"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:5-6)
Earlier this week, Evangelical megachurch pastor and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, stepped down from both positions after a man claiming to be a prostitute alleged that Haggard used methamphetamine and regularly paid him for sex over a three-year period.
On the following day, the acting pastor at Haggard's Colorado Springs' New Life Church, Ross Parsley, made the following statement to television reporters:
"I just know that there has been some admission of indiscretion, not admission to all of the material that has been discussed, but there is an admission of some guilt…"
Initially, Haggard had denied all of the allegations and said that he was temporarily stepping down from his pastorate for the good of the church while the allegations are investigated by church officials. Now, we hear that 'there is an admission of indiscretion… and an admission of some guilt…'
I wonder if Haggard believes that an admission of 'indiscretion' and 'some' guilt mitigates anything about the hypocrisy of his public position on homosexuality. What next? "We have never been 'homosexuality is totally wrong'?" Or, can an you publicly condemn homosexuality, but be only somewhat gay?
Although reports of Haggard's behavior, so far, lack the skin-crawling elements of the Rep. Mark Foley scandal, Haggard's partial denials have a familiar ring. Foley didn't abuse children; he merely made extremely creepy phone calls and sent creepy texts to kids who may have been 17 or 18 — kids he met and asked out for ice cream while they were under the protection of the House of Representatives and while he was chairman of a committee established to protect children from adult sexual predators. Is it okay to be just somewhat predatory with children? Is it okay to court them while they're underage, so that they’re ready for legal sex on their 18th birthday?
To be fair, not only are the allegations against Haggard less viscerally creepy than are the charges against Foley, but Haggard is not in the vitriolic big leagues with Jerry Falwell and the rest of the nasty far right. Haggard is an outspoken critic of gay marriage, but Haggard has also said that the law should make accommodation for 'non-married, non-heterosexual groupings.' Haggard has acknowledged the reality that some people remain single or are widowed and they should, for example, be entitled to have friends who are recognized as having rights to visit them in hospitals or make decisions if they are incapacitated, much in the way a spouse would be entitled. Haggard has stated, clearly, that gay relationships should be recognized along with these non-married, non-heterosexual 'groupings.'
Still, Haggard’s leadership of a religious denomination associated with vocal, aggressive anti-gay sentiments speaks to a rank hypocrisy that has repeatedly been exposed among the most outspoken public figures. We will never know the degree to which Haggard consciously struggled with a public position that was thoroughly at odds with his non-public behavior—whether he experienced himself as walking a psychological tightrope over an abyss or if a grandiose sense of imperviousness to danger along with vertical splitting  effectively dampened any sense of danger associated with living a double-life.
Are Haggard’s hair-splitting, partial admissions of guilt following public exposure a window into the dominant defensive processes this type relies upon prior to public exposure, or were defensive operations prior to exposure sufficient to quell any conscious internal conflict to a degree that no conscious hairsplitting was necessary? Of course, these matters are rarely either/or affairs. Rather, they are more fluid matters of circumstance and degree.
I suspect that among the most outspoken of public hate mongers, infantile grandiosity is associated with smug, sadistic aggression and blustery imperviousness to danger that nearly obviates the need for vertical splitting, giving rise, in some cases, to very bizarre statements.
It is not clear that this describes Haggard from what I gather at a distance, but an incident involving former presidential aspirant and US senate candidate, Alan Keyes, comes to mind. Asked his thoughts about Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, the flamboyant Keyes, an ultra-conservative Catholic and a scathing critic of gay rights, responded by describing homosexuality as 'selfish hedonism.' One is left to wonder if Mr. Keyes considers 'heterosexual' sex to be nothing more than the conjugal duty of a Christian believer. I also wonder how Mrs. Keyes feels about that?
I should emphasize that I don't believe that primitive grandiosity and defensive splitting are exclusively the province of Republicans and conservatives, although when the subject is homosexuality, conservative Republicans do appear to have a lock on hypocrisy. Gay-baiting is simply not a winning issue with the Democratic Party’s constituency and the level of vitriol associated with the issue is so intense, that public exposure of homosexual activity among conservative critics of homosexuality makes for an especially stark case of hypocrisy.
In this case, vertical splitting refers to a walling off or disavowal of an aspect or aspects of conscious experience such that otherwise incompatible conscious states can lay side-by-side in conscious awareness. For example, an individual may consciously and fervently believes that homosexuality is wrong, yet also experience conscious states in which the negative judgment of homosexuality is temporarily suspended or walled off from conscious experience. Even though the individual might be aware that at other times they feel homosexuality is wrong, the judging or evaluative component of awareness ceases to exert any influence on conscious experience.