Rev. Ted Haggard In ‘Jesus Camp’ Movie

Jesus Camp MovieThe Rev. Ted Haggard has been fired amid allegations of gay sex and drug use, but the evangelical leader can still be seen at the height of his powers – preaching to thousands and condemning homosexuality – in the documentary “Jesus Camp.”
In one scene of the film, which follows a group of children as they develop evangelical Christian beliefs, directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady visit Haggard’s 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. He tells the vast audience, “We don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It’s written in the Bible.”
Then Haggard looks into the camera and says kiddingly: “I think I know what you did last night,” drawing laughs from the crowd. “If you send me a thousand dollars, I won’t tell your wife.”
Later, another joke for the filmmakers: “If you use any of this, I’ll sue you.”
The married, 50-year-old father of five admitted in a letter read Sunday to his followers that he was “guilty of sexual immorality.” He has yet to address specific claims by a male escort that Haggard paid him for sex over the past three years.
Haggard has acknowledged that he paid Mike Jones of Denver for a massage and for methamphetamine, but said he didn’t have sex with Jones and didn’t take the drug. He resigned last week as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 30 million people, and was removed Saturday as leader of his own church.
“Jesus Camp” is playing in several cities and expands to more on Friday and throughout the year. Ewing and Grady said that when they shot footage for the film at the New Life Church in October 2005, they were struck by how enraptured Haggard’s followers looked.
“Pastor Ted, they were so proud of him. They thought he was hip, young, he didn’t have that stodgy James Dobson feel,” Ewing said Monday, referring to the Focus on the Family founder. “They all really adored him, that’s the first thing I thought – those people, those faces, they hung and took notes on every word he said – I can’t imagine what those people must be feeling.”
Haggard has disputed the way he’s portrayed in “Jesus Camp,” saying on his Web site (in a posting that since has been removed) that the filmmakers shot for hours at his church and only used the parts in which he was playing with negative stereotypes.
“You can expect to learn as much about the Catholic Church from ‘Nacho Libre’ as you can learn about evangelicalism from ‘Jesus Camp,'” he wrote. Ewing and Grady say Haggard is the only one who has complained about the way he was depicted in the film.
“Jesus Camp” also shows Haggard speaking to an aspiring young preacher named Levi, asking him whether people listen to him because he’s a kid or because he has something to say. His advice: “Use your cute-kid thing until you’re 30, and by then you’ll have good content.”
Grady said that when she first heard about the accusations against Haggard, “I was shocked but I was not surprised in any way because he did come across as somewhat of a hypocrite even in our movie – in a smaller way, of course. He was so cynical in that exchange with that child in our movie, it was odd and it popped out.”
Haggard also leads the audience in praying for President Bush to select a Supreme Court nominee who supports their beliefs (it would end up becoming Samuel Alito) and later brags about the rapid expansion of evangelicalism.
“It’s got enough growth to essentially sway every election,” Haggard says with a smile. “If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election.”
from The Associated Press

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