Pastor Ted "talks to President George W. Bush or his advisers every Monday"
By Lee Russ
Sunday, November 05, 2006 at 04:31 PM
Ah, such fickle (and feckless) sorts, these D.C. Republicans. Remember how they--especially the White House--really didn't know Jack Abramoff----until the White House visitor logs and loads of pictures of Big Jack at the White House hit the news? Well, they're at it again, with Ted Haggard.Excerpt from The Australian:
The White House - already concerned about the loss of the Christian vote in tomorrow's mid-term elections over scandals such as that involving Republican congressman Mark Foley, who sent sex messages to teenage pages - played down Mr Haggard's connections with President George W.Bush.
A spokesman said Mr Haggard was not a regular member of a weekly conference call between Mr Bush and evangelical leaders.
"He had been on a couple of calls, but was not a weekly participant in those calls," Bush spokesman Tony Fratto said. "I believe he's been to the White House one or two times ... but there have been a lot of people who come to the White House."
Any bets that there's a hell of a large crew in the White House scouring phone logs, e-mails, and press releases to see how likely it is that their real connections to Haggard hit the headlines before the polls close?
Well, too bad. Turns out that Harpers Magazine did a piece that prominently featured "Pastor Ted" back in May of 2005 and has helpfully posted a copy on its current web site.
Some of the more interesting bits (and keep in mind this was written long before there was any incentive to exaggerate the connection):
++Pastor Ted "talks to President George W. Bush or his advisers every Monday"
++Pastor Ted was invited "to the Oval Office to discuss policy with seven other chieftains of the Christian right in late 2003"
A fuller excerpt that makes it seem that Pastor Ted is just a Tad better connected and influential than the White House would now like to admit:
The city's mightiest megachurch crests silver and blue atop a gentle slope of pale yellow prairie grass on the outskirts of town. Silver and blue, as it happens, are Air Force colors. New Life Church was built far north of town in part so it would be visible from the Air Force Academy. New Life wanted that kind of character in its congregation.
"Church" is insufficient to describe the complex. There is a permanent structure called the Tent, which regularly fills with hundreds or thousands of teens and twentysomethings for New Life's various youth gatherings. Next to the Tent stands the old sanctuary, a gray box capable of seating 1,500; this juts out into the new sanctuary, capacity 7,500, already too small. At the complex's western edge is the World Prayer Center, which looks like a great iron wedge driven into the plains. The true architectural wonder of New Life, however, is the pyramid of authority into which it orders its 11,000 members. At the base are 1,300 cell groups, whose leaders answer to section leaders, who answer to zone, who answer to district, who answer to Pastor Ted Haggard, New Life's founder.
Pastor Ted, who talks to President George W. Bush or his advisers every Monday, is a handsome forty-eight-year-old Indianan, most comfortable in denim. He likes to say that his only disagreement with the President is automotive; Bush drives a Ford pickup, whereas Pastor Ted loves his Chevy. In addition to New Life, Pastor Ted presides over the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), whose 45,000 churches and 30 million believers make up the nation's most powerful religious lobbying group, and also over a smaller network of his own creation, the Association of Life-Giving Churches, 300 or so congregations modeled on New Life's "free market" approach to the divine.
Pastor Ted will serve as NAE president for as long as the movement is pleased with him, and as long as Pastor Ted is its president the NAE will make its headquarters in Colorado Springs. Some believers call the city the Wheaton of the West, in honor of Wheaton, Illinois, once the headquarters of a more genteel Christian conservatism; others call Colorado Springs the "evangelical Vatican," a phrase that says much both about the city and about the easeful orthodoxy with which the movement now views itself. Certainly the gathering there has no parallel in history, not in Lynchburg, Virginia, nor Tulsa, nor Pasadena, nor Orlando, nor any other city that has aspired to be the capital of evangelical America. Evangelical activist groups ("parachurch" ministries, in the parlance) in Colorado Springs number in the hundreds, though a precise count is hard to specify. Groups migrate there and multiply. They produce missionary guides, "family resources," school curricula, financial advice, athletic training programs, Bibles for every occasion. The city is home to Young Life, to the Navigators, to Compassion International; to Every Home for Christ and Global Ethnic Missions (Youth Ablaze). Most prominent among the ministries is Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family, whose radio programs (the most extensive in the world, religious or secular), magazines, videos, and books reach more than 200 million people worldwide.
The press tends to regard Dobson as the most powerful evangelical Christian in America, but Pastor Ted is at least his equal. Whereas Dobson plays the part of national scold, promising to destroy politicians who defy the Bible, Pastor Ted quietly guides those politicians through the ritual of acquiescence required to save face. He doesn't strut, like Dobson; he gushes. When Bush invited him to the Oval Office to discuss policy with seven other chieftains of the Christian right in late 2003, Pastor Ted regaled his whole congregation with the story via email. "Well, on Monday I was in the World Prayer Center"--New Life's high-tech, twenty-four-hour-a-day prayer chapel --"and my cell phone rang." It was a presidential aide; "the President," says Pastor Ted, wanted him on hand for the signing of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Pastor Ted was on a plane the next morning and in the President's office the following afternoon. "It was incredible," wrote Pastor Ted. He left it to the press to note that Dobson wasn't there.
No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted, and no church more than New Life. It is by no means the largest megachurch, nor is Ted the best-known man of God: Saddleback Church, in southern California, counts 80,000 on its rolls, and its pastor, Rick Warren, has sold 20 million copies of his book The Purpose-Driven Life. But Warren's success has come at the price of passion; his doctrine, though conservative, is bland and his politics too obscured by his self-help message to be potent. Although other churches boast more eminent memberships than Pastor Ted's--near D.C., for example, McLean Bible Church and The Falls Church (an Episcopal church that is, like many "mainline" churches today, now evangelical in all but name) minister to the powerful--such churches are not, like New Life, crucibles for the ideas that inspire the movement, ideas that are forged in the middle of the country and make their way to Washington only over time. Evangelicalism is as much an intellectual as an emotional movement; and what Pastor Ted has built in Colorado Springs is not just a battalion of spiritual warriors but a factory for ideas to arm them.