Haggard 'Deserves What He Got'
Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi first met megachurch pastor Ted Haggard while making Friends of God, a documentary about evangelicals, some five years ago. Self-described as "not a really religious person," Pelosi met many Christian leaders at the time, but found Haggard to be the most cordial of them all; she and her husband ended up as friends with Haggard and his wife, Gayle.
When the news broke about Haggard's sex-and-drugs scandal in late 2006, Pelosi was stunned: "It was just a total disconnect from the Ted that we knew," she told CT. But Pelosi also said that considering the severity of the offense, Haggard, forced to resign as pastor of Colorado Springs' New Life Church, "deserves what he got."
Pelosi, daughter of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, hung out with Haggard quite a bit in the last couple of years … with the camera rolling for a documentary about a broken man and his family trying to find hope and healing amid the ashes of self-destruction. Pelosi says the Haggards have mostly found healing — primarily through the power of Scripture, a development that genuinely impressed the filmmaker.
Her new documentary, The Trials of Ted Haggard, debuts on HBO Thursday night (8 p.m. Eastern). CT editor David Neff spoke with Pelosi about the film — and Haggard's trials — earlier this week.
You included Ted Haggard in your earlier film Friends of God. What gave you the idea to do this follow-up documentary?
It's a long story. When Bush got reelected in 2004, there was a lot of talk about how powerful evangelicals were at the ballot box. As someone who had done political documentaries, I was fascinated by this, so I thought I should go meet some evangelicals. I went out and I met Jerry Falwell, Joel Osteen, and others. And then I met Pastor Ted [Haggard], and he was totally different from the rest of them. He was really friendly, someone you could talk to.
This is about the time he was on the cover of Christianity Today [November 2005]. He was becoming famous in the evangelical world. He said, "I'm going to Promise Keepers. I'm going to Acquire the Fire. You should come." He took us to a lot of places. He was like our tour guide [in] the evangelical world. We thought he was a real leader in the community, so we trusted his take on a lot of things.
So when I heard [about the scandal], it was just stunning. I was shocked and confused. We knew Ted. We trusted Ted. It was just a total disconnect from the Ted that we knew.
Later, we were visiting my sister in Scottsdale, Arizona, and she told me that Ted lived right around the corner. So my husband calls him up, and Ted answers and says, "Why don't you come over for lunch?" So we went to lunch. We didn't film anything, but we ended up staying nine hours, just talking.
We went back a few months later and called him up. He said, "I'm moving today." We went over, and he didn't have anyone to help him move. It was really ironic because he had this huge church with 12,000 adoring fans, and no one was there to help him move. My husband helped him fill up some boxes, and that's when I pulled out my camera.
A few months later we went back and filmed some more. Ted never seemed to really care that I was filming. He probably never thought anything of it because he didn't really think anybody would care to watch him. Over a year and a half, we filmed him from time to time.
When he moved back to Colorado Springs, I called him up and said, "Ted, I really feel like what you went through in your exile — that's what he called it, exile — we should make something about that." So we put a film together.