November 10, 2006

Rev. Spoils Sports Mecca

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Colorado Springs is a sports mecca.

Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the city is in a resplendent and inspiring part of the country.

In 1893, Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor from Wellesley, went up Pike’s Peak and wrote “America the Beautiful” — about the “purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain.”

That’s Colorado Springs.

It’s about an hour south of Denver and it is also a mile or so high. It is the home of the United States Olympic Committee.

Thousands of Olympians — from heptathletes to lugers — have trained in Colorado Springs.

The legendary Broadmoor World Arena hosted the first 10 NCAA Division I men’s hockey championships — including two titles for the local team, Colorado College.

Five World Figure Skating Championships were at the Broadmoor.

The Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame is in Colorado Springs, as is the United States Air Force Academy.

Lately, however, things have been a bit weird in this real-life Brigadoon.

It might go back to native son Lon Chaney who left to star in countless Hollywood horror movies. Or perhaps back to 1980 when Jack Nicholson and Stanley Kubrick were in town filming The Shining at the Broadmoor Hotel.

Whatever it is, Colorado Springs attracts all kinds. Lately, according to NPR, the city has become a “mecca for evangelical Christians.”

In 1984, the most Reverend Ted Haggard came to town from Indiana and decided to make Colorado Springs a model city for Christian morality. Starting with groups of 20 or so at his New Life Church, before long he was preaching to thousands.

Reverend Ted built a giant church “complex” near the Air Force Academy. The church itself embraced 14,000 members but Reverend Ted went well beyond that. From his Rocky Mountain base, Ted came to preside over 30 million Christian evangelicals throughout the United States. He became a confidant of George W. Bush and boasted their only philosophical difference was Bush drove a Ford pickup while Haggard preferred a Chevy.

Colorado Springs became the “Vatican” of the evangelicals.

Some opponents thought Haggard a benign buffoon, while others thought he suffered from Neo-Nazi dementia. But he was a powerful man, taking rightwing stands on the great issues of the day, and he was out front for the amendment banning gay marriage in Colorado.

As it turns out, Haggard himself is a homosexual. He also is a meth addict. He was outed last week by a gay prostitute, and now Reverend Ted has told his flock he had a secret life that was “repulsive.”

The good reverend has thus joined a long list of rightwing hypocrites. We can only hope the next tourist attraction in Colorado Springs is the Roy Cohn Hall of Fame.

It goes back at least to Caligula who ruled Rome for four bizarre years around 40 A.D. In modern times, there is Hermann Goering, who — as Hitler’s Dick Cheney — would work out the Final Solution by day while wearing make-up and nail polish by night.

Here at home, FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover did not share his quirky cross-dressing fetish with the civil rights leaders he spied on and blackmailed. McCarthy aide Roy Cohn destroyed thousands of lives until his debauchery brought on his own death from AIDS in 1986.

And God bless Congressman Mark Foley — who campaigned as a savior of children to disguise his disgusting lust for young boys.

So, back in Colorado Springs, now that Reverend Ted is in disgrace, what will become of his battalion of rightwing warriors?

Maybe they could listen for once — perhaps to the song that put Colorado Springs on the map. The infrequently heard second verse of “America the Beautiful” is itself transcendent:

America, America, God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

In the waning years of the Bush Administration, we ask the moral hypocrites for some self-control and we ask the neocon zealots to at long last obey the law.

I have been to Colorado Springs many times, mostly as a young pre-teen and teenager. I played in ice hockey tournaments there at the celebrated Broadmoor before it was torn down. My memories there, for the most part, are very good.

Now, when I think of Colorado Springs, all I can picture is Reverend Ted. He is in the stands at one of my games, leering at my teammates. The city — one of the most beautiful on Earth — makes me sick.

God bless America.

Kyle Sheahen is a Sun Senior Editor. The Ultimate Trip will appear every other Friday this semester.