The Trials of Ted Haggard, a documentary film that debuts tonight on HBO (click here for full listings), opens with a scene of the megachurch pastor toasting marshmallows over an open fire. He tells filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, "Some people make poor decisions, other people make better decisions." Sadly, Haggard seems to be the poster boy for poor decisions.
In November 2006, the founding pastor of Colorado Springs' New Life Church (NLC) and then-president of the National Association of Evangelicals was the focus of news reports that he had bought sex and drugs from a Denver-based male prostitute. In a matter of days, he went from denial to disgrace and from national prominence to obscurity.
What has obscurity been like for Haggard? "We're miserable," he says in the film. "In this stage of my life, I'm a loser. First … class … loser."
Filmmaker Pelosi developed a friendship with Haggard and his family while making Friends with God, a 2007 documentary on Christian activism, political and otherwise. Of all the Christian leaders she interviewed, Ted Haggard opened up the most and welcomed her into his home. So when she discovered that Haggard's exile put him literally around the corner from her sister's house in Scottsdale, Arizona, Pelosi took the video camera she uses to document family events — not a camera crew — to look in on the Haggards and see how they were doing.The home movies she took over the next year and a half became this new documentary.
Pelosi asserts that she didn't originally intend to make an "official" documentary about Haggard; it simply evolved out of those home videos. Only later in the process did she approach Haggard about giving her a release to pitch the film to HBO. Haggard ...