same-sex attraction, bitterness toward New Life, revised view of the Bible (he relates more to the stories of strife and sorrow) and difficulty in his new career as an insurance salesman.
Throughout the film, he swings from self-loathing to self-aggrandizement to self-pity, yet only once does he seem to express real emotion. That occurs as he drives down a lonely highway to make stops to sell insurance. Close to tearing up, the 52-year-old former pastor says, ”At this stage of my life, I am a loser.”
Besides admitting he still has same-sex attraction, he also says in seventh grade he had a same-sex encounter. “I did some same-sex sex play when I was in the seventh grade, then all all that blew up when I was 50,” he says.
For most of the film, Haggard talks honestly, but at times seems disembodied from his words. It is like an actor who knows his lines but doesn’t feel them. The film ends with Haggard reading a Psalm alone in the Arizona desert.
Below are some quotes from Haggard from the film.
* On his same-sex attraction:
“I did some same-sex play when I was in the seventh grade, then all that blew up when I was 50. I had to analyze myself — a heterosexual, a homosexual, gay, straight, bisexual? What are you Ted Haggard? I wrestled with it, fought with it, argued with it.”
“I am who I am. I am an evangelical, and continue from time to time to struggle with same-sex attraction.”
* On why he didn’t come out about his sexuality while New Life senior pastor and head of the National Association of Evangelicals:
“I didn’t think I could. I was a representative voice to 30 million people. My responsibility was to get worked out.”
* Wife Gayle on Haggard’s sexuality:
“I think I know from time to time that there wasn’t the level of intimacy.”
“I was not aware of the depth of struggle going on within him.”
* Haggard says it was a pastor friend, not himself, who declared that he was “completely heterosexual” after Haggard quit the restoration program, which was supposed to release him from his same-sex attraction. Haggard says he has never claimed to be completely heterosexual.
* Haggard credits therapists, not clergy members, for helping him better understand his sexuality.
“After my crises, the therapists were the ones who gave me answers. All these years I thought I was a dog, worthless, an awful person. Then I sat down and talked with an experienced therapist. And he said, ‘We can help you through that.’”
* On his mental state:
“I lie awake in angst because I’ve lost so many friends. I certainly understand that people can’t stand me.”
“I was suicidal for a while.”
* On New Life Church:
“I am their business, somebody struggling with sin is the purpose of church on Earth.”
“The church has said go to hell.”
“The church chose not to forgive me.”
* On his new career selling insurance:
“This is the only company that will let me work with them.”