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How Does a Pastor Survive a Sex Scandal?

An HBO documentary on Ted Haggard, shot by the daughter of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, takes a sympathetic view of his life in disgrace.

by
Christian Toto

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January 29, 2009 - 12:57 am
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The Trials of Ted Haggard isn’t the hit piece one might suspect of a project directed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi.

Then again, it’s hard to determine just what Trials truly is.

The exasperating documentary, airing tonight on HBO, tracks the disgraced pastor’s life following news he had had a sexual relation with a male prostitute.

The documentary’s timing is fortuitous for anyone eager to swat Haggard for his actions. News broke this week of another sex scandal involving the once-mighty pastor.

Twisted serendipity aside, those looking for new insights into the man, or the reasons for his indiscretions, will come away frustrated.

The ex-evangelical leader fully cooperated with the new documentary, which clocks in at a tidy 42 minutes. What we see is Haggard trying to put his life back together, a feat so humbling even his harshest critics will come away with some empathy for him.

The program opens with footage of Haggard at his peak, performing before thousands of worshipers. We soon meet the modern-day Haggard, a father and husband living in exile from his Colorado home thanks to an agreement forged with New Life Church in Colorado Springs in the scandal’s wake.

The Haggards shuffle from one house to another for the first year of his exile, staying with kind strangers while Haggard tries to find a new line of work. He’s initially giddy about the process, but the reality of his situation — national infamy and few secular job skills — changes his mood.

As he explains following one promising job interview, “If they don’t Google me I’ll get the job.”

Needless to say, his job search doesn’t bear immediate fruit, but he’s consoled by his faithful wife and his unshakable faith. Both are rock solid for him, and he needs both dearly.

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