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Ted Haggard's new church: Christian comeback or empty infomercial?

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Massage fan Ted Haggard's attempted comeback with St. James Church is such a made-for-TV enterprise that it makes sense his pulpit performances are getting regular reviews. Thus far, however, there's wide disagreement among critics about whether the services strike the right balance between spirituality and show biz.

These conflicting takes are encapsulated in "Two Wildly Different Reviews of Ted Haggard's Church" by Beliefnet.com contributor Jason Boyett, who pulls together a pair of recent blog pieces -- one positive, one not so much.

The former opinion is delivered by Darrell Creswell, a former youth pastor with Denver's oft-controversial Calvary Temple who's become a hard-charging entrepreneur, as outlined in this Al Lewis column. Here's Creswell's conclusion about the Haggard session he attended:

All in all it was a great service, I left feeling I had been fed, both by the message and by my interaction with the Body of Christ. In finishing let me urge you to pray that the Lord will be glorified in all that is done at St. James.

Far less exultant was a blogger known as 3Dsound. He was distracted by all the Hollywood trappings:

When I turned around, I saw the principals from Long Pond Media were signaling Ted on how to pace the service. My ex said they did so throughout. They directed Ted, for example, on whom to invite to the front to give a testimony.

...Given the congregation's robotic enthusiasm for Ted and the directorial role played by Long Pond Media, I felt like I was participating in the filming of an infomercial, rather than attending church. There wasn't anything spiritual about the event -- or even all that church-like. It was programmed and calculated, and those in attendance went along with it.

This last account should be kept in mind when the inevitable Haggard documentary or reality show surfaces. They may turn out to be better than having been there.

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