Haggard: Christian Right Off Course, Needs to Change

Disgraced pastor Ted Haggard didn't hold back when criticizing the Christian right during a recent interview, in which he accused the movement of acting ungospel-like and having the wrong understanding of human sexuality.

"I think the religious right is increasingly impotent right now in America," Haggard said on ABC's World News Sunday. "And it's going to have to return to the Gospel in order to regain strength."

The former evangelical leader said there is a gap between evangelical leaders and the Gospel, and stressed that the real message of the Church is that Jesus came to heal imperfect humans.

"Jesus is good news, not bad news," Haggard told ABC's Dan Harris.

He pointed out that the only thing the Christian right is proud of from this past election is the passage of Proposition 8 in California – a measure that overturned a court ruling allowing same-sex marriage. Haggard believes that's "not much to be proud of."

Two years ago, Haggard was one of the top evangelical and Christian right leaders in America. He was president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that claims to represent 30 million American Christians, and founding pastor of the more than 10,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.

But a gay sex and drug scandal brought down the evangelical leader in 2006. Many had directed their criticism not only at Haggard, but at the evangelical community for its hypocrisy. Before his fall, Haggard had often publicly railed against homosexual relations.

Now after being "shunned" by the Christian right, as Haggard described his situation, his tone regarding same-sex relations has become notably softer.

Although he still does not believe that same-sex marriage is biblically permissible, he is now supportive of same-sex civil unions.

"Just as the church made a horrible mistake several centuries ago insisting that the earth is flat," Haggard said on ABC, "I think the church may make a major mistake in our generation saying that sexuality should be this and nothing else."

He went on, "The Church has to look at humanity realistically. We all got to humble ourselves and do everything we can to serve people in need. Not to dictate them; not to hate them; not to punish them."

Since his fall, Haggard has expressed bitterly that he expected the Christian community to be more forgiving of his sins than they have been.

"Every time a prominent politician or religious leader falls that is our opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel to the secular world," Haggard said during a meeting with evangelicals from New York Divinity School. "Because that is the only time they'll show up with their cameras."

Last November, in his first public speaking event since the scandal, Haggard disclosed that he was sexually molested by a man when he was seven and that the experience has had repercussions on his sexual identity as an adult.

The fallen pastor, who now describes himself as a "heterosexual with issues," says he still struggles with his sexuality, but that his marriage is now stronger than ever. He told CNN's Larry King in an earlier interview that he is pleased with where he is now and doesn't fear that a gay relationship could happen again. He also said he has never thought of leaving Christianity.

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