>I saw this at The New Yorker and it’s just too funny not to share:
What my therapist says is that I am a heterosexual with issues. —Ted Haggard.
Thank you, Ted, and God bless you, Ted’s therapist. My name is Stan Belker, and I’m the pastor here at Our Lady of the Irredeemable Sinner, in Nashville, and, just like Ted, I, too, have struggled with my sexuality and have come out the other side, into the good green pastures of Christian family life.
As a teenager, I found that I was attracted both to serving Our Lord and to Jimmy Wiggins, the assistant coach of my high-school soccer team. I was in torment, and I would pray for hours on end, asking God why He would command me to love Him so deeply and at the same time just go and create Jimmy’s snug little soccer shorts. I told my clergyman, Father Josiah, about my conflicting urges, and he tried to reconcile them by explaining that from certain angles Jesus looks just like Dennis Quaid. Still, I had agonizing doubts: was I just experiencing a completely normal phase of adolescent uncertainty, or were Jimmy Wiggins’s firm, high buttocks really a calling card from Satan?
I became determined to change, to lead a wholly Christian life. In college, I began to date. At first, I took things slow, and I went out with only the most pious, virginal girls, who luckily often had strong, masculine jawlines. I became pre-engaged to Mary Ann Collier, and we’d sit in her sorority’s front parlor reading Scripture together. “I think that St. Francis and St. Michael are my favorite holy men,” Mary Ann said one evening. “You’re right about Francis,” I said. “He’s to die for, but Michael should work on his calf muscles.” “Stan,” Mary Ann asked me, “is there something you’d like to tell me?” “Yes, there is,” I replied gratefully. “I’d just like you to know that, if it weren’t for the teachings of Our Lord, I would very much enjoy having sexual intercourse with you. But, because of our shared beliefs, I’ll just have to make do with my lonely dorm room and this issue of Men’s Fitness, the one with all those great ab routines.”
I was in college when I had my first sexual encounter with a man—Brad Bicknell, a student in my Christian Values seminar. One day, as we stood side by side at the urinals discussing the importance of abstinence, Brad asked me out to dinner. “But just as friends and Christian study buddies,” he assured me. “I have absolutely no intention of allowing our eyes to lock over the bread basket, because that would only lead to the surprisingly roomy back seat of my Toyota Celica, where we’d be forced to grapple with each other’s moist, engorged man areas.”
I’ll be honest; I was curious. I needed to know exactly what sexual activity with another fellow might entail, so I could be ashamed of it. I warned Brad that, while I would be willing to sleep with him as a very small part of my journey to Christian wholeness, I didn’t intend to enjoy the experience. In fact, while we were going at it, I said, “Brad, while what you’re doing feels unbelievably good and just might cause my entire body to explode, it’s nothing compared with what I hope to one day experience with my future wife, if she’s double-jointed.”
But I knew that what Brad and I were doing was wrong, especially after the fifty-eighth time. That was when I told Brad, quite firmly, “Brad, our being together is sinful and will only impede our development as responsible Christian adults. And your mustache tickles.” The very next day, I met Stacy Crothers, the beautiful, adoring, steadfast woman who would become my wife. When I first met Stacy, in the cafeteria, I was smitten with her shy smile, her sparkling conversation, and the family photographs that she proudly took from her wallet, which included several snapshots of her sturdy quarterback brother, Frank, at the beach in a Speedo. “I have a very good feeling about us,” I told Stacy on that very first day.
After a blissfully romantic courtship lasting only twelve years, Stacy and I were married. We had decided to save ourselves for our wedding night, because, as I reminded Stacy over and over, “The first time I make love to a woman, I want it to be sacred and special, and not just mindless, unending pleasure, like sex with a guy.” And I have to say that, in the bedroom, Stacy and I got along like a house afire, especially if that house was willing to respond to the nickname Skipper.
But I’m not perfect. Like any human being, I had the occasional odd desire, the stray thought, the random yearning to, for example, seduce a seventeen-year-old lad after choir practice. Thanks to my years of work with a gifted therapist, I now fully realize that my actions were inappropriate, even though they were listed in boldface on the daily church calendar, as “Nude Prayer,” “Nude Prayer in the Basement,” and “Nude Prayer with Mutual Body Scrub.”
So, yes, I was flawed, but my commitment to my parishioners, my wife, and my family remained my primary focus, until finally I was caught on tape, attempting to buy crystal meth, sexual services, and a plus-size tube top from a male prostitute. Of course, at the time, in my innocence, I didn’t realize that Jack was a drug dealer and a prostitute; I assumed that his offer of drugs and orgies was just an expression of low self-esteem, and his way of telling me, “After we do the crystal and have sex with all these guys, I’d really like to talk about the story of Ruth.” I felt that I was counselling Jack, sometimes for days at a time, in our cheap motel room, where I would always place a full-color photo portrait of my family atop the minibar.
When the truth finally came out, on every news show in the country, at first I was devastated, and I imagined that I would lose everything, including my church, my family, and my ten-per-cent Clergyman’s Discount with Jack. But you know what? When I was being reviled on every front page, when I was hiding from the media in my den, clutching a bottle of bourbon, when I was trying to explain to Stacy that a male prostitute is just like Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” that was when I truly felt the presence of my Saviour. That was when I heard the Lord say unto me, “Stan, now you can begin to truly know thyself, and therefore to know God. Stan, now your spiritual journey can really begin. Stan, put down that bottle and that copy of People’s Sexiest Man Alive issue with Hugh Jackman on the cover, because he’s never going to write back.”
And since that day I have lived in the light. My wife and I have spent months in counselling, screaming and sobbing and finally coming back together, over our shared love for Christian living and early Jean-Claude Van Damme films. And I have told my children and my church that Stan Belker isn’t perfect, and he’s never going to be perfect. That Stan Belker is going to try with all his might to lead a clean Christian life, even if every now and then he still has a yen to offer Keanu Reeves a papal blessing in exchange for his underpants.
But those thoughts, those blips, they’re not who I am. Just like Ted Haggard, I can take responsibility for my actions. Because when I saw Ted on “Oprah,” spilling his guts, promoting his HBO special, and staying a good few feet away from his wife on the couch, I thought, Ted, if you can make it, I can make it. Together we can move forward, into the clean bright light of the Christian dawn. Together we can make only the most righteous choices. Together we will become decent Christian adults. Call me.