'People used to think so highly of me," mused Ted Haggard during our interview last week, "that when they met me, they'd be disappointed. Now they think so poorly of me, that when they meet me, they're relieved."
Between disappointment and relief, however, came outrage, and lots of it. Virtually overnight, Haggard's 2006 sex-and-drugs scandal transformed him from founding pastor of New Life Church to floundering poster boy for ecumenical hypocrisy.
A year earlier, Harper's hailed his cradle of 14,000 worshippers as "America's most powerful megachurch." He'd risen to president of the National Association of Evangelicals. And in the secular world outside Colorado Springs, Haggard's megachurch and James Dobson's parachurch were seen as interchangeable pieces in the Christian conservative movement that helped make George W. Bush president.
Calling himself a fiscal conservative and social moderate, Haggard (click here for his interview) claims he's never embraced the strident politics that have been manna for Focus on the Family's fundraising: "I was never a money guy. I was never a power guy. I just wanted to serve."
He still does. And while it would take a proverbial miracle to regain a fraction of his former influence, it's a pretty safe bet we haven't heard the last of him.