29 January 2009

Ted Haggard Needs Some Post-Structuralist Theory in his Life

I'm watching Ted Haggard on Larry King Live, and he's saying some interesting things here. He's urging evangelicals to resist making homosexuality the Big Bad Sin. (And I agree. I mean, whatever happened to the days in the Middle Ages and Renaissance when greed (in the form of usury) was a BBS? Maybe we wouldn't all be so royally screwed financially if greed were given half the attention homosexuality was.) He's also admitting that he has had--and continues to have--homoerotic thoughts, that everyone's sexuality is complex.

But the thing is, he's resisting the term "gay" and "homosexual" like it was a death sentence. In a way, I understand. A gay evangelical is like parents who've left their baby on the roof of their car; you know it's happened, you just have never met one. But at the same time, maybe "gay" is too broad a brush to paint Haggard with. Maybe he's "bisexual." Maybe he's "heterosexual with homosexual leanings." Maybe he's "heterosexual with poor impulse control." Maybe it doesn't matter if he thinks about guys or dolls. What's the difference between the married guy who daydreams about Scarlett Johansson or the girl he saw at the deli and the married guy who daydreams about Brad Pitt or the waiter at the deli--as long as neither one acts on their fantasies? (Yeah, I know Haggard acted on his urges and possibly took advantage of young congregants, but let's not confuse the issue about nomenclature and the ontology of sexuality and gender.)

He's certainly on his way to being a pop-culture figure that brings to the fore some of the theoretical views on sexuality. The day may come when the names of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler begin to be mentioned in mixed (that is, "academic" and "popular") company. When that happens, I think we'll begin to see some more nuanced discussions on gender and sexuality--maybe even begin to see some people nuance their own sexual labels as much as they nuance their own political labels.

If someone like Haggard can accept the polysemous nature of human sexuality, that lets me know that maybe the constructed view of sexuality and gender is up for debate, for discussion in the public sphere. And that's good news.

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