The pastor’s wife made him do it

Pastor tells flock that Haggard had gay sex because his wife let herself go.

Topics: Sex, Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

Our friends at EvangelicalRight.com knew we’d be eager to hear about this response to Ted Haggard’s scandal, from our old pal/nemesis Pastor Mark Driscoll. Driscoll leads Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, and a good portion of the larger evangelical youth movement, teaching the doctrine of wifely submission to Christians nationwide. (To learn more about Driscoll, you can read Salon’s excerpt from my book “Righteous: Dispatches From the Evangelical Youth Movement” here.)

Driscoll blames Haggard’s affair with a male escort not on the former pastor’s homosexuality — which he abhors as much as that other spawn of Satan, feminism, — but on his wife, Gayle Haggard. Why? ‘Cause, he says, Gayle let herself go.

“At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this,” he wrote on his blog. “It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.”

As we all know, this argument is as illogical — that a man would have sex with another man because he was turned off by his aging wife, and not because he’s gay — as it is demeaning. How she looks should have no bearing on this. But, I must rise to Mrs. Haggard’s defense, if only to point out that Driscoll is obviously using her as an opportunity for frat-boy girl-bashing of the highest right, guys? high-five! order. Find a picture of Gayle Haggard. It’s easy to do this week, with her husband’s fall from grace splashed over the front pages. And look at her. Come on: She looks fabulous.

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Her failing is not in too few hours on the treadmill, but in her beliefs. First, that she should submit to her husband, as she has preached to her women’s ministry in Colorado Springs, and as she and Ted wrote in a book they published this year called “From This Day Forward: Making Your Vows Last a Lifetime.” (It’s still for sale today at the New Life Church bookstore, and available for your ironic viewing at Amazon.) And second, that he can be healed of his “sickness” — that under the close watch of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, God can cast the gay out, and the girl-crazy boy she married will be hers once more.

With Jesus’ help, her faith asserts, Haggard can be just as straight as the aggressively heterosexual pastor Mark Driscoll, who, on his blog, is quick to explain that his fidelity to his wife — and, thus, the Lord — has everything to do with his blonde bride’s hotness, lest we think he would have married a woman who wouldn’t keep herself up to his specifications. Otherwise how could he have resisted the women who ache to provide him with earthly pleasures?

He writes, “I started the church ten years ago when I was twenty-five years of age. Thankfully, I was married to a beautiful woman. I met my lovely wife Grace when we were seventeen, married her at twenty-one, and by God’s grace have been faithful to her in every way since the day we met. I have, however, seen some very overt opportunities for sin. On one occasion I actually had a young woman put a note into my shirt pocket while I was serving communion with my wife, asking me to have dinner, a massage, and sex with her. On another occasion a young woman emailed me a photo of herself topless and wanted to know if I liked her body.” Yeah, dude!

Lauren Sandler is Salon's Life editor and the author of "Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement."

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