As soon as the visitor . . . walked through the church doors Sunday morning, heads turned. Word spread quickly: He was here.No, not Him.
Just about every person who offered him a handshake said the same thing: Welcome, thank you and God bless.What's the "former" male prostitute been doing since he quit, anyway? Junior executive training program of some sort, I imagine. Not that there's anything wr--never mind.
About 14,000 people pour into New Life Church in Colorado Springs each Sunday, so anonymity is not difficult to achieve.
One exception is when you are Mike Jones, the former male prostitute whose allegations of a three-year sexual liaison with church founder Ted Haggard triggered national scandal and led to Haggard's fall.
Can't tell from this if the church invited them, too. If so, they're gonna be sorry. From a review of another Civilians production in the Boston Globe:
Jones attended services Sunday at New Life Church on a reconnaissance mission for his forthcoming book [now that was unexpected--ed.] and said he was greeted warmly. Haggard, in an apology to the church, had urged members to forgive and thank Jones for exposing deceit.
"I had read a lot about the church, but there's nothing like seeing it for yourself," Jones said. "It wasn't to rub anyone's face in it [sorry--ed.] by any means. I was wanting to get some perspective, to see where they are coming from, what the magnet is."
Jones had been invited to New Life several times by church members since Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was fired from the church after admitting in November to "sexual immorality."
Jones was accompanied Sunday by members of a New York-based theater troupe, the Civilians, who are in Colorado Springs researching a project on evangelicals . . . .
Former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges has been doing that for years!
One thing that differentiates the Civilians' work from documentary is that, when the Civilians do interviews, they don't use a tape recorder -- or even a notebook. Instead, they listen closely, observe, interact, then right after the encounter transcribe everything they remember about it.
''It's not like it's the real truth of the person, but another person's interpretation of that truth, turned into performance," Cosson says.
Estranged? Wonder who got the separation order.
"A couple of ladies cried when they were touching me," Jones said [What? I didn't say a thing--ed.]. "I was thanked for exposing [not a single word--ed.] the church, for helping Ted Haggard. A couple of them said they hoped I get God into my life. And they all said 'God bless you,' every one of them."
But Jones - who came forward out of anger toward Haggard's political stances against homosexuality - said he wasn't impressed on the whole. If the Gospel message is enough, he said, why the loud music and MTV-quality production?"
"There seems to be something missing, some realism, in my opinion, because it's so vast, like some kind of self-contained city," said Jones, who said he was raised Methodist but is estranged from organized religion . . . .
[Associate pastor Rob Brendle told Jones], 'I don't want to impose my religious beliefs on you, but I believe God used you to correct us, and I appreciate that,"' Brendle said.
Wait a minute. Where's the evangelical "rage and yearning for violence" that Harvard Divinity School grad Chris Hedges writes of so vividly? Apparently none of the fascist fundies aimed even a sotto voce "faggot" at ol' Mike. How strange. But what's Ted been up to?
Haggard and his wife, Gayle, have completed a counseling program at an Arizona treatment center and are back in Colorado Springs awaiting direction from a panel overseeing what has been termed Haggard's "restoration," Brendle said.
(credit: Holy Tom is still from Mason Oller)